Stellan Skarsgård (left) and Kenneth McMillan (right), as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in David Lynch’s Dune
Photo: David M. Benett (Getty Images), Nancy Moran (Getty Images)

Denis Villeneuve continues to nail the casting for his upcoming adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi masterpiece Dune, with THR reporting that the Arrival director has now picked celebrated Swedish actor/tricky keyboard challenge Stellan Skarsgård to play one of the film’s most nastily important baddies, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Skarsgård joins a cast that includes Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista, and Timothée Chalamet, playing the novel’s hero, Paul Atreides. 

Harknonnen is one of the most iconically awful villains in all of science fiction, a decadent, monstrous gasbag of depravity and evil, specifically designed to make the noble Atreides family seem that extra bit more dignified and pure. In terms of actual screen-time, he’s actually something of a minor character—his plotting against the rival family kicks off the novel’s plot, but it’s his nephew, and the emperor, that actually drive most of its later conflict—but Herbert (and David Lynch, who cast Kenneth McMillan and a whole bunch of very memorable facial prosthetics in the part for his 1984 adaptation) successfully made him so vampirically vile that he casts a (sometimes literal) shadow over the entire series.

Although he’s played nice in recent roles like Mamma Mia! and his recurring place in the MCU, Skarsgård has never shied away from dipping into the mindset of the monster, whether under the auspices of Lars von Trier, or in movies like David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It’s delightfully easy to imagine him truly letting loose as Villeneuve’s Baron, cackling gleefully, nursing his boils, and ripping the heart plugs out of children, just because it’s fun.

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