In 1965, author Frank Herbert created one of the most in-depth and expansive pieces of science fiction with his novel Dune. The subsequent follow-ups only increased that scope. While the book was considered unfilmable, many directors and producers tried to get Herbert’s world on the big screen before David Lynch made his movie in 1984. One pair o filmmakers who tried to make a film adaptation of Dune was legendary Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky and iconic sci-fi producer Arthur P. Jacobs. The film never materialized, but the story became legend, and this new trailer for Jodorowsky’s Dune, introduces you to the troubled unmaking of the sci-fi film.
While Jodorowsky worked on Dune in the mid-70s, the production paved the way for classic science fiction films such as Alien, Blade Runner, and Star Wars. Jacobs was coming off the success of Planet of the Apes in 1968 when he acquired the film rights to Frank Herbert’s novel, while Jodorowsky was also coming off the cult success of El Topo and Holy Mountain. The producer approached the auteur in 1975 with the project.
The production was hugely ambitious. Artists H. R. Giger and Jean Giraud were commissioned to do the set and character designs, and Pink Floyd and Magma were to provide the music. You would have seen appearances from Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, David Carradine, Hervé Villechaize, Mick Jagger, and Gloria Swanson in the film. Dan O’Bannon even signed on to do special effects before he made his name on films like Heavy Metal, Star Wars, and Total Recall. Just imagine what Jodorowsky could’ve done with all of these resources at his disposal.
Jodorowsky spent $2 million of the $9.5 million budget on pre-production alone, and Jacobs had no choice but to shut down the film completely in 1976. By the end, Jodorowsky’s screenplay took many liberties with Herbert’s source, and would have resulted in a 14-hour movie.
The film rights lapsed in 1982, and producer Dino De Laurentiis snagged them and handed them over to David Lynch to take the helm. More than 30 years later, director Frank Pavich has made this documentary about Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to bring Dune to the big screen. Jodorowsky’s Dune premiered at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and was a selection at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas in 2013, where it walked away with the Audience Award for Best Documentary.
Pavlich’s film doesn’t conform to conventional documentary structure, and takes advantage of the vast collection of materials relating to the failed production. The documentary features talking-head interviews with contemporary filmmakers such as Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) and Richard Stanley (Hardware), and is a sight to see in itself. It’s for anyone who likes trippy, mind-bending sci-fi.
Jodorowsky’s Dune opens in a limited release on March 21st.