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Here's how Austin Butler built his charming psychopath in Dune: Part 2

The aggressive mimicrysometimes called mimicry Peckhamian, is the term used by scientists to indicate predators that camouflage themselves to attract prey, make them lower their defenses and finally overwhelm and devour them. The orchid mantis attracts unfortunate insects thanks to its resemblance to a pink flower rich in nectar. The margay, a wild feline from the Amazon, imitates the screams of baby monkeys in order to make some worried parents come running, who will never return. Fireflies like that Photuris they exploit the lure of sex, flashing their bodies to reproduce the mating signals of rival species and then devouring any would-be partners who approach.

Feyd-Rautha, the ruthless assassin prince played by Austin Butler, operates in much the same way. He is disturbing, sure, but those who observe him (usually, before becoming his latest victim) also find him fascinating, if not downright attractive. In the imminent Dune: Part 2, the protagonist of Elvis He plays the most fearsome warrior of the evil Harkonnen clan, made up mainly of brutal and very pale orcs, whose very biology is polluted by the toxic home planet of Giedi Prime. By contrast, with a perfectly chiseled marble physique, an enigmatic smile and a tendency to tear his clothes, Rautha resembles a Renaissance sculpture come to life.

The charm was intentional, says the director Denis Villeneuve. “Absolutely. It's probably the sex symbol by Giedi Primo”, says Villeneuve a Vanity Fair. «I was looking for exactly that type of attractiveness. In Feyd-Rautha you will recognize a very strong sex appeal.”

After discussing these character traits with the director, Butler says he immediately began an intense exercise regimen with a former Navy SEAL to further boost his already toned shape. «He makes you change the way you walk and perceive yourself in your body», says Butler. «And then I started training a lot with knives. As if that wasn't enough, I observed animals: I studied panthers and snakes, and I saw how they use their eyes and immobility to strike at the most unpredictable moments. For me it was fundamental.”

As is known, Butler adopted (and maintained) Elvis Presley's drawl typical of the southern United States, but this time he imitated the voice of Baron Harkonnen played by Stellan Skarsgård, the sadistic leader of the interstellar cartel that Feyd-Rautha serves. «I thought that, during Feyd's growth and training, the Baron had always been the most powerful person. It's inevitable that we end up taking on the traits of the people we grow up with,” says the actor. «Eventually, in a certain sense, the voice becomes the fingerprint of the soul. And the way you breathe changes, and even the rhythms at which you think are different. And so he ended up becoming a true stylistic signature of mine.”

The director urged Butler to think of his bloodthirsty killer as a kind of celebrity. “I always say that Austin infused the character with some of the swagger of Mick Jagger» says Villeneuve. «You know when Jagger walks into a room, and everyone in the room is attracted to him? It's the same with Austin's character.”

When David Lynch directed an adaptation of Dunes in 1984, he assigned the role of Feyd-Rautha to a real rock star: Stingwho is (perhaps infamously) known, enters the stage wearing only an armored thong (“I still have it,” the musician joked in 2019. “It's very difficult to put on your pants when you have it on”) .

In Butler's Feyd-Rautha there is no affectation, only a disturbing stoicism and immobility. “A wild animal is always on the attack or aware that there could be a predator around the corner at any moment,” Butler says. «Theirs is an intense presence».

In the security staged by Butler, Villeneuve recognized a kind of counterintuitive charm, since those who feel weak or scared can mistake arrogance for strength. “There's something very loyal about this character,” says the director. “It's just what it sounds like. He is very cruel. He's a psychopath, but he still has some kind of ethics in the sense that he has a code of honor and respects people who know how to fight. He is a character with a very interesting psyche.”

Butler's portrayal of him differs from what Feyd-Rautha looked like in Frank Herbert's original 1965 novel, which described the killer as “a dark-haired young man of about 16, with a plump face and a frowning gaze.” . Dune: Part 2instead, presents Feyd-Rautha as an angel of darkness, literally emerging from the shadows to slay a few defenseless victims in an arena, while hordes of Harkonnen's faithful cheer in the monochromatic light of the planet's black sun.

In the films of Dunes Furthermore, in Villeneuve, the Harkonnens are portrayed without hair, which is an intentional choice rather than a biological trait. This is a people trying to distance themselves from human nature. “I liked the idea that the Harkonnens were a society that didn't like hair,” says Villeneuve. «They eliminate everything. They want to distance themselves as much as possible from any element of their past, where they come from. There is a desire for purity.”

Butler, however, didn't have to shave his hair. “I have two caps on my head,” he explains. “One that goes over the hair, and then there's a sculpted one that attaches more or less where my eyelids were, right on the crease of my eyelids, and that covers the whole head up to the nape of the neck.” After that, the makeup team applied a whitish paint to the skin of his body to give the Harkonnen's characteristic paleness.

While Feyd-Rautha prefers not to wear armor whenever possible, the scorching sun of the desert planet of Arrakis, where much of the story takes place, is too strong for the Harkonnens' sensitive skin. “They come from a world where the sunlight is the opposite of Arrakis,” Villeneuve says. “When they walk on Arrakis, they are like fish out of water. They need equipment. They need things to protect them from sunlight and heat that other characters don't need.”

Reading the book, Butler understood that this Harkonnen, like the Paul Atreides played by Timothée Chalamet, was designed to reach a state of lethal perfection. “As I read the novel, you could tell it was part of this genetic breeding program,” Butler says. «He and Paul are kind of two sides of the same coin when it comes to potential Chosen One. I thought: generationally, it led to me being Feyd. There is a sense of being stronger, more ferocious, more brutal and more intelligent than everyone else, even if this is not necessarily true of other people. I think that's true in Feyd's mind.”

Butler got the impression that this was why the killer behaves with such a sense of superiority, bordering on contempt or disgust for almost everyone around him. «Sense of vanity, standing on a pedestal… this And Feyd. The way of taking care of one's body, the way of considering oneself one's temple, in a certain sense… and not attributing the same value to other people's lives within that Harkonnen mentality of brutality and evil in which he grew up.”

Villeneuve found himself enamored with the villain Butler created. «When you do a casting, it's always a gamble», says the director. «When I first pointed the camera at Feyd-Rautha, my heart exploded with joy because I realized that Austin was absolutely perfect. The way he moved, the way he moved his jaw… it imbued him with even more animal qualities, like some kind of lizard. He was fearless. He is a fearless actor.”

Source: Vanity Fair

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