Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ‘Dune’ Is Finally Coming to the Big Screen – Sort Of

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.]

4 comments

  1. Well, I know we have had the discussion that I prefer SyFy’s version over the 84 film, but, man, I think we can both agree that this just sounds BAD! Seriously, can you imagine Dune with a Pink Floyd soundtrack? Sounds like Flash Gordon’s sibbling.

  2. Barroom Bob

    At the time they were trying to put this movie together in the very early ’70’s, Pink Floyd were an atmospheric, avante guard jazz rock band that was about 80% instrumental. They would have been an awesome fit for this movie, nothing at all like Queen or even Toto. Lynch, I’m quite sure would have been happy to let Brian Eno score his whole picture. As it is, Eno’s “Prophacy” theme is the most haunting part of the movie, next to some of the painterly visuals.

    This is how I get my Dune fix now when I want to spend time on Arrakis. I watch the ’84 Lynch version up to the point where they are about to meet the Freemen in the caves for the first time. I then switch to that exact place in the story in the SyFi Director’s cut and watch that until the final assault on the Emperor at Arrakeen, then finish it off with the Lynch version again. Admittedly, that is a little jarring and a lot of work but gives me the most satisfying version of the story.

  3. I’ve always considered Lynch’s Dune one of my all time favourite films. As a kid, when I first saw it, I was just blown away. I never understood a lot of the complaints, and in all honesty still don’t.

    I find any ‘making-of’ history to the film, fascinating. And that’s effectively what this is. It’s like the Vincent Ward version of Alien3. 🙂 I’ll definitely be in line to see any decent documentary about Jodorowsky’s version.

  4. JoeRo

    I’m really looking forward to seeing this Documentary. I’m a pretty big Dune fan and I always love to see how other people have interpreted Herbert’s work for adaptation.

    If I could visit a past alternate universe for one day, I’d go back to 1984 and watch Ridley Scott’s Dune. I would absolutely loved to have seen that movie happen.

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