Christopher Walken’s Hidden ‘Dune’ Connection

If you turned on MTV for any length of time in 2001, you almost certainly saw Christopher Walken flying around the lobby of a Marriott in Los Angeles. Even in an era when music videos were far more hotly discussed than they are now, it was a weird sight. Walken’s trim shock of gray hair matched his gray suit, punctuated by a red tie; he looked less like the movie star he was than some guy on a long layover.

The music was Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice,” a weird little ditty that did make you want to dance. Having trained as a dancer in his youth — and done a great deal of tap and more in “Pennies From Heaven” (1981) — Walken was well equipped for the concept that the video’s director, Spike Jonze, had cooked up: Normal-looking man hanging out in a hotel lobby hears the song, starts dancing, then flies off a mezzanine before, eventually, returning to his seat. The video was a hit, winning several MTV Video Music Awards and a Grammy.

The lyrics to “Weapon of Choice” (sung by Bootsy Collins) are heavily distorted — the point isn’t the words so much as the hypnotic beat. But if you listen closely, you can pick up the line “Walk without rhythm/and it won’t attract the worm.”

Yes, it’s a reference to “Dune.”

In Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, giant ancient sandworms that live beneath the desert on the planet Arrakis are hugely dangerous to humans, though their power can be harnessed for travel and other purposes. They’re one of the most famous elements of the story, so instantly identifiable that they were made into a dubiously conceived popcorn bucket for the release of Denis Villeneuve’s new “Dune: Part Two.” And they’re attracted to rhythmic thumps on the surface, so the Fremen — people who live in the Arrakis desert — walk in strange, loping, arrhythmic steps to avoid accidental detection.

In the video, Walken even seems to be imitating those steps:

These lyrics also appear. They could mean anything, of course.

But it certainly would make sense if it was a reference to “the voice” (or is it THE VOICE?), a powerful vocal distortion that the mystical sisterhood Bene Gesserit use to control people in “Dune.”

This was all a funny reference in 2021, when the first installment in Villeneuve’s adaptation of “Dune” appeared in theaters. But it got much funnier in “Dune: Part Two.” In the new film, the role of Emperor Shaddam — who engineered the extinction, or so he thought, of the House Atreides, making him technically the baddest of the bad guys — is played by Walken himself.

Coincidence? Maybe. Delightful? Absolutely.

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