Despite my fondness for David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of ‘Dune‘, fans of the Frank Herbert novel still gripe over some of the changes that the director made from the book. (Heavens to betsy, he replaced the Atreides secret weapon with guns instead of kung-fu! How dare he?) If that’s enough to drive them nuts, I can hardly imagine how they’d have felt had Chilean surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky not aborted his adaptation of the same book in the 1970s. His ideas for the movie were outright crazy! Now, more than three decades later, Jodorowsky’s ‘Dune’ is finally making its way to theater screens… in a manner of speaking.
Jodorowsky (the director of such off-the-wall oddities as ‘El Topo‘ and ‘The Holy Mountain‘) had rather grand ambitions for ‘Dune’. His movie was to feature production design by H.R. Giger, costumes by Jean “Moebuis” Giraud, special effects by ‘Alien’ screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, and a rock soundtrack by Pink Floyd. The cast would include the likes of Mick Jagger and Orson Welles. Famed artist Salvador Dalí was to be paid $100,000 an hour (an astounding sum at the time) to play the Emperor Shaddam IV.
The one thing that Jodorowsky had little-to-no interest in was the text of Frank Herbert’s novel. The director’s screenplay (which was described by Herbert as being as thick as a telephone book) was said to bear little resemblance to the source material. Jodorowsky wanted to add all sorts of anti-Catholic symbolism that Herbert never imagined. It no doubt would have been a fascinating film, but also very likely a terrible one.
The project eventually fell apart. Jodorowsky himself wrote an essay describing the failed production that I recommend for the artist’s own perspective on what went wrong.
To be clear, the director never shot a frame of film for ‘Dune’, not even screen tests. All that exists are storyboards, sketches, and many crazy stories. However, news has circulated from this year’s Cannes Film Festival that a new documentary titled ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’ is in the works that will attempt to put the pieces of this puzzle together for a definitive portrait of the movie that was not to be. Interviews have already been shot with Jodorowsky, Giger and other surviving members of the production.
Here’s a clip from one of the interviews, in which Jodorowsky explains his intent that the film should “change the young minds of all the world.”
Distribution deals are being solicited at the festival for an expected release of the full documentary next year.
[Thanks to Mark from Dune: Behind the Scenes for the tip.]