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Why Denis Villeneuve Kept Anya Taylor-Joy’s ‘Dune: Part Two’ Casting a Secret: “Hollywood Is the Most Gossipy Town on Earth”

At Dune: Part Two‘s London world premiere earlier this month, Anya Taylor-Joy made waves when she walked the red carpet alongside the cast, confirming an online rumor that she had a secret role in the film.

Taylor-Joy again made an appearance at the New York premiere on Sunday night, as writer-director Denis Villeneuve revealed why he wanted to keep her role under wraps in the first place.

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“I think that Hollywood is the most gossipy town on earth and I wanted, as an experiment, to see how long we could keep a secret,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “We did it. It was a special unit, we went to Africa to shoot with Anya under super-secrecy. I just loved the idea to keep something a surprise for the audience until the very end; it was like a gift I wanted to keep for the fans.”

Villeneuve returns to direct the sci-fi sequel, reuniting with Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, who starred in the first film, and adding Austin Butler and Florence Pugh to the cast. Butler plays the film’s main villain, which the star admitted “was particularly joyful, in a weird way.”

Villeneuve said watching Butler’s transformation — as he became unrecognizable with a bald cap and black teeth — “was something to witness.”

“He was really frightening — when the camera was rolling it was like witnessing a total metamorphosis, like he was really becoming an evil, psychotic, sexy serial killer,” the filmmaker continued. “It was very mindblowing to see such a sweetheart becoming so ugly and evil in a split second like that.”

Butler also reflected on the moments when the cameras weren’t rolling and the friendship he’s developed with Chalamet throughout the film’s process.

“Timmy’s a good friend now I love him. I’m so proud of him, he works so hard and to see a young guy who’s working really hard and cares a lot and is grounded, it’s really nice to be around him,” Butler told THR, while also giving a shoutout to scene partner Stellan Skarsgård as a “legend.”

Pugh, who plays Princess Irulan in Part Two, toasted Chalamet as well at the premiere, as the two reunited after having previously worked together on Little Women.

“Coming back to working with a friend, it’s the thing that you try and do throughout all of your career, you always want to go back and work with people you know you work really well with,” Pugh said of working together again. “And then just being able to watch my friend rise to the unbelievable occasion of being this quite brilliant lead, and not only dealing with playing [lead character] Paul [Atreides] but dealing with what it’s like to be the actor that’s playing Paul and meaning so much to so many, it was a really, really beautiful experience.”

And with the sequel about to finally reach audiences, Villeneuve is already hard at work on a third Dune film, noting that he’s currently in the writing process. “I agreed to make Part One and Part Two back to back and now I think I will need to digest this experience and I want to come back with a strong screenplay,” he explained. “It’s almost done but it needs work, a bit, now.”

Dune: Part Two hits theaters on Friday.

Neha Joy contributed to this report.

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