Dune: The Sisterhood loses director Johan Renck and lead Shirley Henderson

The HBO Max series Dune: The Sisterhood has lost director Johan Renck and lead Shirley Henderson in a creative shake-up

The HBO Max series Dune: The Sisterhood (which is a prequel to the Dune feature films directed by Denis Villeneuve) is having a rough ride on its way to the screen. First, the show lost showrunner Jon Spaihts (co-writer of the first Dune film) – and when he stepped away from the show it was said that he would be focusing on working on the screenplay for Dune: Part 2 with Villeneuve instead. The Hollywood Reporter’s sources also informed them that Spaihts had turned in one script and a revised outline for Dune: The Sisterhood, and the producers at Legendary weren’t happy with his work. So the decision was made that he was better off sticking with the features. Spaihts was replaced by Diane Ademu-John and Alison Schapker… and then Ademu-John stepped down as well, leaving Schapker as the sole showrunner. Villeneuve had been planning to direct the first two episodes of the series, but when the schedule overlapped with the filming of Dune: Part 2 he had to hand those episodes over to Johan Renck, who executive produced and directed all five episodes of the HBO limited series Chernobyl. But now Deadline reports that Renck has left the project due to creative issues, and Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) – who had been cast as one of the show’s lead characters – is out as well.

Dune: The Sisterhood started filming in November. Now the search is on for a director to replace Renck and another actor to fill the role Henderson was playing.

HBO Max provided the following statement: “As Dune: The Sisterhood has entered a pre-scheduled hiatus, there are some creative changes being made to the production in an effort to create the best series possible and stay true to the source material. Johan Renck has completed his work on the series and a new director will be brought on; through mutual agreement, Johan is moving on to pursue other projects. Additionally, Shirley Henderson will be exiting the series and will no longer be playing Tula Harkonnen.

Deadline’s sources told them that Ademu-John vacating the showrunner position put pressure on Schapker and her team to make major rewrites on the fly as the series was beginning production in Budapest. Meanwhile, we hear Renck’s auteur approach did not jibe with the streamer’s vision for the series and was a departure from the look of Denis Villeneuve’s films, which led to his departure. (He has since deleted any Dune content from his Instagram account, including his Nov. 22 post announcing start of production.) It is unclear whether any of the footage he filmed will be used in the series; that would be largely up to the new director when they come on board. We hear conflicting views on the current hiatus. While sources close to the production insist there had always been a plan to stop filming for the winter months, others indicate that production has been pushed by seven months to give Schapker and her team time to put their creative stamp by reworking the scripts as well as to find a new director. It is unclear whether Henderson’s departure is related to the creative changes, Renck’s exit or the new start of production but we hear the delay is wreaking havoc on actors’ schedules, creating potential conflicts that may lead to more exits and recastings.

Dune: The Sisterhood will be 

told through the eyes of a mysterious order of women known as the Bene Gesserit. Given extraordinary abilities by their mastery of the body and the mind, the Bene Gesserit expertly weave through the feudal politics and intrigue of The Imperium, pursuing plans of their own that will ultimately lead them to the enigmatic planet Arrakis, known to its inhabitants as Dune. 

The show is set

10,000 years prior to the events of Dune and follows the Harkonnen Sisters as they combat forces that threaten the future of humankind, and establish the fabled sect known as the Bene Gesserit.

The cast includes Emily Watson (Punch Drunk Love), Indira Varma (Obi-Wan), Shalom Brune-Franklin (The Tourist), Sarah-Sofie Boussnina (The Colony), Faoileann Cunningham (The Northman), Aoife Hinds (Normal People), Chloe Lea (Foundation), Mark Strong (1917), Jade Anouka (His Dark Materials), Chris Mason (Broadchurch), and Travis Fimmel (Raised by Wolves).

Watson and Henderson were cast as Valya Harkonnen and Tula Harkonnen. “Together, these women have risen to power in the Sisterhood, a secret organization of women who will ascend to become the Bene Gesserit.” Varma is taking on the role of Empress Natalya, described as “a formidable royal who united thousands of worlds in her marriage to Emperor Corrino”. 

Brune-Franklin will be playing Mikaela, “a strong-willed Fremen woman who serves the royal family while longing for a home planet she’s never known.” Boussnina’s character is Princess Ynez, “an independent young princess dealing with the pressures of her responsibility as heir to the Golden Lion Throne.” Cunningham will be taking on the role of Sister Jen, “a fierce, unpredictable acolyte in training at the Sisterhood School who rarely reveals her emotional core.” Hinds is Sister Emeline, “a zealous acolyte descended from a long line of martyrs, who carries fervent religion to her training at the Sisterhood.” Lea will portray Lila, “the youngest acolyte at the Sisterhood School with a deep empathy beyond her years.” Fimmel’s character is Desmond Hart, “a charismatic soldier with an enigmatic past who seeks to gain the Emperor’s trust at the expense of the Sisterhood.” Strong will be playing Emperor Javicco Corrino, “a man from a great line of war-time Emperors, who is called upon to govern the Imperium and manage a fragile peace.” Anouka’s character is Sister Theodosia, “a talented and ambitious acolyte at the Sisterhood who harbors a dangerous secret about her past.” And Mason will play Keiran Atreides, “a Swordmaster to a Great House whose ambition to live up to his family name is disrupted when he forms an unexpected connection to a member of the royal family.”

Villeneuve, Spaihts, and Ademu-John remain on board Dune: The Sisterhood as executive producers. An HBO Max and Legendary Television co-production, the show is also being executive produced by Schapker, Scott Z. Burns, Mark Friedman, Matthew King, Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt, and Kim Herbert. Kevin J. Anderson co-produces.

What do you think of all the problems Dune: The Sisterhood has been running into? Are you interested in this show? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Shirley Henderson

Source: Deadline

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.