Sound is vital for any film but can be especially difficult to perfect for a science fiction movie. Building up a world from scratch and inventing noises requires clear vision – much like Denis Villeneuve’s approach to Dune. In an interview with Variety supervising sound editors for the film, Mark Mangini and Theo Green shared how they crafted the epic soundscape in Dune, and how the sandworms on the desert planet Arrakis were one of Villeneuve’s biggest concerns.
Based on Frank Herbert’s novel of the same name, Dune is a massive story featuring many unique planets. However, the film revolves specifically around one, in particular, Arrakis – a desert world holding the universe’s most valuable resource, Spice – oh yeah and a bunch of massive sandworms too. According to Mangini and Green, Villeneuve wanted the sounds in the film to feel organic and real, meaning that the planets and sandworms on them had to be convincing and reflect their biomes.
The director was so adamant about this ‘realistic’ vision that he made the sound editors rework the sounds of the sandworms until you could hear that these creatures live on Arrakis, the driest planet that we see in the action movie.
“The planet Caladan has animal life and water, so we used sounds of nature and water dripping, for example. That’s in contrast with Arrakis, where there is no liquid or water sound,” Green explained. “As we developed the voice of the worm, we started with some lion-tiger-whale growls, but Denis said there is no moisture on this planet and the esophagus of that worm is the driest place on the planet; he kept imploring us to make the driest sound possible.”
Luckily the sound editors focus on details such as sandworms’ oesophagus’s paid off. Since releasing in 2021, Dune has earned over $396 million at the worldwide box office and was a common choice in The Digital Fix’s favourite movies of 2021.
Dune: Part 2 is already underway and is scheduled to release in theatres in October 2023. If you are a fan of sandworms and otherworldly creatures, be sure to check out our guide to the best alien movies of all time.