Why Zendaya Felt Totally Awkward Flirting With Timothée Chalamet In Dune

After "Dune" surpassed $400 million at the box office, it's safe to say people are really looking forward to the movie's sequel, which is set to premiere on November 3, 2023. Fan favorites Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet will return for "Dune: Part Two", and this time around, the "Euphoria" star will thankfully have more than 7 minutes of screentime. According to director Denis Villeneuve, the second "Dune" film explores — in-depth — the romantic chemistry between Zendaya and Chalamet's characters, courageous warrior Chani and young duke Paul Atredies, respectively.

In fact, Villeneuve even called Chani and Paul's love "the epicenter of the story" during an April 2023 Vanity Fair interview. "The most important thing is that spark, that relationship between both of these characters," he said. "If we don't capture that, if we don't have that onscreen, there's no movie." However, it apparently wasn't so easy to capture that spark. In the same interview, Zendaya recalled that it "was funny trying to figure [flirting] out in this futuristic space talk" and that approaching her romantic scenes with Chalamet was pretty awkward in general.

Zendaya struggled to figure out her character's flirtation style

Zendaya opened up to Vanity Fair about struggling to figure out how Chani would naturally flirt with Paul. The actress explained that she had to ask herself several questions about the characters' relationship, including: "How do they flirt? What does that look like for a space warrior and the young duke of a planet? How do they show that they like each other? What does that even sound like?" She eventually established that love between Chani and Paul would probably be "awkward and uncomfortable," as it tends to be in the beginning. 

Since Chani is so fierce, intimidating, and flawless in Paul's eyes, Zendaya wondered at first if her character would even have awkward feelings at all. Ultimately, the former Disney star went with her instincts and leaned into her understanding of the universal experience of love. Zendaya told the magazine that everyone can relate to that and emphasized, "These characters are just young people forced into really, really intense circumstances." 

They didn't have much time to film romantic scenes

Another factor that complicated the Chani and Paul flirtations was the narrow window of time that Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet had to film the romantic movie scenes, aka golden hour. Beautiful, warm sunset lighting really brings romance to life — and considering they were shooting the movie in the deserts of Jordan and Abu Dhabi, it wasn't so easy to get out there for a million takes. 

Zendaya recalled that it felt like a "ticking timer." She explained, "You kind of feel like, 'Okay, we got here, but we have maybe an hour to get this.' So we revisited a bit every day, and over a few days, that gives us a few hours." She and Chalamet had to go for those scenes each time they were out there and the hour came around, so they were able to approach their characters' relationship with fresh ideas. Despite the challenges, the actors seem to have pulled off their chemistry beautifully; the official trailer opens with them chatting softly and giving each other adorable shy smiles.