What Could Have Been #13 | Dune

What Could Have Been #13 | Dune

As a fan of film, I love exploring behind the scenes. Reading about the production process, the special effects and the stories of what could have been.

Dune (Mid 1970s)

Based on the classic 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, Dune was released in to the cinema on December 14th 1984 and was directed by David Lynch. The book was considered unfilmable by many and unless you’ve read the original novel, the film can be rather tough on the audience.

Lynch’s Dune suffered many problems such as the directors final cut coming in with a running time of three hours which Universal Pictures decided to drastically cut down to two hours and insert new footage to help simplify plot elements.

However this article isn’t about the Lynch version that was released into cinemas, this is about another version that spent two years in development as was to be directed by Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Chriss Foss Concept Art

Jodorowsky had a very grand vision for the film envisioning a feature that would run for ten hours and feature a sound track by Pink Floyd. He wanted the film to star his own son Brontis Jodorowsky and big names such as Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, Mick Jagger, David Carradine and artist Salvador Dali who demanded $10,000 an hour for his part in the film. (It was planned to shoot all his scenes in one hour and use a animatronic stand in for the rest of the film.)

Costume Concepts

When the author Frank Herbert travelled to Europe in 1976 to see how the adaptation was coming along, he discovered that $2 million of the $9.5 million had already been spent on pre-production with pieces of concept art by renowned science fiction artists Chris Foss, H.R.Giger and Jean Giraud. At that time the film was set to run for fourteen hours. Herbert later recalled, “It was the size of a phonebook”

RELATED |   Teaser: Ashens and the Polybius Heist

Eventually the whole project collapsed when funding for the film fell apart. For more information and artwork check out www.duneinfo.com [Link]

Concept Art by H.R. Giger

Director Frank Pavich spent two years from 2011-13 travelling the globe and interviewing Jodorowsky and other surviving members of the Dune team to recall their experiences of working on the failed attempt to bring their vision to the cinema. The result is the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune” which has been screened at several film festivals around the world during 2013.

This fascinating documentary explores the genesis of one of cinema’s greatest epics that never was: cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s (EL TOPO) adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, whose cast would have included such icons as Salvador Dali, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger.


In 1975, following the runaway success of his art-house freak-outs EL TOPO and HOLY MOUNTAIN, Alejandro Jodorowsky secured the rights to Frank Herbert’s Dune – and began work on what was gearing up to be a cinematic game-changer, a sci-fi epic unlike anything the world had ever seen. Jodorowsky enlisted an elite group of artistic mercenaries, including French comic book artist Moebius, who illustrated the storyboards; screenwriter Dan O’Bannon (DARK STAR, ALIEN); artist H.R. Giger (ALIEN); and sci-fi paperback illustrator Chris Foss.

RELATED |   The Latest Incarnation Of Dune Arrives And Looks Stunning


For the cast, he lined up icons ranging from Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger to Orson Welles, and even his own son, who was put through two years of gruelling martial arts training to prepare for his role. Unfortunately, the film was never made.


Director Frank Pavich tackles one of cinema’s most enthralling “what could have been” stories, weaving interviews with the charismatic Jodorowsky, his collaborators, and supporters (including DRIVE director Nicolas Winding Refn), together with animation to bring Moebius’ storyboards to life. Even though the project exists only in the imaginations of its creators, and as the hundreds of illustrations they left behind, Pavich’s documentary chooses not to dwell on failure, but rather celebrates the ways in which the creative dreams of Dune planted seeds for many other iconic films that came after it, from STAR WARS to ALIEN to countless more.


This is an inspirational story about the power of the creative spirit, one that establishes Jodorowsky as a master of cinema and a true visionary of our time. COLIN GEDDES, TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

What Could Have Been… is a series first created by John (@UKFilmNerd) on the original version of theunheardnerd.com. We will be re-running the series in a weekly format, but if you can’t wait for the next instalment you can check it out now. [What Could Have Been… #1-12]


This episode is an all new instalment to the series.

John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.

Be the first to comment.

No one has left a comment for this post yet!

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.