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Dune Wiki

Since the 1960s, there have been many attempts, many unsuccessful, some successful, to create screen adaptations of Frank Herbert's Dune series. This article focuses on a general overview of known screen adaptations that have, to date, been attempted or created. For more detailed information on each of the screen adaptations, please see their main articles.

Arthur P. Jacobs[]

The pre-production process was slow and problematic, and the project was handed from director to director.[1] In 1971 the production company Apjac International (APJ) (headed by Arthur P. Jacobs) optioned the rights to film Dune. As Jacobs was busy with other projects (such as the sequel of Planet of the Apes) the project was delayed for another year. Originally, it was to be directed by David Lean (with Robert Bolt writing the screenplay) and scheduled to begin shooting in 1974. In 1973, Arthur P. Jacobs died.

Alejandro Jodorowsky[]

Jodorowskys Dune

Pre-release flyer for Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune

In December 1974, a French consortium led by Jean-Paul Gibon purchased the rights to the movie from APJ. The director this time would be Chilean-born writer, director, mime, composer, psychotherapist, and (later) comic-book writer Alejandro Jodorowsky ([aleˈxandɾo xoðoˈɾofski]).

In 1975, Jodorowsky tried to film the story as a ten-hour feature, in collaboration with Dan O'Bannon, Orson Welles, Salvador Dalí, Gloria Swanson and others (who he nicknamed "his seven samurai"). The music would have been done by Pink Floyd; Jodorowsky had also proposed the French progressive-rock group Magma for the Family Harkonnen’s themes.

Jodorowsky set up a pre-production unit in Paris that consisted of Jean Giraud (also known as Moebius), a French illustrator who had co-created (with Phillipe Druillet), and also wrote and drew for, Métal Hurlant magazine; Chris Foss, a British artist who painted the cover art for science fiction paperbacks (notably Panther’s editions of Isaac Asimov, A. E. van Vogt and others); and H. R. Giger (later celebrated for his concept art for Alien). Moebius began designing creatures and characters for the film, while Foss provided the concept art for the film's space ships and hardware. Giger started designing the Harkonnen Castle based on Moebius's storyboards. Jodorowsky also hired Dan O'Bannon to head the special effects department, seeking him out after a chance viewing of Dark Star 

Dali was to play the role of the Emperor for a reported $100,000 an hour. He and Jodorowsky began quarreling over money and just as the storyboards, designs, and the script were finished, the financial backing dried up. Frank Herbert travelled to Europe in 1976 to find that two million dollars were already spent in pre-production and that the Jodorowsky's script would result in a 14-hour movie (the pre-production book of storyboards and concept art "was the size of a phonebook," Herbert recalled). Although Jodorowsky took huge creative liberties with his novel ("I did not want to respect the novel, I wanted to recreate it"), Herbert stated that he and Jodorowsky had an amicable relationship.

The rights for filming were yet again sold, this time to Dino de Laurentiis. Although embittered, Jodorowsky states that the Dune project changed his life. He went on to collaborate with Moebius on The Incal (which re-used many of their ideas for Dune) and other comic books. Dan O'Bannon entered a psychiatric hospital after the failure of the production and worked on 12 unsuccessful scripts afterwards; his thirteenth script was Alien. O'Bannon brought back Moebius and Giger to work on that film. The Dune pre-production book had circulated widely in Hollywood and its fingerprints can be seen in many later films, from Raiders of the Lost Ark to The Matrix.[2]

Dino de Laurentiis[]

Producer Dino De Laurentiis bought the rights to all Dune books in late 1978 and immediately commissioned Herbert to write the screenplay. However, considering that an average script is 110 pages long, Herbert's 175-page script was rejected.

Ridley Scott[]

With De Laurentiis holding the rights for filming, he hired director Ridley Scott in 1979 (with Rudolph Wurlitzer writing the screenplay and H.R. Giger back from the Jodorowsky production). Scott worked on three scripts using The Battle of Algiers as a point of reference and intended to split the book into two movies before moving on to direct Blade Runner. As he recalls, the pre-production process was slow and to get the project done would have taken more time:

But after seven months I dropped out of Dune, by then Rudy Wurlitzer had come up with a first-draft script which I felt was a decent distillation of Frank Herbert's. But I also realised Dune was going to take a lot more work — at least two and a half years' worth. And I didn't have the heart to attack that because my older brother Frank unexpectedly died of cancer while I was prepping the De Laurentiis picture. Frankly, that freaked me out. So I went to Dino and told him the Dune script was his. — From Ridley Scott: The Making of his Movies by Paul M. Sammon

David Lynch[]

Blue Glass Arrow Main article: Dune (1984 movie)

Dino de Laurentiis recruited David Lynch in 1981 to write and direct Dune. Lynch, a hot commodity due to his success with The Elephant Man, was also considered by George Lucas to direct the third Star Wars move which would eventually be called Return of the Jedi. Lynch states that he chose Dune over Jedi, feeling that Lucas's micromanaging style on the Star Wars movies would be detrimental to his directorial vision. Lynch recruited an international all star cast which included Kyle Machlachlan, Jurgen Prochnow, Francesca Annis, Patrick Stewart, Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, Sian Phillips, Freddie Jones, Jose Ferrer, Sting, Kenneth McMillan, Paul Smith, Richard Jordan, Virginia Madsen, and Max Von Sydow. Toto composed the music score, with Brian Eno providing the music for the "prophecy" scene. Carlo Rambaldi (who worked on E.T: The Extraterestrial) created creatures for the film. 1984 Dune film was considered a success and, although panned by many critics at the time, it has seen a positive critical re-evaluation in the years since it was first released.

This film would be recut for television as a 4 hour film (typically shown in two parts). It included an animated prologue, extensive narration (replacing the sparse narration given by Virginia Madsen's Irulan in the film), and numerous deleted scenes, most memorably Gurney playing the baliset. This version is credited as directed by Alan Smithee (an official pseudonym used by film directors who wish to disown a project).

Sci-Fi Channel Miniseries[]

Frank Herbert's Dune (2000)[]

Blue Glass Arrow Main article: Frank Herbert's Dune

Frank Herbert's Children of Dune (2003)[]

Spanish Dune Fan Film[]


Poster for the third part of the Mediteatro Dune fan film.

In 2007 a group of Spanish students under the Mediteatro banner released a trailer for their low budget non-profit adaptation of Frank Herbert's original Dune. The project had been in development for seven years and would have been split into three parts with a total duration of around 8 hours. It was shot on MiniDV cameras and edited on home computers. Principle photography was complete and the majority of the effects were completed. Within a few days the trailer was removed from YouTube due to a copyright claim by the Herbert family.

Herbert Properties banned the makers from even showing the trailer. Byron Merritt, whom the director thanked for his enthusiasm and support, blamed the then "current negotiations related to film rights". There are no plans to ever release the film.

2020s Dune film series[]

Blue Glass Arrow Main article: Dune (2021 film)

A new series of cinematic film adaptations of Dune, produced by Legendary Entertainment, began with the global release of Dune in 2021. The new adaptation, directed by Denis Villeneuve, is the first installment in the new film series, adapting the first half of the first novel, Dune (1965). The sequel, also directed by Villeneuve, was released on March 1, 2024, and adapted the second half of the original novel. Denis Villeneuve has spoken repeatedly about his intention to focus on the story surrounding Paul Atreides, adapting the Dune series at least up until the conclusion of the second novel, Dune Messiah (1969), creating a trilogy of film adaptations. Official considerations of any installments beyond a potential adaptation of Dune Messiah are currently unknown.