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Austin Butler Cut Back on Method Acting for ‘Dune 2’ Role; He Was ‘Only 25 or 30%’ in Character ‘When the Camera Was Off,’ Says Denis Villeneuve

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Austin Butler‘s transformation into Elvis was widely documented — he spent three years researching the music icon and went full Method actor during production on the Baz Luhrmann feature, never abandoning Presley’s trademark southern drawl. For his role as the sociopathic villain Feyd-Rautha in Denis Villeneuve‘s “Dune: Part Two,” Butler toned down the Method acting considerably.

“I’ve definitely in the past, with ‘Elvis,’ explored living within that world for three years and that being the only thing that I think about day and night,” Butler told the Los Angeles Times. “With Feyd, I knew that that would be unhealthy for my family and friends.”

“And for me!” Villeneuve added in the joint interview.

“And you. So I made a conscious decision to have a boundary,” Butler continued. “It allowed for more freedom between action and cut because I knew I was going to protect everybody else outside of the context of what we were doing. That’s not to say that it doesn’t bleed into your life. But I knew that I wasn’t going to do anything dangerous outside of that boundary, and in a way that allowed me to go deeper.”

Butler’s Feyd-Rautha is the cruel and sadistic younger nephew of and heir to Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). He emerges as a primary antagonist for Paul (Timothee Chalamet) in “Dune: Part Two.” Villeneuve said working with Butler was “tremendously playful,” which means Butler surely wasn’t in full Method actor mode on set.

“When the camera was on, it was like you were possessed. When the camera was off, you were still maybe 25 or 30% Feyd,” the director added. “Just enough to still be present and focus but removed enough that you didn’t kill anybody on set.”

Butler is one of the newcomers to the “Dune” franchise in “Part Two” along with actors such as Florence Pugh, Lea Seydoux and Christopher Walken. The Oscar nominee told Entertainment Weekly that heat stroke impacted several people on set during his first week of shooting. 

“It was 110 degrees and so hot,” Butler said. “I had the bald cap on, and it was between two soundstages that were just these gray boxes of 200-foot walls and sand. It became like a microwave. There were people passing out from heat stroke. And that was just my first week.”

“It really bonds the entire crew,” Butler added. “There’s something so humbling about being in such an uncomfortable environment.” 

“Dune: Part Two” opens in theaters March 1 from Warner Bros.