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Timothée Chalamet’s hair was ‘like an animal’ on the sandy set of Dune

But the practical locations also brought the actor to life

Timothée Chalamet salutes with a crysknife in Dune. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Paul Atreides may have been perfectly composed as the regal son of Duke Leto and the maybe-messiah of the whole galaxy in Denis Villenueve’s Dune — but Timothée Chalamet’s hair didn’t get the message. At least not according to Donald Mowat, head of hair and makeup on the massive production.

Polygon spoke to Mowat over Zoom, about designing the prosthetics that transformed Stellan Skarsgård into the menacing Baron Harkonnen, designing lip tattoos for mentat savants, and about the challenges of keeping skin looking good and hair looking coiffed in a wind-blown desert environment.

Some things, he said, were easy. The change in environment from interior sets to sandy exteriors seemed to transform actors like Rebecca Ferguson (playing Lady Jessica, Paul’s mother) and Chalamet.

“[In the desert] there was something vibrant about her, and alive, and same with Timmy. His hair, which [...] did have a life of its own. It is like an animal; he’s got a lion-like mane. It was kind of interesting, when the sand and sea salt spray and all the dust hits, it got [Mowat gestured in a halo around his face], but I kind of loved it. And it’s completely natural.”

Mowat said that he and his team did their best to maintain Chalamet’s hair continuity — to ensure every lock was in the same place from shot to shot. But at certain point, they had to admit defeat. “You also have to give in to the elements sometimes and go ‘Wind blows hair. Nuff said.’”

Still, Mowat said that he had a strong foundation to work with, between the actors themselves, the location, and the costumes.

“Timmy and Rebecca, to me, look — although they’re sand-blown and dusty and [have] chapped, parched lips in the desert — they also look kind of great. There’s a beauty to it, and kind of based in fashion in a way, in the way they were dressed, and I kind of loved it.”

Dune was released internationally on Sept. 15. The movie hits theaters in the United States and on HBO Max on Oct. 22.

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