The directors’ waltz
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Frank Herbert published in 1965, Dune is originally intended to be directed by David Lean, a regular in the great epics since he is responsible for Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. When he died in 1973, producer Michel Seydoux and Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky took over the project on which they worked, in vain, for two years. Dino De Laurentiis, one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers, recovers the rights to the novel in 1976, entrusts the project to Ridley Scott who abandons the ship, before being finally replaced by David Lynch.
An ambitious failed project
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version never saw the light of day and is a fantasy for many moviegoers. Prestigious names, behind and in front of the camera, were gathered: Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, David Carradine and Amanda Lear were announced to the cast while Pink Floyd and the French progressive rock group Magma were courted for the soundtrack. . Jodorowsky surrounded himself with the French designer Moebius, the future screenwriter of Alien, Dan O’Bannon, and HR Giger, the future designer of the xenomorph. Due to a lack of budget and producers, this Dune fell apart but was the subject of a documentary released in 2016.
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A difficult shoot
The grueling shoot lasts a year in Mexico. The team, made up of a thousand people, faces disease, sandstorms, sweltering heat and corrupt local authorities. To make matters worse, the studio is shared with the team of Conan the Destroyer by Richard Fleischer, another De Laurentiis production which is also being shot at the same time to cut costs.
A meaty montage
The first cut delivered by David Lynch lasts 4 hours. He then presented a new version of 3 hours still too long for the producers. With the De Laurentiis father and daughter, the director makes many cuts, films new scenes to simplify the plot as well as a voiceover. Actress Virginia Madsen replaces Anne-Louise Lambert and shoots a new introduction.
Denied by its director
Despite a major promotional campaign, Dune was a bitter failure upon release, which did not convince either critics or the public. Four years later, the work is broadcast on American television in the format of a mini-series of two episodes of 1.5 hours each. A version that David Lynch denied, demanding that his name be removed from the credits and replaced by the names of Alan Smithee as director and Judas Booth as screenwriter (Judas for the apostle of Jesus and Booth for the Abraham Lincoln assassin).