Moebius’ Storyboards & Concept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

A decade before David Lynch’s flawed but visu­al­ly bril­liant adap­ta­tion of Dune hit the sil­ver screen (see our post on that from Mon­day), anoth­er cin­e­mat­ic vision­ary tried to turn Frank Herbert’s cult book into a movie. And it would have been a mind-bog­gling­ly grand epic.

By 1974, Chilean-French film­mak­er Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky had already direct­ed two mas­ter­pieces of cult cin­e­ma – El Topo and The Holy Moun­tain. Both films are hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry fever dreams filled with nudi­ty, vio­lence, East­ern mys­ti­cism and pun­gent­ly sur­re­al images. Jodor­owsky him­self is what they call in Los Ange­les a spir­i­tu­al wan­der­er. He threw him­self into every vari­ety of reli­gious expe­ri­ence that he could – from shaman­ism to the Kab­bal­ah to hal­lu­cino­gens. In prepa­ra­tion for shoot­ing Holy Moun­tain, the direc­tor and his wife report­ed­ly went with­out sleep for a week while under the care of a Zen mas­ter. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, lead­ing fig­ures of the coun­ter­cul­ture were big fans. John Lennon per­son­al­ly kicked in a mil­lion dol­lars to finance his movies. When French pro­duc­ers asked Jodor­owsky to adapt Dune, he was at the peak of his pres­tige.


As the 2013 doc­u­men­tary Jodorowsky’s Dune shows, the direc­tor man­aged to assem­ble a jaw-drop­ping group of tal­ent for the film. This ver­sion of Dune was set to star David Car­ra­dine, Orson Welles, Sal­vador Dali and Mick Jag­ger. It was going to have Pink Floyd do the sound­track. And it was going to have the then unknown artist H. R. Giger along with French com­ic book artist Jean Giraud, oth­er­wise known as Moe­bius, design the sets.

Sad­ly, Jodorowsky’s grand vision proved to be too grand for the film’s financiers and they pulled the plug. The movie clear­ly belongs in the pan­theon – along with Stan­ley Kubrick’s Napoleon and Welles’s Heart of Dark­ness – of the great­est movies nev­er made. Com­pared to those oth­er films, though, Jodorowsky’s movie sounds way groovi­er.


Of all the tal­ent lined up for the project, Moe­bius proved to be cen­tral to help­ing Jodor­owsky real­ize his grandiose vision dur­ing pre-pro­duc­tion. Below Jodor­owsky describes how the famed, and blind­ly fast, illus­tra­tor proved indis­pens­able to him. Above is a clip from Jodorowsky’s Dune, where the direc­tor and Moe­bius describe more or less the same sto­ry.

I need­ed a pre­cise script… I want­ed to car­ry out film on paper before film­ing it… These days all films with spe­cial effects are done as that, but at the time this tech­nique was not used. I want­ed a draughts­man of com­ic strips who has the genius and the speed, who can be used as a cam­era and who gives at the same time a visu­al style… I was by chance with my sec­ond war­rior: Jean Giraud alias Moe­bius. I say to him: “If you accept this work, you must all give up and leave tomor­row with me to Los Ange­les to speak with Dou­glas Trum­bull (2001: A Space Odyssey)”. Moe­bius asked for a few hours to think about it. The fol­low­ing day, we left for the Unit­ed States. It would take too a long time to tell… Our col­lab­o­ra­tion, our meet­ings in Amer­i­ca with the strange ones illu­mi­nat­ed and our con­ver­sa­tions at sev­en o’clock in the morn­ing in the small cof­fee which was in bot­tom of our work­shops and which by “chance” was called Café the Uni­verse. Giraud made 3000 draw­ings, all mar­velous… The script of Dune, thanks to his tal­ent, is a mas­ter­piece. One can see liv­ing the char­ac­ters; one fol­lows the move­ments of cam­era. One visu­al­izes cut­ting, the dec­o­ra­tions, the cos­tumes…

In this post, you can see some of the sto­ry­boards and con­cept art that Moe­bius pro­duced. (More can be found at Look­ing at them, you can’t help but won­der how cin­e­ma his­to­ry would be dif­fer­ent if this film ever hit the the­aters.



Via Coudal

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

The Inscrutable Imag­i­na­tion of the Late Com­ic Artist Mœbius

The Glos­sary Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Gave Out to the First Audi­ences of David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

Napoleon: The Great­est Movie Stan­ley Kubrick Nev­er Made

Revis­it Mar­tin Scorsese’s Hand-

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new draw­ing of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly. 

by | Permalink | Comments (6) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (6)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.