Austin Butler Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen Dune Part 2
Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

From months of physical training to hours in the makeup chair, Austin Butler put a lot of work into embodying the pure evil of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen — the extremely bald, fierce, and psychopathic nephew of Stellan Skarsgård’s Baron Vladimir Harkonnen in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part 2.

With black teeth and not a single hair on either his head or his brow, Butler takes Feyd-Rautha to terrifying heights the likes of which his predecessor Sting, who played the character in the original 1984 Dune film, could only dream of.

Austin Butler on Transforming into Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen

To achieve the completely hairless and colorless look of the Harkonnens, Butler spent three hours in makeup having his bald cap applied.

“It comes over [my head] to my eyelids, covering my eyebrows and everything,” Butler told USA Today. “Look at the attention to detail on that bald cap with a vein running through it. It’s a work of art.”

But the makeup and hair process was just the beginning of Butler’s morphing into the Harkonnen prince. Prior to the start of shooting, the actor underwent four months of physical training to “get my body into a place where I could be a physically imposing presence” he told Josh Horowitz on the Happy Sad Confused podcast.

Part of that training involved learning knife-fighting and gaining weight, apparently in muscle, Butler told The Los Angeles Times.

“The strength of Feyd makes Paul stronger and vice versa — it’s like playing the greatest tennis pro that you possibly can,” Butler said of he and Villeneuve’s designs for Feyd-Rautha. “For me that meant putting on weight and learning knife-fighting, so I worked with a kali [sword] instructor for months before I ever got to Hungary.”

Butler’s transformation was so complete that it sent a chill down the spine of editor Joe Walker.

“The first footage I got was this arena footage. To me, it was like, ‘Holy hell in a handcart.’ I also met him on set and he looks terrifying and dangerous,” Walker told Variety. “You can see the vein structure of the eyes, and the skin is very thin and transparent.”

Also Read: ‘Here’s the Heart’: Excerpts From A Masterpiece in Disarray: David Lynch’s Dune — an Oral History

Part of Feyd-Rautha’s impact is that his entire personality is based in violence, Butler says.

“It was about finding the brutality and making him as vicious as possible. I spent a lot of time daydreaming about what it would be like to grow up in that environment with the Baron as your father figure. Learning about cultures throughout time that have had this brutality brought it to a human place where I realized: I’m not just playing someone you can write off as psychotic and evil. I had to see through his eyes,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

To solidify the connection between Feyd-Rautha and his Baron uncle, Butler made a concerted effort to take on Skarsgård’s accent from Dune: Part 1.

“I very quickly thought his voice needs to be different from mine in some way. Then it dawned on me that he would have grown up with the Baron, and the Baron being the one who has the most power, and how we end up soaking in through osmosis those traits of  all those people we grow up with, but particularly those that we admire in some way,” Butler told ScreenRant.

He worked with dialect coach Tim Monich to find his inner Skarsgård, and also put a lot of thought into what Feyd-Rautha’s childhood would have been like as a Harkonnen prince.

“He helped me to hone in on Stellan’s voice, really. And then it’s also just figuring out how his childhood shapes him into who he becomes. When you’re raised in brutality, you have a necessity for violence in order to be able to survive. So that ends up changing the way that his mind is.”

Skarsgård appreciated the work Butler put into sounding like him.

“It’s like hearing an echo. It was very, very precise,” Skarsgård told Variety at the Dune: Part 2 premiere. 

He was also amused by the amount of glee that Butler exuded through the role.

“I laughed so much because it was so obvious that he really enjoyed being evil,” he added.

Main Image: Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in Dune: Part 2. Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Editor’s note: Corrects typo.

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