Thursday, 4 August 2011

Unmade Movies: Alejandro Jodorowsky's DUNE

I have always been a fan of Frank Herbert's Dune series since reading it as a teenager.

1980s Dune book cover

1st time I was exposed to Dune was not the novel, but the 1984 David Lynch movie which I saw on TV.

The Making of Dune by Ed Naha

Then a book by writer Ed Naha about the Making of Dune which I found fascinating which briefly mention the previous screen attempts.

It's starts in 1971 when Arthur P. Jacobs (Planet of the Apes producer) optioned the rights to Dune for his Apjac International production company. Jacobs however died in 1973 and the rights then were purchased by a french consortium led by Parsian millionaire Jean-Paul Gibon, who was an executive producer of Camera One, in December 1974. Cilean cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky, known for such films as El Topo (1970) & Holy Mountain (1973) would direct the movie with as set budget of $9.5 Million.

Director Alejandro Jodorowsky

the unmade Dune Poster
Jodorowsky set his base up in Paris, France & starts to gathered a group of people he would nicknamed  his "Seven Samurai".

1st up was the great french illustrator Jean "Moebius" Giraud, who Jodorowsky saw his amazing art in Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal in North America). Giraud was set to do character & creatures designs along with storyboards. Years later Giraud did the production designs for the Fifth Element (1997) starring Bruce Willis & Mila Jovovich.

Jean Giraud, aka Moebius
Moebius Sci-fi artwork
Moebius storyboard

Moebius Storybroad

Sardauker Soldier by Moebius

Sardauker wardrobe test

British artist Chris Foss, well known for his beautiful sci-fi magazine covers, was brought on to handle the film's spaceships & hardware designs.

Chris Foss

Space Guild Ship by Chris Foss

The Emperor's Golden Palace

Leto's Car by Chris Foss

Spice Container Ship by Chris Foss

Swiss surrealist painter & sculptor H. R. (Hans Ruedi) Giger would worked on making the designs of House Harkonnen & the look of the Worm. Giger would later win an Academy Award for his designs on Alien (1979)

H.R. Giger

H.R. Giger 's Alien design

H.R. Giger's House Harkonnen designs
H.R. Giger's Dune Worm design

H.R. Giger Harkonnen design

H.R. Giger Harkoonen chair design

Jordorowsky hired a young American named Dan O'Bannon to handled the Special F/X after seeing a film he work on called Dark Star. O'Bannon would later work on the Special F/X for George Lucas' Star Wars & would later write the screenplays for Alien & Total Recall.

Dan O'Bannon on the set of Alien 1978
Dan O'Bannon's Star Wars F/X

Jodorowsky also came up with the novel idea of having each of the noble houses having their own theme music handled by popular Rock bands of the period. Example, French prog-rockers Magma would handle the warlike rhythms of House Harkonnen.
Magma 1970

Jordorowsky had talks with Virgin Records who accepted his idea & offered bands like Gong, Mike Oldfield, Henry Cow, & Tangerine Dream to him. But it was Pink Floyd that interested him the most, seeing their success and unrealizable potential for the Silver Screen.

Pink Floyd
Jordorowsky sent them a copy of his film Holy Mountain for the band to watch, an after seeing it they all agreed to take part in the film. Jordorowsky did finally met Pink Floyd when they were just starting to record the Darkside of the Moon Album at the same famous studio where the Beatles recorded the Abbey Road Album. I wonder how much of Darkside of the Moon came from their Dune involvement?

Pink Floyd the Darkside of the Moon

Jodorowsky also planned on making numerous changes to the source material, including making Duke Leto into a eunuch & impregnating Jessica with a drop of his blood instead (a "Virgin Birth"), making the spice into a blue sponge (I hope he wasn't thinking about adding Smurfs Too!). Author Frank Herbert openly despised these concepts, but he already signed away the movie rights, so Jodorowsky was free to do as he wished.

Casting began with actor Orson Wells, who took much needed money for whatever movie project he was doing at the time, as the fat homosexual Baron Harkonnen.

Orson Welles

The Baron by Moebius
David Carradine, star of TV's Kung Fu series was given a choice of the roles of  Dr. Liet Kynes or Duke Leto (a part Jodorowsky had considered taking before he finally decide he had to much on his plate already as the Director).

