Denis Villeneuve and Dune’s marketing team gave us time to prepare for Oscar Isaac going full bearded space daddy. The trailer that made Isaac’s face go viral (again) dropped months ago, and the film itself has been delayed several times. But much like staring at a candle flame cannot prepare our eyes for the burning intensity of the sun, promotional materials for the sci-fi epic captured only a hint of the gravitas, the swaggering commitment, the brutal hotness that Isaac commands as Duke Leto Atreides.
It’s not just the Dune beard—although the immaculately trimmed face shrub certainly doesn’t hurt. The power in Isaac’s performance comes not from the angle of his jaw or the gentle wrinkles that have begun to brush against his eyes but from the irrepressible smolder behind them. The Death of the Movie Star has inspired countless odes in recent years, and yet here we are looking at one.
At the start of Dune, Isaac’s Duke takes over the hostile desert planet Arrakis as his family’s fief. Leto is determined to set himself and House Atreides apart from the planet’s previous overlords, the ruthless House Harkonnen. He extends his hand to the Fremen—natives to the land now colonized for its hallucinogenic Spice, which produces a trip so intense it enables intergalactic travel.
Timothée Chalamet plays Paul—the Duke’s son, Dune’s main protagonist, and maybe also a messiah? We’ll need to wait to find out. Rebecca Ferguson plays Paul’s mother, Jessica—who is also member of a secretive, Illuminati-like order called the Bene Gesserit. We first observe Jessica helping her son practice a special voice that members of this all-female order use to compel people into doing their bidding. And then there’s Zendaya, the striking Freman haunting Paul’s dreams.
Oh—and there are giant sandworms everywhere.
Tasked with a comically impossible job (and very creaky equipment), the determined Duke lingers somewhere between inspirational and hubristic. Isaac plays his character earnestly but subtly, underscoring his character’s intense feeling of duty toward his son. We love a tragically flawed but ultimately loving daddy figure, don’t we folks?
Isaac and Ferguson do not share many scenes together; Jessica’s story largely unfurls as Leto’s rule blows apart. The film’s press tour, however, revisited a recurring theme in Oscar Isaac’s career: overt eroticism.
In addition to a preternaturally steamy Entertainment Weekly shoot, a clip emerged of the actor gently fondling his co-star’s ear during a video interview.
The internet reacted the same way it did when Isaac sniffed his longtime friend and Scenes from a Marriage co-star Jessica Chastain’s arm—and when he did a live reading of Beirut with Marisa Tomei.
Isaac’s wife, Twitter has decided, is “braver than the Marines”—an amusing meme that’s nonetheless rooted in a lot of normative assumptions about relationships. Either way, we can all agree that Isaac seems to have the internet pinned to a wall.
Isaac had already established a reputation for his magnetic screen presence by the time he soared into the Star Wars universe as Poe Dameron. His performance in Ex Machina, especially, felt singular—equal parts menacing and bizarre, the villainous CEO character felt like a perfect vehicle for Isaac’s intensity and sense of humor. (That character, with his buzzed head and full beard, was also hot.) And who could forget that dance scene, which became a viral meme unto itself?
And don’t even get me started on Inside Llewyn Davis, a film that dared to pair Isaac with a cat.
The Force Awakens showcased another gift: Isaac seemed to have chemistry with just about everyone, especially Carrie Fisher and John Boyega. Beyond sending dozens of new ships out to sea on fan-fiction websites, the trilogy highlighted Isaac’s ability to bring out the best in any performer—and to give them the best of himself. Again—hot.
Dune returns the actor to space, but in a weightier role befitting his maturity as an actor. Isaac brings his skill to bear—blending tragedy, fatherhood, and a salt-and-pepper-beard. His conversations with Ferguson are deeply felt—especially one in which Leto begs Jessica to protect their son. More than an internet boyfriend, these are the makings of an internet husband.