I read with interest this morning actor-director Peter Berg’s ruminations on his in-development movie version of Dune, science fiction author Frank Herbert’s epic, complex, and fairly endless tale of interstellar politicking and giant sandworms. I’m going to put my cards on the table here and say that I love the story of Dune. Not the actual book, you understand, though I have read it as well as several of the tome’s sequels. No, I refer to the fraught and complicated story of how Hollywood keeps trying, and failing, to turn Dune into box office gold.
During the ’70s a host of directors were involved in various attempts to bring Herbert’s work to the big screen including Chilean auteur and semi-professional madman Alejandro Jodorowsky whose fantastically odd planned cast included Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali. Legend has it that the project’s script would have resulted in a 14 hour movie and, according to Herbert himself, was “the size of a phonebook,” though as the same could almost be said of the original book I’m not sure whether he meant that as a compliment or a complaint. Ridley Scott was also attached to the film for a while but it was David Lynch who eventually oversaw a completed adaptation which premiered in 1984. The result was a box office bomb that Roger Ebert described as an “incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.” It also boasted the sight of Sting wearing what appeared to be futuristic diaper.
A few years back the SyFy Channel did attract a big audience for a miniseries version of Dune and a sequel, Children of Dune. Berg, meanwhile, says that his interpretation will be “significantly” different from both Lynch’s movie and the latter TV show. Part of me wishes him luck. But I’m ashamed to say that part of me also hopes the project adds another fiasco-filled chapter to this twisted tale.
What about you? Do you hope Berg finally manages to do justice to Herbert’s vision? Or are you secretly wishing the whole thing ill?