Dennis Villeneuve’s 2021 adaptation of Dune, a deeply introspective story about a space-faring civilization and its warring factions, generated renewed interest in an already beloved book series.
Aside from adding new Dune fans to the fan community, it also raked in several Academy Awards for Best Music, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Production design all on top of a $108,327,830 revenue. Because of its hit success, Villeneuve has gotten the go signal from executives to create Dune: Part Two in which we expect to meet Princess Irulan, a pivotal character in the story of Paul Atreides and Chani.
Leaked images of Dune: Part Two’s set showed Florence Pugh, notable for her roles in Midsommar (2019) and Little Women (2019), in her costume as Princess Irulan. But with so little known of her yet, what exactly can we expect of Florence and the princess?
Princess Irulan Is a Key Character in the Original Dune Books
Unlike the Dune movie, Princess Irulan takes a front-and-center role in the Dune book series where she lays out the history of House Atreides and Paul’s journey to become the Padishah Emperor. Though she doesn’t have a role at the beginning of the story, she introduces us to the world of Dune, setting the tone for the book and framing its events as a history, rather than something unfolding as we read it.
In the 2021 adaptation, Chani opens the movie with a monologue about how outworlders exploit Arrakis for its spice. In the original books, Princess Irulan begins with:
And in just one quote, Princess Irulan orients us in Arrakis while disorienting us with the alienness of everything she says. Because she speaks from her book, we assume she’s a historian with a first-hand account of “Muad’Dib”’s life and that the Bene Gesserit order, whatever it may be, is extremely cautious, perhaps even scheming. It even tells us about the environment of Arrakis, a “Dune” planet, and the way this civilization’s government is structured.
The rest of her chapter openings give us a glimpse into the legacy Paul left and the philosophical themes of Dune. When we do meet her, it comes as no surprise that she’s an intelligent, elegant princess of House Corrino.
Irulan was the daughter of Shaddam Corrino IV and the Bene Gesserit Anirul. She is the eldest of their five daughters. As their eldest child, it was expected that she would be Empress after her father’s death or at least, that she would marry someone powerful enough to keep House Corrino’s legacy intact. This came to a halt when Paul Atreides took over the Imperial Golden Throne and married her to secure his throne.
Princess Irulan isn’t entirely powerless after this. For one, she’s still the heiress of a powerful family, making her crucial to establishing Paul’s reign. Secondly, as the daughter of a Bene Gesserit, she was also trained in the Bene Gesserit arts and was slated to become Reverend Mother a.k.a head honcho of the Bene Gesserit order.
Despite her writings about Paul though, Irulan goes largely ignored by him on a personal level. Paul Atreides is only interested in Chani in the books and the almost religious zeal that Irulan infuses into her writing gives you the sense that she’s trying to secure her place in Paul’s court as a propagandist, in addition to being Sovereign Co-regent. Later on, neither of Paul’s heirs are her children but are his children by Chani.
And he has no reason to trust her either. In case you missed it, Irulan of House Corrino is the daughter of the Emperor who lent his Sardaukar to House Harkonnen in their bid to exterminate House Atreides.
The Irulans That Came Before: Actresses Who Played Princess Irulan In Older Dune Adaptations
One thing’s for certain: Florence Pugh isn’t the first Irulan. The Corrino princess has appeared three times in a live-action adaptation. The 1984 David Lynch adaptation of Dune has her open the film similar to how she does in the books, though she does state outright that Shaddam is her father.
In the 2000 Dune miniseries, she gets her own subplot to give the series a more romantic overtone and not make Irulan’s marriage to Paul feel rushed. She is played by Julia Cox and acts as her father’s envoy, coming to Arrakis where she meets Paul. She has a more active role early on in this adaptation. She reprised the role again in the 2003 Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune.
What We Know So Far About Florence Pugh’s Princess Irulan
Dune: Part Two is expected to release on November 23, 2023 as of when this article was written. It was initially slated for an October 20, 2023 release but this was continuously pushed back, likely because of delays after filming began on July 18, 2022.
Aside from the Tweet of a photo taken at the set of Dune: Part Two, the only other thing we know about Irulan’s upcoming appearance in the Villeneuve adaptation is her “incredible” performance as described by co-star Timothee Chalamet.
“We were joking on set that we keep doing these movies, and we end up together even though we should be ending up with different people,” Chalamet told Variety, referencing his and Pugh’s performances in Little Women where he plays Teddy who eventually marries Amy.
“Florence is really special,” Chalamet went on to say, “She’s an incredible actor. She was incredible in ‘Dune’ — seriously incredible. She brought a gravitas to the role. And I can’t believe my good fortune at this young age…between Taylor Russell in ‘Bones and All’ and Zendaya in ‘Dune.’ And Austin Butler’s in that movie too.”
In the meantime, we can cross our fingers and hope for the Dune: Part Two trailer to drop soon.