The 14-Hour Epic Film, Dune, That Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pink Floyd, Salvador Dalí, Moebius, Orson Welles & Mick Jagger Never Made

Frank Her­bert, David Lynch, and Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky sure­ly all rank among the most imag­i­na­tive cre­ators of the sec­ond half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. It made sense to film pro­duc­ers to turn Her­bert’s Dune into a movie, but they had a dev­il of a time find­ing the right direc­tor to bring that epic nov­el of the feu­dal inter­stel­lar future to the screen. Lynch, as all his fans know and most regret, wound up with the job, and soon after the botched result hit the­aters in 1984, it made his­to­ry as one of the all-time clas­sic mis­match­es between film­mak­er and project, and at $40 mil­lion, one of the most expen­sive. Les­son learned: don’t hire the direc­tor of Eraser­head to helm your big-bud­get sci-fi block­buster.

But what about the direc­tor of the even stranger and more ambi­tious The Holy Moun­tain? In 1975, almost a decade before Lynch’s Dune, Jodor­owsky announced his own adap­ta­tion of Dune, fund­ed by a French con­sor­tium and made in col­lab­o­ra­tion with artists like Chris Foss, H.R. Giger, and Moe­bius, writer and spe­cial effects design­er Dan O’Ban­non (who’d just made the low-bud­get space com­e­dy Dark Star with John Car­pen­ter), and actors like Orson Welles, Glo­ria Swan­son, and David Car­ra­dine.

He also cast such icons not known pri­mar­i­ly for act­ing as Mick Jag­ger and Sal­vador Dalí. “Jodorowsky’s mid­night audi­ences were noto­ri­ous for being high,” writes The Hol­ly­wood Reporter’s Chris O’Falt, “but with Dune the direc­tor set out to make a film that fab­ri­cat­ed the effects of LSD for a sober audi­ence, com­plete with a sound­track by Pink Floyd.”

Or as Dalí once declared, “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” This cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence of expand­ed con­scious­ness would have run approx­i­mate­ly four­teen hours, as Her­bert dis­cov­ered when he checked in on the pre-pro­duc­tion to find $2 mil­lion of the film’s $9.5 mil­lion bud­get already spent and a script “the size of a phone book.” Unable to find a stu­dio to bankroll the Dune he and his col­lab­o­ra­tors had envi­sioned, Jodor­owsky ulti­mate­ly dropped the project, but its mate­ri­als — and the stag­ger­ing breadth as well as depth of its vision — pro­vid­ed the basis for the 2014 doc­u­men­tary Jodor­owsky’s Dune, whose trail­er you can watch above.

“Almost all the bat­tles were won, but the war was lost,“Jodorowsky writes in an essay on his expe­ri­ence with the project. “The project was sab­o­taged in Hol­ly­wood. It was French and not Amer­i­can. Its mes­sage was not ‘enough Hol­ly­wood.’ There were intrigues, plun­der­ing. The sto­ry-board cir­cu­lat­ed among all the large stu­dios. Lat­er, the visu­al aspect of Star Wars resem­bled our style. To make Alien, they invit­ed Moe­bius, Foss, Giger, O’Ban­non, etc.,” to say noth­ing of its traces vis­i­ble in Blade Run­ner and The Matrix. While the 87-year-old Jodor­owsky has made a return to film­mak­ing in recent years, his Dune will most like­ly remain on the lists of the great­est movies nev­er made. But its influ­ence, if not its scale, will no doubt con­tin­ue to man­i­fest in gen­er­a­tions of sci-fi cin­e­ma to come.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Moe­bius’ Sto­ry­boards & Con­cept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

Mœbius & Jodorowsky’s Sci-Fi Mas­ter­piece, The Incal, Brought to Life in a Tan­ta­liz­ing Ani­ma­tion

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

Napoleon: The Great­est Movie Stan­ley Kubrick Nev­er Made

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • Berin Kinsman says:

    Jodor­owsky’s Dune us such a great doc­u­men­tary. His Dune film would have been spec­tac­u­lar, but it was nev­er real­is­ti­cal­ly viable. A won­der­ful dream, but such a Quixot­ic ven­ture.

  • Terabiel says:

    Say what you want about Lynch, but his Dune was bril­liant and utter­ly faith­ful to the spir­it of the nov­el, while Jodor­owsky’s Dune was­n’t even close to being in the same uni­verse as the book.

  • NYCPaul says:

    I’ve long felt that some free-think­ing CGI ani­ma­tor should make Jodor­owsky’s movie, accord­ing to Jodor­owsky’s guide­lines.

  • erBen says:

    “The project was sab­o­taged in Hol­ly­wood. It was French and not Amer­i­can.”
    And sim­i­lar­ly this arti­cle men­tions “com­plete with a sound­track by Pink Floyd.” ad no men­tion of Mag­ma, who was to do the Harkon­nen music.
    Why? “It is French, not Eng­lish”.

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