Rebecca Ferguson compares the empowered voice she constructed for her Dune character, Lady Jessica, to the voice of Disney animation icon Donald Duck.
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Rebecca Ferguson compared the empowered voice she constructed for her Dune character, Lady Jessica, to the voice of Disney animation icon Donald Duck. Ferguson plays the mother to Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides and Bene Gesserit acolyte in Dennis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic. Ferguson stars alongside Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Jason Mamoa, and Stellan Skasgård.
In Dune, Ferguson plays Lady Jessica, the concubine to Isaac’s Duke Leto Atreides, who is part of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood. The Bene Gesserit are a faction bestowed with empowered physical and mental talents, such as the ability to control people’s minds through their words. As such a complex and layered individual, Ferguson has previously talked about the challenges the role brought when balancing the different aspects of her character, and now the star has opened up about the challenges her character’s unique abilities brought.
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When speaking to Polygon while promoting Villeneuve’s 2021 sci-fi epic, Ferguson discussed how she developed Lady Jessica’s mind-altering Bene Gesserit voice. Ferguson stated she was given a lot of freedom regarding the voice, as Villeneuve did not have a clear decision regarding how the voice would be represented in the final product. Though the final product saw Ferguson’s voice altered through adjustments in post-production, on-set Ferguson experimented with a voice she compared to Donald Duck’s in hopes that Villeneuve would like it. Though they never decided on using those sounds, Ferguson and Villeneuve focused on how they could convey the energy of her tone, stating it was comparable to meditation in the way she would focus and cut out any surrounding stimulants. Check out Ferguson’s full response below.
“The Voice was a fun thing to play around with. When we were on set, Denis didn’t really have a clear idea of exactly how it would sound which gave such a freedom for me and everyone else to to interpret it the way they wanted to, and that’s a creative freedom. I actually started doing like, Donald Duck sounds, and I don’t know where I was going with it. I thought, If I can play around and animate a sound, I think Denis will go, ‘Oh, that’s amazing. Let’s do that, Rebecca!’ [laughs] Never happened. So we focused mostly on where the energy came from. It’s like yoga, it’s like meditation [for the Bene Gesserit]. If you are in complete calm, and in line with your thoughts and your soul and your body, there is a directness, when you cut out all of the other stimulants around you. And to be able to talk from that point, whether it is ‘Start your interview,’ or whatever it is, it will become very pure.”
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The powers of the Bene Gesserit were not the only aspects of Dune’s mythos that Ferguson has discussed, as she previously opened up about bringing sandworms to life. Ferguson described the moment where Villeneuve discussed the scale of the colossal monsters when filming a scene, with Villeneuve pointing out the exact size of the creatures in an action sequence, far-exceeding her previous assumptions. Ferguson’s co-star Brolin had also discussed filming Dune with Villeneuve, comparing the director’s open, more practical approach to Marvel Studios’s secrecy.
Dune is an epic that has been highly influential on science-fiction since its release, with notable examples being comparisons made to the Star Wars franchise. Many films, TV shows, and even previous adaptations have offered their approach to worlds and concepts inspired by it, so Villeneuve’s adaptation is placed into the position of finding a new, unique, and bold way to portray these abilities. As such, Ferguson and Villeneuve’s experimentation behind the scenes is a good glimpse at the effort dedicated to creating a lively, dense universe in Dune.