How ‘Dune’ almost prevented ‘Star Wars’ from ever being
Published May 21, 2013
Well, it didn’t have to be that way.
The film, directed by David Lynch in 1984, was so terrible, David Lynch eventually took his name off of it.
But Lynch wouldn’t have had a chance to direct “Dune” if its original director had been able to get it made back in the mid-1970s. That man’s name is Alejandro Jodorowsky, and his epic failure to get “Dune” to the big screen is the subject a documentary that has become a hit at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
“Jodorowsky’s Dune” tells the tale of the director’s mad plan to recruit a cast including David Carradine, Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, and Mick Jagger to his movie adaptation of the wildly popular sci-fi book.
Oh yeah, and Pink Floyd was doing the soundtrack.
“What we try to get across in the film is his whole notion of ambition,” the documentary’s director, Frank Pavek, told FOX411. “Jodorowsky said ‘it’s so incredible to be alive and to be here on planet Earth, why wouldn’t you have ambition? You need to try.’”
And try he did.
Over the course of two years , besides the diverse luminaries listed above, Jodorowsky assembled a team of artists and designers that could make his science fiction vision a reality, pros including artists H.R. Giger, Moebius, and Dan Foss, and screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. They proceeded to create a screenplay for “Dune” like none that had ever been seen, over a foot thick, full of paintings and precise camera angles.
And then Jodorowsky shopped it to the studios. And every single one of them said: no way. Jodorowsky was too weird. His previous movies, “El Topo” and “Top of the Mountain” were not commercial enough. Heck, they weren’t commercial at all. The screenplay was amazing, but studios were perhaps rightly afraid of a move that cost 15 million and could run as long as 10 hours.
Shattered, Jodorowsky left filmmaking and focused on comic books and graphic novels. But the ripples created by his Herculean “Dune” attempt are still impressive.
“Had Jodorowsky’s film version of ‘Dune’ been complete, it would have been a success or it would have been a failure. Either way, it changes everything,” Pavek said. “If it was a success, it would have been a very avante garde success, and it would be shocking. Maybe we wouldn’t have blockbuster super hero movies today.”
“If it had been a failure,” Pavek said, which was probably more likely, “I think it’s very viable that the studios would have said no to ‘Star Wars.’”
So how exactly would a bad “Dune” lead to the death of 1977’s “Star Wars” before it was even born?
“The studios were not behind ‘Star Wars’ anyway. They thought it was ridiculous. They thought it was nonsense. They thought it was the stupidest thing ever,” Pavek said. “They were really not behind science fiction at all. There was ‘2001’ and then there were B-movies.”
Nothing in between.
So if “Dune” had failed before “Star Wars” had been given the green light, Pavek said the studios would have pulled the trigger on Darth Vader, et al.
Another side effect of Jodorowsky’s failed quest ? The future films made by the team he assembled.
“Moebius and Dan O’Bannon meet on ‘Dune,’” Pavek said of the artist and screenwriter.
“Moebius and Dan O’Bannon go on to create a comic book called ‘The Long Tomorrow.’ ‘The Long Tomorrow’ is ‘Blade Runner.’ So no ‘Long Tomorrow,’ no ‘Blade Runner.’ And ‘Blade Runner’ changes everything.”
Not only that, O’Bannon and fellow ‘Dune’ teammate H.R. Giger went on to work together on “Alien,” for which Giger designed the now legendary aliens, and for which O’Bannon won the Oscar for his screenplay.
“All roads lead back to Jodorowsky,” said Pavek.
And now a new road is leading from Jodorowsky. The director, now 84, has made his first film in two decades, along with the producer of his failed “Dune,” with whom he was reunited while filming the documentary. The movie, “La Danza de la Realidad,” has also premiered in Cannes to generally positive reviews, and will be released in 2013.