The Road to Dune (and how we got precisely nowhere)

Morel has wandered off into the desert (in a curious twist he was finally lured away by a Hasbro boardgame adaptation just like Peter Berg), Paramount is out of the picture and “Right now, Dune has no commitments or attachments” (Deadline New York).

After more than three years Paramount has finally given up on Dune.  The film’s Executive Producer, also responsible for the miniseries and is the Herbert estate’s go-to guy when it comes to films, Richard P. Rubinstein “said that Paramount’s exit came down to dollars” . This isn’t surprising, the film would have reportedly cost $175M – no small sum, and Paramount were understandably cautious in light of David Lynch’s spectacular failure in 1984. And they seem to have taken an active interest in how their investment will be spent – endless script revisions and even apparently vetoing the appointment of Neil Marshall (The Descent) – producer’s  favourite replacement director after Peter Berg left.

So now freedom – Paramount’s option for the rights has lapsed and they have decided against renewing. Rubinstein and Herberts now have a script which they think is good, and they will pass it around the production companies and try to secure funding. Dune is a well known brand and there will be proposals – in fact on the Official Dune Facebook page Byron Merritt gleefully suggests that “big production companies are banging on the door.” The question is – how many of those big production companies are just after the brand name, and how many are interested in either the existing Chase Plamer/Pierre Morell script or the proper literary adaptation that Dune deserves? Quickly the list gets shorter.

But the Herbert’s wouldn’t just surrender the Dune brand to the highest bidder would they? Well, the film in it’s current incarnation seems to be slowly going nowhere, the new books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are selling less well with each publication – Dune as a franchise needs another shot-in-the-arm like the one it got from the Dune miniseries. And the Estate has never really put a premium on integrity – Young Paul “This will be your first time offworld” Atreides joined an intergalactic circus in their last offering, so you might imagine that they might even go for an easy option and just get some money into the bank and word onto the street… But at the same time they do like to keep the property on a tight leash. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson were both listed as co-producers on the movie – a strictly ceremonial position, but a potential sticking point for already wary investors concerned with potential interference.

It’s unlikely that they will leave a cash cow as big as Dune untapped for long, although what comes from it is anyone’s guess. Low budget films are able to take risks, where as a behemoth like Dune requires conventional Hollywood funding and that means it must succeed. The script they have is most likely an action heavy stripped down version – Pierre Morel directed Taken, before him we had Peter Berg and his “muscular… violent” interpretation, and it will be a single film. It’s also worth remembering that the meeting that started this whole journey was Brian and Kevin pitching their own Dune works as a movie. So with real Dune flagging is it time again to concentrate on the big battle, young-adult heroism and cartoon treachery of the truly awful (but popcorn friendly) House Atreides?

We will see.

The film of Dune is the result of a paradox — product of an industry that pretends to creativity and shies away from risks. Creation takes risks and that’s the movie industry’s dilemma.

–Frank Herbert; Introduction to Eye

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1 Comment(s)

  1. They should go and knock on WingNuts Films door. Weta could bring this epic to life. First three books.

    Villordsutch | Oct 25, 2011 | Reply

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