“I’ve never been more excited to talk about a movie, ohhh, maybe ever,” said Stephen Colbert on Friday’s Late Show, leaving Dune star Rebecca Ferguson a little antsy, and Colbert fans perhaps a bit shocked. After all, Colbert has, over the course of several shows and decades, made known his worshipfully encyclopedic knowledge of another film/literary franchise. Still, hosting none other the the actress portraying Lady Jessica of the Bene Gesserit, Colbert told Ferguson, “People associate me with Lord Of The Rings, but Dune is nearly equally important to me,” calling Frank Herbert’s legendary sci-fi saga, “combed into my mind, my soul.” So, no pressure, Ferguson, who mimed getting up and simply walking off the Late Show set in the face of a grilling from a high-profile superfan.
Ferguson needn’t have worried, however, since Colbert was all understandably aflutter at having the actress on The Late Show for the first time. Having seen a preview of director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (which officially premieres October 22), Colbert was dead serious when he said of Villeneuve’s film, “I will say for the record, this is my review, a perfect adaptation of this book.” With Peter Jackson fans left thus glaring at their TVs, Colbert told Ferguson that her performance as the fierce but conflicted mother of the possible messiah of the universe gave even a Dune nerd essentially everything he could have dreamed.
Which should have set Ferguson at ease, but, as mentioned, much of her first segment was spent waving away Colbert’s praise since she knew what was inevitably coming. Mugging her sheepishness after Colbert’s eager question about how familiar the acclaimed actor was with the Dune series before being cast, Ferguson finally, and with not-that-abashed resignation, told Colbert that she had no earthly idea what Dune was all about when Villeneuve video called her about the role. “Had you read the book?,” Colbert cut to the chase, finally, with Ferguson answering simply, “No, I hadn’t.” (Colbert did assure Ferguson of her Lady Jessica, “There’s so much more that you do!,” after Dune’s not-spoiled-by-them climax.)
Now, nobody knows why this week’s late-night TV has just been one long parade of actors revealing their ignorance of some pretty influential source material. But at least Ferguson, unlike The Many Saints Of Newark stars Alessandro Nivola, Ray Liotta, and Michael Gandolfini, was dealing with an infamously dense and jargon-loaded tome, and not a TV series. And the star of The White Queen, several Missions Impossible, and Doctor Sleep was clearly fine with only now being “almost finished” with Herbert’s book after having filmed the first in what Villeneuve hopes will be a whole series of Dune adaptations. “Denis’ love version that he wanted to create, that is what I was on the receiving end of,” said Ferguson, emphatically. She did submit to Colbert’s pop quiz, “What is fear?,” rattling off the famous litany of the Gom Jabbar with aplomb—even if she started after its most famous line. (Colbert gave it to her, because she’s Lady Jessica, mister.)
And, befitting a Lady of such power and grace, Ferguson told Colbert that she wasn’t having any of her co-stars’ high school, cliquey guy stuff on set, either. Not naming any names (Ferguson in fact quickly gave up Oscar Isaac and Josh Brolin), Ferguson told Colbert that she defiantly inserted herself into the actors’ all-male bullshit sessions (probably all about stillsuits and whatever the Arrakis version of football is), ultimately wearing them down to an inclusive group chat, and telling Colbert that other co-star Jason Momoa got chummy enough to borrow some money from her (which the film’s burly bodyguard Duncan Idaho has not, as yet, repaid.) “Stars,” scoffed Colbert, commiserating with Ferguson, since, as he revealed, Brolin still owes Colbert 40 bucks.