Attempted Adaptations of Dune

The upcoming Dune film by Denis Villeneuve will be the 7th overall attempted adaptation of the book. Of the previous 6 adaptations, only two were actually adapted. The following article will outline the previous filmmakers who tried to film the unfilmable.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Arthur P. Jacobs

The producer Arthur P. Jacobs was behind the creation of the original Planet of the Apes franchise. The first film was released in 1968, followed by 1970s Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1971s Escape from the Planet of the Apes and 1972s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. David Lean was attached as a director with Robert Bolt as a screenwriter. They both previously worked for Lawrence of Arabia, one of the influences of Dune, making them a perfect choice.

Arthur P. Jacobs optioned DUNE 1st, with Oscar winners David Lean to direct and Robert Bolt to write the screenplay. They’d worked together on Lawrence of Arabia. The Seydoux-Jodorowsky film would have been really good, but the Jacobs-Lean-Bolt version might have been superior. — Brian Herbert

Filming was suppose to commence in Göreme, Turkey with a $15 million budget and a release date of early 1974. Unfortunately, Arthur P. Jacobs passed away at the 27th June 1973, leaving the project ultimately abandoned.

With Lawrence In Arabia (L) & Dune (R) — Book Covers

Alejandro Jodorowsky

This is the most ambitious attempt of adapting Dune of all time. This adaptation, led by famed Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, would have been correspondent to a 14-hour movie with Michel Seydoux as a producer. Chris Fross and Jean Giraud were responsible for the creation of amazing artwork of the film with Dan O’Bannon attached as a screenwriter. The Emperor Shaddam IV was to be portrayed by Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) with Brontis Jodorowsky (directors’ son) attached as Paul Atreides, David Carradine as Liet Kynes and Gloria Swanson as Reverend Mother Helen Mohiam. Jodorowsky also wanted Charlotte Ramping as Lady Jessica, but allegedly declined due to a defecation scene. Ironically, she will later play Reverend Mother Helen Mohiam in the upcoming 2020 adaptation.

After spending $2 million on the script and pre-production, it has commonly been described as the greatest movie never made, even though it would have been radically different to the actual Dune novel. The failed project later inspired the creation of various films, books and comics. Later, a 2012 documentary “Jodorosky’s Dune” which detailed the troubled production, received positive reviews at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

Alexandro Jodorowsky’s Dune Poster

Ridley Scott

The Dune rights were then acquired by Hollywood producer Dino de Laurentiis, who previously produced 1954s La Strada and 1968s Barbella. He hired Ridley Scott to direct the movie, who was fresh from his success with 1979s Alien film, which itself was inspired by Jodorowsky’s Dune. Frank Herbert himself acted as a screenwriter, but was rejected due to his script being too long: It was 175 pages long against the average 110 pages. The producer later hired Rudolph Wurlitzer as a screenwriter. However, Ridley Scott did not like the script, which Frank Herbert described as ‘oversimplified’. The script also included an incestual relationship between Paul Atreides and Lady Jessica, who would then give birth to the sister-daughter Alia Atreides. Ridley Scott also realised this movie would take a lot of time to adapt and initially attempted to divide the movie into two parts, much like the current plan by Warner Bros:

I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie. The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.” — Denis Villeneuve

Alongside with the sudden passing of his brother, Frank Scott, the combination of these factors eventually led him to abandon this $50 million project. He later would develop 1982s Blade Runner, which was also inspired by Jodorowsky’s Dune. Ironically, the sequel would be developed by Denis Villeneuve, the director of the 2020 Dune adaptation, who has produced one of the greatest sequels ever made. There are already similarities identified between the two Villeneuve movies.

1982s Blade Runner (L) & 2017s Blade Runner 2049 (R)

David Lynch

After Ridley Scott left the project, Dino de Laurentiis hired David Lynch, who left Star Wars: Episode 6 to direct the movie. The produced hired him on the basis of his daughter, who quite enjoyed the 1980s Lynch-directed The Elephant Man. He was a well-respected filmmaker and he was the first to actually adapt the material. However, the 1984 Dune film was a critical and commercial failure thanks to the involvement of the producers on behalf of the studio. They altered the script during principal photography. He was left so distraught by the experience that some later edition of the movies removed his name from the credits entirely.

It was a heartache for me. It was a failure and I didn’t have final cut. I’ve told this story a billion times. It’s not the film I wanted to make. I like certain parts of it very much — but it was a total failure for me. — David Lynch

In regards to his views on the upcoming movie:

I have zero interest in Dune. — David Lynch

Luckily, Denis Villeneuve has zero interference from the studios, with actor Stellan Skarsgard (Baron Vladimir Harkonnen) describing it as a realistic movie:

It’s not going to be directed by the studio. It seemed like they were giving him pretty free hands. — Stellan Skarsgard

David Lynch’s 1984 Dune Blu-Ray Cover

Richard P. Rubinstein

In 1996, the Dune rights were acquired by Richard P. Rubinstein, who has previously produced 1989s Pet Semetary and both the original and later rebooted versions of Dawn Of The Dead. In 2000, Dune was adapted and released as a SyFy miniseries, which proved to be both faithful to the book and the first successful adaptation. The miniseries received critical praise and even won two Emmy awards for ‘Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or a Movie’ and ‘Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special’. This led to the 2003s follow-up sequel ‘Children of Dune’, who also won an Emmy award, alongside 4 nominations. Richard P. Rubinstein is now the executive producer of the 2020 Dune film.

SyFy’s Dune (2000) & Children Of Dune (2003) Japanese Blu-Ray Box Set

Peter Berg & Pierre Morel

Later in 2008, Richard P. Rubinstein partnered with Paramount Pictures to create a Dune feature film. Directors Peter Berg and Pierre Morel were attached as directors. A year later, Peter Berg left to direct Battleship and was replaced by Pierre Morel. Four years later, the project was abandoned due to Paramount’s issue with the budget among other issues.

Let me assure you, I’m not going to transform Dune into an action crazy movie. It’s not the point. I was a fan of the book from the start, I read the book when I was 14–15 maybe, and I’ve been reading it over and over and over. I’m a huge fan of the original material, I don’t want to get away from that, I want to be very very true to the original novel. — Pierre Morel

The project simply never reached pass the development stage.

Caladan 1 for Peter Berg’s Dune by Jock

Upcoming Denis Villeneuve Film

The previous attempts mostly failed for various reasons. This is not limited just to Dune either. Universal Studios previously prevented even the great Guillermo del Toro from adapting the famous H.P. Lovecraft novelAt the Mountains of Madness” due to the proposed budget and R-Rating. Later, he approached Warner Bros to adapt the film, the same company who is now creating the 2020 Dune film. Even they rejected the adaptation due to the nature of the story. The fact that the same studio has given Denis Villeneuve full creative control of the upcoming film proves how much faith they have in the vision of the director. The first reactions have been largely positive. Dune now remains one of the most anticipated movies of the year.

Denis Villeneuve’s Dune


This is the 7th attempted adaptation of Dune following attempts by Arthur P. Jacobs , Alejandro Jodorowsky , Ridley Scott , David Lynch , Richard P. Rubinstein and Pierre Morel alongside Peter Berg . Of the previous 6 attempts before Denis Villeneuve , only 2 were adapted: David Lynch ‘s Dune (1984) and Richard P. Rubinstein ‘s Dune (2000-) . Of the two adaptations, the miniseries was arguably the only successful adaptation, following up with the sequel Children of Dune (2003-) . — Statement Originally Designed for IMDB Trivia

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