Hans Zimmer on Unearthing New Sounds for “Dune: Part Two”

If you’ve seen any notable film in the past 40-something years, chances are you’ve heard Hans Zimmer’s work. 

From his two Academy awards (The Lion King in 1994 and Dune: Part One in 2021) to his three Golden Globes, four Grammys, a BAFTA, and various other accolades — his resume extends beyond any category, label or genre and becomes almost a style all on its own. 

“The real thing about it is it’s not an orchestral score,” Zimmer explains of his latest work on Denis Villeneuve’s sweeping, enormously impressive Dune: Part Two. “One of the precocious, horrible, nasty, full of hubris thoughts I was having as a teenager whenever I watched a science fiction movie like Alien or whatever was — why am I hearing a European orchestra? Why am I hearing strings? Why am I hearing French horn? This is all supposed to be in space and thousands of years from now — shouldn’t we have reinvented instruments? Shouldn’t we be listening to a completely different sonic landscape?”

The adult Zimmer has emphatically answered his own question. For Villeneuve’s ambitious adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic 1965 novel, Zimmer was so determined to create a new, futuristic sound for the film that he and his team often built their own instruments to satisfy this challenge. 

“‘I wrote something that was unplayable,” he laughed. “So often, we had to go to Home Depot where we shopped for pipes and built instruments, and we created a 3,000 or 4,000-year-old Armenian instrument out of PVC piping.” 

Caption: (L-r) TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET as Paul Atreides and ZENDAYA as Chani in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise

Like the first film, drums and other percussion instruments play a large role in Dune: Part Two’s dramatic setting — which finds Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) and his mother, Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) relying on the native inhabitants of the desert planet Arrakis, the Fremen, to keep them alive in the aftermath of the massacre of House Atreides that Villeneuve, Zimmer and the rest of the team captured in Part One. But beyond the sound of drums, Zimmer says, “the only instrument you will identify is the human voice.” As Paul’s journey unfolds and he accepts his role as the Lisan al Gaib — the prophetic hero meant to liberate the Fremen and help them defeat the colonizers who keep returning to Arrakis to harvest Spice, the score begins almost to mirror Paul’s unraveling. It becomes bolder, more chaotic, and increasingly unnerving. We begin to hear more of Loire Cotler’s reverberating vocals piercing through the accompanying sounds. 

Zimmer feels strongly that “the strength of the movie is the female characters,” hence the emphasis on the through line between both films being Cotler’s voice. 

Caption: (L-r) ZENDAYA as Chani and REBECCA FERGUSON as Lady Jessica in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

While creating a second award-winning score on the heels of the first film’s success may sound daunting, for Zimmer, he’s never really stopped working on Villeneuve’s saga.

“When we finished the first movie, I just continued on writing because I didn’t want to leave the world,” Zimmer said. “And I came up with the theme, which is now very much the theme for this movie.” 

Zimmer initially signed onto Dune: Part One after Villeneuve asked if he’d ever heard “of a book called Dune.” As a fan of the books in his teenage years, Zimmer knew that the first film, adapted from Herbert’s novel by Villeneuve and Jon Spaihts, only went to about “page 156” of Herbert’s book. So, undertaking the task of composing for a novel series he grew up loving felt like an obvious choice. 

“You know those sort of dogs that get really excited?” Zimmer joked. “I became one of those. He [Denis] never let me read the script because he wanted me to stay pure. He wanted one person who was like, I know the book, I know what this is all about, I know what the complications are as well of telling this story.” 

There were complications and challenges aplenty, yet the result is a two-part sci-fi epic that will stand the test of time. Villeneuve’s Dune franchise is one of the best in the genre’s history, and with the success of Part Two this weekend, we may yet see Villeneuve’s third and final film, based on Herbert’s second book, “Dune: Messiah,” and hear what wild new sounds Zimmer will create to capture these strange new worlds.

Check out our full interview with the legendary composer here:

Featured image: Caption: JAVIER BARDEM as Stilgar in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ action adventure “DUNE: PART TWO,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures


Andria Moore

Andria is a freelance entertainment and digital culture reporter based in DC. She is a regular contributor for BuzzFeed and Insider, and her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Lily, and Modern Luxury Magazines.