David Carradine in the 1970s Kung-Fu TV series
David Carradine discussing his role in Dune

Dr. Kynes by Moebius

Duke Leto by Moebius

Legendary silent screen actress Gloria Swanson was cast as the Reverend Mother Helen, she was best known at that point for her role as Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's 1950s movie Sunset Blvd.

Gloria Swanson

The Reverend Mother by Moebius

Herve Villechaize, the little actor best known for his role as Tatto on 1970s TV series Fantasy Island, was cast as Gurney Halleck

Don't Mess with Herve Villechaize

Duncan & Gurney by Moebius
Sexy Film Star Alain Delon, who's been called "the French James Dean" & "the Male Brigitte Bardot" was cast as Duncan Idaho.

Alain Delon

For the part of the Lady Jessica, Jodorowsky wanted to cast sexy actress Charlotte Rampling after seeing her in Zardoz who she co-starred with James Bond actor Sean Conney.

Charlotte Rampling

Lady Jessica by Moebius
If Jordorowsky couldn't get Rampling, actress Geraldine Chaplin, the daughter of the legendary Charlie Chaplin was his 2nd choice. 

Geraldine Chaplin

Lead singer of the Rolling Stones Mick Jagger was cast as the Baron's nephew & lover Feyd Rautha. Feyd

Mick Jagger
Feyd by Moebius

The strangest casting was that of artist Salvador Dali as the Emperor of the Universe, who ruled from a golden toilet-cum-throne in the shape of 2 intertwined dolphins. He would have been payed $100,000 an hour making him the highest pay actor in history at that point! And you wonder why the investors where getting nervous.

Salvador Dali

Dali's Explosion

The Emporer by Moebius

For the lead character Paul, Jodorowsky wanted to cast his own son Brontis, who starred in his 1969 western El Topo.

Young Brontis in El Topo (1969)

An Older Brontis today

Paul by Moebius
It was like he knew Brontis would play Paul one day. Jodorowsky had Brontis trained since age 9 by legendary french bodyguard Jean-Pierre Vigneau in knife combat (of real engagements), karate, the art of archery. Was tutored by an almost true mentat, Michel de Roisin, who was said to have had an encyclopedic brain. But the moneymen wanted a bigger international star in the lead for boxoffice appeal.

an older Jean-Pierre Vigneau today

Other important roles such as Count Fenring, Peter the Mentat, Rabban the Beast, Thufir the Mentat, Dr. Yueh were not cast as yet, but Moebius did do designs for them.

Count Fenning by Moebius
Peter the Mentat by Moebius

Rabban the Beast by Moebius

Thufir the Mentat by Moebius

Dr. Yueh by Moebius

But by 1976 $2 Million of the projected $9.5 Million Budget had been spent & the finished script was said would result in a 16 hours long movie when the project began to fall apart.

Dune storybroad artwork
According to Jodorowsky: "The project was sabotaged in Hollywood. It was French & not American. Their message was 'not Hollywood enough'. There was intrigue, plunder. The storyboard was circulated among all the big studios. Later, the visual aspect of Star Wars strangely resembled our style. To make Alien, they called Moebius (Giraud), Foss, Giger, O'Bannon, etc. The project signaled to Americans the possibility of making a big show of sci-fi films, outside of the scientific rigor of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The project of Dune changed our lives."

More Moebius storybroads
Would've Jodorowsky's Dune change the face of Movies like Star Wars did in 1977? Or would've it been a colossal failer?

More Moebius Storybroads
It's a shame that it was never made, I would have love to have seen this version on the Screen.

The Movie was finally made by Director David Lynch in 1984 and later as a TV mini-series in 2000 on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Dune 1984 Poster
Dune 2000 TV mini-series

- Rajadevilman74

1 comment:

  1. The image after "But by 1976 $2 Million of the projected $9.5 Million Budget had been spent & the finished script was said would result in a 16 hours long movie when the project began to fall apart." wasn't done for DUNE but for KING SHOT... Another (and more recent) project from Jodorowsky.

    It was drawn by Sylvain Despretz.