Zendaya‘s Chani is Denis Villeneuve's “secret weapon” in his Dune films.

Speaking to The New York Times, Villeneuve broke down why Chani is so important. As Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) further descends into madness, Chani is proven correct in her fears. It's akin to Kay's (Diane Keaton) arc in the Godfather films as Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) goes further into the family business.

“I wanted to make sure the audience will understand that Paul becomes a dark figure, that his choices are exactly what Chani was afraid of,” Villeneuve told the outlet.

Introduced in Paul's dreams in Villeneuve's first Dune movie, Chani is integral to his growth. Zendaya doesn't have a huge role in the first film but is a major player in Part Two. As Villeneuve points out, Chani does grow worried as Paul continues rising to power.

We will see the consequences of Paul's actions play out in Messiah whenever that comes, as Part Two ends with him requesting Princess Irulan's (Florence Pugh) hand in marriage. In turn, Chani refuses to bow to him and she departs alone on a sandworm.

The Dune franchise

Timothée Chalamet.
A still from Dune: Part Two courtesy of Warner Bros.

Denis Villeneuve is known for his films Prisoners, Enemy, and Sicario. From there, he became a staple in the sci-fi genre. He directed Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 before his journey to Arrakis.

His Dune adaptation was spread across two feature films. The first was released in 2021 and grossed over $400 million at the box office. This was despite Warner Bros' “Day and Date” release strategy, which meant the film was released in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously.

The sequel was released in 2024 with Villeneuve returning to direct. He co-wrote the script with Jon Spaihts and the film has been an even bigger hit. To date, the film has made over $696 million worldwide.

Timothée Chalamet leads the films as Paul Atreides. Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, and Javier Bardem also starred in both films. Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, and Christopher Walken joined the cast in Part Two.

Zendaya's career

After getting her start leading Disney Channel's Shake It Up, Zendaya has become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. She would also lead another Disney Channel series, K.C. Undercover, from 2015-18. She is known for her role in HBO's Euphoria, which she leads as Rue Bennett.

On the big screen, Zendaya got her big break starring in the MCU's Spider-Man: Homecoming. She would subsequently appear in the next two films, Far From Home and No Way Home, as MJ. Her other notable credits include The Greatest Showman, Malcolm and Marie, and Space Jam: A New Legacy.

2024 has been a year dominated by the young star. Zendaya not only starred in Dune: Part Two, but she also starred in Challengers (which she also produced). The Luca Guadagnino-directed film also stars Mike Faist (West Side Story) and Josh O'Connor (Doctor Who).