Unfortunately, many younger moviegoers are likely unaware of those turns or really anything else he did from a career that spanned Batman Returns (1992) to The Country Bears (2002), with a Pulp Fiction (1994) cameo in-between. Now pushing 80, Walken might be best known to a whole generation for memes generated by his legendary hosting gigs on Saturday Night Live and chaotic dance movies in that one Fatboy Slim music video from 20 years ago. So now is the perfect time for Walken to remind folks that he’s the kind of presence who can just ooze charisma and menace in a single scene, a la True Romance (1993), which is exactly what the Padishah Emperor calls for.
The ruler of the intergalactic galaxy of the future, Shaddam IV is a decadent and proudly powerful figure who was done a real disservice in the 1984 Dune movie directed by David Lynch. Despite his title, he is not quite evil incarnate like Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi (which the Dune novel clearly inspired). Rather Shaddam IV is pride and countless generations of entitled privilege achieving its final form. As supremely arrogant as Skarsgård’s Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is grotesque, this should be a brief but meaty role for an actor to exude a distinct type of strange malevolence. And few acting turns can be as strange as those from Walken when he’s given the right material.
In the film, Walken will also play father to Princess Irulan (Pugh), the Bene Gesserit-trained royal heir to the Padishah Emperor and skilled courtier and historian with motives of her own. In the first Dune movie, Chalamet’s Paul entertained the idea of demanding a royal marriage with Irulan to bind his house to the emperor’s Corrino clan. However, he may face a different web of issues when he confronts the emperor and his daughter in-person. Keep in mind that the Baron Harkonnen also hopes to rival the emperor’s power, not least of all by also seeking a marriage contract through Irulan.
As the biggest non-sequel of 2021, and a massive cultural hit despite premiering simultaneously on HBO Max, there’s a lot of intrigue and excitement for Dune: Part Two. One might say fans have a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell Christopher Walken.
Dune: Part Two opens only in theaters on Oct. 20, 2023.