At Z Movies

Six Degrees of Separation from Dune—and Kevin Bacon 

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides duels a psychopathic Feyd-Rutha, skillfully played by Austin Butler, for the honor of Chani (Zendaya) in Duel Part 2. Courtesy photo.

Alexandria, VA – You know the theory made famous in the 1993 film adaptation of John Guare’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1990 play Six Degrees of Separation? The premise is that all people are separated by six or fewer social connections. The film starred Will Smith, who portrays a real-life huckster who convinces people that he is the son of Sidney Poitier. Somehow, the social theory segued to six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, becoming something of a viral parlor game among film fans, even before going viral was a good thing.

You can get a Bacon score of 1 by attending the Bacon Brothers concert at the Birchmere July 19 & 20. Be sure to post about it! Courtesy Photo.
The Two Pauls: Kyle MacLachlan as Paul in Dune (1984) and Timothée Chalamet as Paul in Dune (2021) and Dune Part 2 (2024). Courtesy photo.

As a Duner, I’ve been asked a lot if it’s compulsory to see Dune (2021) to enjoy Dune Part 2 in theaters now. The answer is absolutely. The second film starts where the first left off, making it advisable to rewatch Dune (Part 1) as a refresher to appreciate this expansive cinematic masterpiece fully. Dune Part 2 is as sweeping cinematographically as Lawrence of Arabia, making it metaphorically one degree of separation from Dune – not merely due to all that sand but equating it with one of the top film achievements of all time. Dune 1984 is also one degree from Lawrence of Arabia, as José Ferrer starred in both epic films.

If you cannot stream Dune on Hulu or Max, free with a subscription, it screens on TNT occasionally. Until then, what to watch…? At Z Movies thought that it would be diverting to celebrate the drop of Dune Part 2 last month with a six-degree examination of corollary must-see films involving Dune actors. There’s no excuse for not seeing David Lean’s 1962 resplendent epic Lawrence of Arabia, winner of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Let’s begin with Paul Atreides, inscrutably portrayed by Timothée Chalamet. Kyle McLaughlin was Paul in the 1984 original Dune campy cult classic, impeccably yet quirkily directed by former Alexandrian David Lynch.  Chalamet’s Bacon score is two. Chalamet was in Greta Gerwig’s delightful 2017 Lady Bird and 2019 Little Women (talk about remake overdose!), making him one degree of separation from Barbie as well. Laurie Metcalf, Oscar-nominated for her supporting actress performance, starred in Lady Bird. She was also a supporting cast member in JKF with Kevin Bacon. At Z Movies recommends Gerwig-directed films. And if you haven’t seen Barbie yet, what are you waiting for?

The original film of the graphic novel adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, directed by former Alexandrian David Lynch, stars Kyle MacLachlan, Sean Young, and Sting. Courtesy Photo.

Christopher Walken joins the cast of Dune Part 2 as Emperor Shaddam with a Bacon score of 2. Walken starred with the late Chris Penn in At Close Range, who was in Footloose with Bacon. It also gives him a Dune 1984 separation score of one, as Ferrer also played Emperor Shaddam. Actually, this gives Walken a separate Bacon score of 4 as Ferrer was the father of the late actor Miguel Ferrer, who starred in Revenge with Kevin Costner, who starred in JFK with Bacon. Then there’s Miguel’s one degree of separation from Dune 1984, other than his dad, as he starred in the 1990-1991 small-screen sensation Twin Peaks, directed by and starring David Lynch.

You likely know Rebecca Ferguson from her three appearances as Ilsa Faust in the Mission Impossible film franchise. Aside from Dune and Dune Part 2, Ferguson is best known for her beguiling role in the ever-uplifting The Last Showman and her deliciously mortifying persona as the soul-sucking Rose the Hat in The Shining sequel adaption, Stephen King’s Dr. Sleep. Had it not been pushed back to March 2024 from its original December 2023 scheduled release due to the actors’ and screenwriters’ strike, Dune Part 2 would most likely have pushed the Barbenheimer portmanteau into a wormhole.

Peter O’Toole stars in the 1961 epic David Lean film masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. The film has a Dune score of 1 for sand, 2 for Dune 1984 per co-star José Ferrer, and a Bacon score of 4 via his son Miguel. Courtesy photo.

It’s hard to second guess how Dune Part 2 would have fared against the meta of Oppenheimer regarding Best Director and Best Picture. Dune won six Oscars in 2022, mostly those same categories won by Oppenheimer this year, and received ten nominations in that year, including Best Picture. Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan, should have won Best Picture in 2018 over The Shape of Water. It’s likely that Academy voters leaned toward Oppenheimer as a representative of a stellar body of work as much as an acknowledgment of an individual film achievement. Those same voters could easily have decided that Dune won six Oscars two years ago, so let Oppie get the gold.

Next year may prove to be the year of the sand dunes, a popular Best Picture motif. The dune-infused The English Patient scored nine Oscars and 12 nominations in 2017. How to get to Bacon or Dune? It’s three degrees to Dune: Ralph Fiennes starred in this WWII period ill-fated romance saga filmed in Tunisia – lots of sand dunes. Fiennes as Gareth Mallory, aka M, the head of MI6 in the last few Bond franchise films beginning with Skyfall, has a Dune score of one. Javier Bardem played the psychotic villain Raoul Silva to perfection. In Dune as Stilgar, the leader of the Fremen, he upstages in practically every scene save those focused upon Chalamet, who manages to keep his shirt on—sorry, ladies and gents.

Actually, Ralph Fiennes earns another Dune score of one and an Alexandria score of one, which gives him a Bacon score of one in addition to a five. Fiennes has had a long-term relationship with the English actress Francesca Annis, who played Lady Jessica in Dune 1984. His role as the future M in Skyfall gives him a Bacon score of 5. Fiennes is currently starring as MacBeth in MacBeth at the Shakespeare Theater in DC, six miles, or degrees of separation, from the Birchmere in Alexandria. That’s a Bacon score of 1.

Moving along, here goes: Dune 1984 is both one degree and two degrees from Dune as well as two degrees from Kevin Bacon. How? Sean Young played Chani in Dune 1984, the role now played by Zendaya who was also in The Greatest Showman with Rebecca Ferguson. So that’s the first one and second two. Chani was her next starring role after Blade Runner, another must-see film classic and one of At Z Movies’ all-time favorites along with Lawrence of Arabia – and Dune.

The humongous sandworms of the planet Arrakis (aka Dune) upstage the lowly subterranean nematodal terrorists of Lone Pine, California in Tremors – a fun campy Bacon comedy/horror mutation flick. Courtesy photo.

Young starred with Kevin Costner in his breakaway role as Tom Farrell in No Way Out, filmed in Alexandria. Young’s character Susan’s townhouse filming location is at 101 Quay Street in Old Town. You can see the waterfront park when Scott Pritchard, played by Will Patton, picks up Susan for an event. Costner can be seen standing on Fairfax Street by the patio fence door (still there), giving Gene Hackman the crook eye. Costner, as you know, starred in JFK with Bacon, giving Young a Bacon score of two.

I could have played the Tremors card right off the bat to achieve six degrees of separation from Dune to Kevin Bacon in one move. But that wouldn’t have been as much film fun. And you all wouldn’t have so many entertaining movies to screen waiting for the chance to view Dune before heading to an IMAX theater near you to catch Dune Part 2. Do yourself a favor and see it on the largest screen format at a theater near you. You’ll thank me later!

ICYMI: Beauty and the Brain: Barbie Boxes with Oppenheimer in the Oscar Heavyweight Ring

Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button