To celebrate the announcement of Dune Part Two as well as the upcoming The Incal film, let’s revisit a strange time in movie history when the world’s of Dune and Alejandro Jodorowsky intersected briefly.
Jodorowsky is supremely weird, and the story of his only run in with Hollywood is legend; that of the greatest film never made: Dune, as recounted in the excellent documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune. Alejandro was quoted as saying; “My ambition with Dune was tremendous. So, what I wanted was to create a prophet… to change the young minds of all the world. For me, Dune will be the coming of a god. Artistical, cinematographical god. For me, it was not to make a picture. It was something deeper. I wanted to make something sacred, free, with new perspective. Open the Mind!”. For the sake of brevity, we’ll recount only a few of the incredible details.
First there is the phonebook sized script, which would have translated into a 15 hour runtime (this script, along with all the concept art and 3000 storyboards, is laying around Jodorowsky’s house). For the Emperor, Jodorowsky selected Salvador Dalí, who would be paid $100 000 per minute of screen time, and agreed on the one condition that a flaming giraffe appear on set with him. The workaround for this was that after a minute or two, Dalí would be replaced by an automaton.
He also had a dual-dolphin façade toilet. Orson Welles, accompanied by his own private chef whenever filming, would also have featured as Baron Harkonnen, and Mick Jagger as Feyd-Hautha Harkonnen. Despite the inclusion of a Rolling Stone in the cast, the soundtrack was in better hands with the actual choice; Pink Floyd. All this would have cost an approximate $15 million (dwarfing the $8 million mega-budgets of the time). The budget would have leapt off the screen though; the very first shot was to be a push in through the known universe, across asteroid belts, through space battles and nebula clouds, settling on Arakis.
Of course, with all this time and rumination Jodorowsky had plenty of room for ludicrous adaptational changes. He would have made Duke Leto a eunuch following an incident whilst Bullfighting. Lady Jessica’s ovum will have been fertilized with a drop of Leto’s blood, birthing Paul. Spice was now a blue sponge with a mind of its own. The documentary omits a scene where 2000 soldiers would have defecated on camera in a gesture of disrespect towards Leto. Paul would have died, but lived on as a disembodied voice inhabiting everyone who had met him.
Frank Herbert hated the changes. Audiences may have had a hard time swallowing them as well, though who knows? The director certainly believed he was on to something, and the passion with which he approaches filmmaking should be an example to all: “What is the goal of life? It’s to create yourself a soul. For me, movies are an art… more than an industry. And it’s the search of the human soul, as painting, as literature, as poetry. Movies are that for me.”
We don’t live in the world where Jodorowsky opened the minds of the young world, but maybe that’s just because he never got the chance to put his vision into effect. Who’s to say? Learn about all the eccentricities of the production, as well the visionary and in-depth pre-visualization, in the excellent documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune.