Denis Villeneuve’s movie version of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune is just the latest attempt to put the epic story on screen. The weirdest version by far — one that never actually made it to theatres — was one imagined by avant-garde Chilean-born director Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1975:
Jodorowsky planned to film the story as a 10-hour feature, set to star his own son Brontis Jodorowsky in the lead role of Paul Atreides, Salvador Dalí as the Emperor, Amanda Lear as Princess Irulan, Orson Welles as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Gloria Swanson as the Reverend Mother, David Carradine as Duke Leto Atreides, Hervé Villechaize as Gurney Halleck, and Mick Jagger as Feyd-Rautha. The soundtrack was to be provided by Pink Floyd. Art was to be done by Jean Giraud, a French artist known as Moebius, and H. R. Giger.
Dalí was cast as the Emperor, but demanded to be paid $100,000 an hour. Jodorowsky agreed, but tailored Dalí’s part to be filmed in one hour, drafting plans for other scenes of the emperor to use a mechanical mannequin as substitute. According to Giger, Dalí was “later invited to leave the film because of his pro-Franco statements”. Frank Herbert traveled to Europe in 1976 to find that $2 million of the $9.5 million budget had already been spent in pre-production, and that Jodorowsky’s script would result in a 14-hour movie.
Update: Jodorowsky’s storyboards for his version of Dune are back in the news as a result of a staggeringly dumb project started by a group of crypto types, who formed something called the SpiceDAO (DAO stands for decentralized autonomous organization, something the blockchain is supposed to enable) and raised close to $12 million. They then used about $3 million of that amount to buy a copy of Jodorowsky’s storyboards — for what appears to be about 100 times what the book was expected to fetch, since there are multiple copies out there. They seem to have done this under the mistaken impression that buying the book would allow them to make an animated TV show based on it, and other works. Of course, buying the book does no such thing, since the family of Frank Herbert and/or his publisher still own all such rights.
So what happens now to the $3 million the DAO spent on the book, not to mention all those other millions the groups raised? Great question. Unknown! There are some signs that the organizers of the group may actually know that buying the book doesn’t really give them the right to do anything related to Dune. So then why buy it? Another good question. The group’s Medium post states:
Jodorowsky’s expansive vision for Dune in some way planted the seeds for nearly every Sci-Fi project over the last 50 years. While we do not own the IP to Frank Herbert’s masterpiece, we are uniquely positioned with the opportunity to create our own addition to the genre as an homage to the giants who came before us.
And then, another update — the group has failed to get anywhere in negotiations with any of the rightsholders related to the Jodorowsky treatment of Dune, so now it seems they will try to create something unrelated:
What we do know is that there seems to be an awful lot of money sloshing around out there in the crypto-verse, and there appear to be a lot of people trying to use that money for off-the-wall projects — such as the attempt by another DAO to acquire a copy of the US constitution, for which they raised about $47 million, and then ultimately failed to win the auction, and now seem to be having problems figuring out how to give people their money back. This Vice headline said it best: ‘Buy the Constitution’ Aftermath: Everyone Very Mad, Confused, Losing Lots of Money, Fighting, Crying, Etc.