Stellan Skarsgård Went Through Hell Playing Baron Harkonnen

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Playing a role where your body is artificially enlarged, you’re constantly attached to tubes, and you spend large portions in a mystery liquid is obviously not easy. But that’s exactly what Stellan Skarsgård had to do not once, but twice, to play the evil Baron Harkonnen in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune films. And while the actor admitted the process was “hell,” it seems as if it was worth it.

“I went through hell, yeah,” the Andor actor told io9. “But it was a very friendly hell. It took eight hours of five people working on me in the morning, and they were lovely friends of mine. And there were some of the best people in the business, prosthetics. So I had a great time at the same time.”

Co-star Dave Bautista, who plays the Baron’s nephew Rabban, said that Skarsgård’s preparation changed the mood on set and how his fellow cast members approached him. “It’s very serious,” the former Marvel actor told io9. “We are respectful because we know that it’s harsh—the experience he’s gone through, like what he’s living with and what he’s dealing with. And you can tell through conversations while he’s working, that he’s already exhausted because he’s been in a makeup chair eight hours before we even started working. Eight hours, you’re typically leaving work. He’s just starting work. And so it’s very respectful of him and what he’s going through. We’re very respectful of his time. This is everybody from the top down. But also the actors were very aware that he’s suffering.”

Suffering that, one would assume, would be made worse when the Baron spends large chunks of both films submerged in a mystery dark liquid. But, as Skarsgård tells it, that part was much easier than the makeup.  

“They make sure that it’s warm enough for you but it was kind of colder than the air temperature, because it was very hot in the summer in Budapest at that time,” he said. “So it felt good. I didn’t have to have my cooling apparatus on. But it’s a concoction of… it’s not really oil, but it is water and gelatin, I think. And then it’s some oil that is black on top of it. And I do not dare ask what’s in it.”

But what we do know what’s in Skarsgård’s performance: a lot of sacrifice. See how it plays out when Dune: Part Two opens March 1.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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