Written by Joe Jackson on Nov 3, 2021. Posted in On Location

Smash hit Dune shot across four international locations

Four primary locations underpin the widespread popularity and commercial success of Dune, the sci-fi epic recently released by Warner Bros and Legendary Entertainment. Shot across different parts of Jordan, Abu Dhabi, Norway and Budapest, production designer Patrice Vernette emphatically declares “there is no Dune” without these particular destinations.


Dune takes place on an inhospitable planet named Arrakis, famed for its incredible heat, intense sandstorms and gargantuan sand monsters. To create this unforgiving setting, the film was shot on location in the Wadi Rum in Jordan and the Liwa Desert on Abu Dhabi’s outskirts.



The Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon, was first introduced to the spotlight by 1962 version of Lawrence of Arabia. As well as starring as some of the most remote and treacherous points of Arrakis, the location has featured in Hollywood blockbusters such as The Martian and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.


Zaman Project Management provided production services for Dune as well as The Martian and The Rise of Skywalker. “Jordon really took off as a filming destination after the establishment of the Royal Film Commission,” explained managing director Munir Nassir. “The RFC is truly a one-stop shop for all producers, as it arranges all permits needed and coordinates with all concerned departments and local authorities to facilitate the work of the film crew.”


Echoing Dune’s use of the Wadi Rum, some of the film’s most arid and treacherous dunes were captured on location in the Liwa desert. Epic Films provided production services for Dune in Abu Dhabi, and founder Robbie McAree said: “We were looking for locations that had big, rocky mountains with desert around, which achievable but it’s not particularly easy to find in the UAE, especially when they’re also looking at other countries like Jordan where you have places like the Wadi Rum.”



Despite the stiff competition offered by Jordan, Dune’s producers were enamoured with the Liwa desert. “Eventually it changed,” elaborated McAree. “They fell in love with the UAE and desert landscape so much that they decided to choose the UAE for the vast desert landscapes.” In a behind-the-scenes clip released by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, director Denis Villeneuve emphasised McAree’s point, revealing: “There’s a scale to the dunes and the desert in a variety of shapes that we thought was absolutely mesmerising… There’s also some climatic conditions there that there perfect for us because of the proximity to the city, it’s like a strange kind of haze in that air that I was looking for that matched totally with the look of the film.”


While the Wadi Rum and Liwa desert offer numerous sandy chasms through which to represent Arrakis, the production team turned to Standlanet peninsula region in Norway to capture the aquatic environment of planet Caladan. An oceanic world prone to bursts of rain and rippling waves rather than chaotic sandstorms and life-strangling barren spells, the land-based parts of Caladan home the film’s central family: House Atreides. Stadlandet is characterised by stunning coastlines, mountainous plateaus and winding fjords, forming an ideal setting for House Atreides’s noble realm.


Truenorth Productions, Dune’s service providers in Norway, also assist filmmakers looking to work in Iceland, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Finland, Spain and the Canary Islands. As well as working on Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, Prometheus and Transformers V, Truenorth stated was a “great honour” when they were awarded the President of Iceland’s Export Award for their contributions to the film industry.



Villeneuve is of course no stranger to shooting in Europe, having filmed Blade Runner 2049 in Budapest. For his latest feature-length sci-fi adventure, the filmmaker returned to the capital city. Origo Studios were on hand to provide support for Dune. Hungary recently forecasted that it would reach EUR488 million in foreign investment for film productions by the end of this year. The placement of Warner Bros and Legendary Entertainment’s USD160 million project within the country emphasises how the national industry has thrived in recent years. “We’ve never been busier,” clarifies Adam Goodman of the group providing principal photography services, Mid Atlantic Films.


Dune earned highly-favourable reviews and currently leads the box-office charts over horror films Antlers and Last Night in Soho. The film generated USD15.5 million in the second weekend after its release, bringing its gross domestic total to USD69.4 million. Many investors will be rubbing their hands at the news that a sequel for the movie has been confirmed by Warner Bros and Legendary Entertainment.


“We are officially moving forward with Dune: Part Two,” declared Villeneuve. “It was a dream of mine to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune and I have the fans, the cast, and crew, Legendary and Warner Bros to thank for supporting this dream. This is only the beginning.”


Images courtesy of Warner Bros


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