Christopher Walken Did Not Know About His Fatboy Slim-'Dune' Connection

In Dune: Part Two, Christopher Walken plays Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV. He’s the ruler of the Known Universe, father to Princess Irulan (Florence Pugh), and mastermind of the whole nefarious plot to bring down House Atreides. So, how does the Emperor of the Known Universe talk? Why, exactly like Christopher Walken. (It’s heartening to know that humanity retains a Queens accent 20,000 years in the future.)

But long before he starred as the high-ranking villain of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two, long before he was made to kiss the ring by Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides, Walken had another deep Dune connection. As many people have since pointed out, Walken starred in the 2001 music video for Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice,” which may be the only big beat song that also happens to be a tribute to Frank Herbert’s Dune: the lyrics include “Walk without rhythm and you won’t attract the worm,” a reference to the Fremen’s method of walking in the desert so as to not call sandworms.

The 80-year-old actor chatted with GQ about this strange coincidence—which he was hearing about for the first time—inhabiting the role of an emperor, and witnessing that final showdown scene.

GQ: Were you a Dune fan at all beforehand?

Christopher Walken: I was. The first movie, the one from a couple of years ago, I had seen a number of times on my TV and was very impressed. I liked Denis Villeneuve’s movies a lot—Arrival. And I thought it was a brilliant movie, the first Dune. So when he called, I was very pleased to meet him.

Had you read the books, or enjoyed the David Lynch version as well?

I had, a long time ago, which I enjoyed quite a lot. Very different. And I think at the time, I had even gotten the book—well, one of them. So I was familiar with it.

It was a Dino De Laurentiis [produced] movie, and I had been working with him. It was very entertaining and, I suppose like a lot of people at the time, I got a hold of the paperback.

At this point of your career, how do you prepare for a role like this?

I watched the first movie again to get familiar with the main characters, some of the names and so on. Somebody in the theater once said to me—I had to play a king in a play, and I said to this older actor, “How am I going to do that? I’m this guy from Queens.” And he said, “Don’t worry about it. If the other actors treat you like the king, you don’t have to do much.” I sort of relied on the trappings of the emperor.

Speaking of being from Queens—you have a very distinct voice. And you ended up using your regular voice in the movie, without any accent work. How did you and Denis come to the decision that the Emperor of the Known Universe would talk like a guy from Queens?

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