The Difficulties with The Original Dune

Dune - Science Fiction

There are few films in history that have a stranger track history than Dune. With several failed attempts at creation, various edits and unfavourable reviews, it has become both a cult hit as well as an eye-rolling expression of Hollywood’s decision making. In this article, we’ll look at the history behind Dune, the different director’s vision for adaptation, as well as why so many different versions have never come to fruition.

The Dune Novel by Frank Herbert

The novel on which all of this is based on, Dune, was written by Frank Herbert and published in 1965. A sci-fi cult classic, the story revolves around the desert world of Arrakis, where the most valuable substance in the universe, a spice called mélange, and an empire, which holds the planet closely. It has spawned many sequels and is often praised for its political and social messages.

Dune - So The Theory Goes
Copyright by Universal Studios

By 1971, the film rights had been optioned by Arthur P. Jacobs, producer of the various Planet of the Apes films. However, he died before development could begin. Following this, in 1973, the rights were passed over to Jean-Paul Gibon, a leader of a French consortium and producer of a variety of French films. Alejandro Jodorowsky was brought on to direct and began to plan a grand vision of the book, with music from progressive artists such as Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel, and design by H.R Giger (who would eventually work on Alien).

The cast would feature Salvador Dali and Orson Welles. The script was 14 hours long, with vast quantities of storyboards and notes that ultimately led to the film being too expensive to continue. A lot of these storyboards were sent to major studios, inspiring later films such as Star Wars, The Terminator and Alien. Several members of Jodorowsky’s assembled team, such as Giger, went on to work on the latter. Studios rejected many of these ideas that Jodorowsky pitched, and he would not compromise his vision. The project, unfortunately, was over.

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