Director Frank Pavich was at Fantastic Fest 2013 to screen his movie “Jorodowsky’s Dune,” which won the Audience Award for Best Film as well as the Jury Award for Best Documentary. We gleaned some insight into a cinematic spectacle which included Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and the music of Pink Floyd, and which sadly, never happened. Pavich does convince us that if not for Jorodowsky’s vision, we never would have had Star Wars or Blade Runner. Sony Pictures Classics picked up the film when it premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. It will be released in the US in early 2014.
In 1973, film producer Arthur P. Jacobs optioned the film rights to Dune but died before a film could be developed. The option was then taken over two years later by director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who proceeded to approach, among others Peter Gabriel, the prog rock groups Pink Floyd and Magma for some of the music, artists H. R. Giger and Jean Giraud for set and character design, Dan O’Bannon for special effects, and Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, and others for the cast.
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 (“It was the size of a phonebook”, Herbert later recalled). Jodorowsky took creative liberties with the source material, but Herbert said that he and Jodorowsky had an amicable relationship. The project ultimately stalled for financial reasons. The film rights lapsed until 1982, when they were purchased by Italian filmmaker Dino DeLaurentiis who eventually released the 1984 film Dune, directed by David Lynch.
He has been called surreal, a visionary, as well as cinema’s shaman of psychedelia. He has also been considered a mad genius and bonkers. But in 1974, Alejandro Jodorwosky, the man behind the hallucinatory El Topo and Holy Mountain, took on what could have been one of the greatest sci-fi cult epics of all time, Frank Herbert’s Dune, with a cast and creative team that blows the mind. Frank Pavich’s mesmeric documentary JODOROWSKY’S DUNE tells one of the legendary “what if” stories of lost Hollywood cinema and gives a pretty far-out peek into what could have been.
“I wanted to do a movie that would give the people who took LSD at that time the hallucinations that you get with the drug, but without hallucinating,” states Jodorowsky in the film. “I did not want LSD to be taken, I wanted to fabricate the drug’s effects. I wanted to create a prophet to change the young minds of the world. Dune would be the coming of an artistic, cinematical god.”
In Frank Pavich’s new documentary JODOROWSKY ‘S DUNE, Jodorowsky fiercely and passionately relates how his Holy Mountain producer, Michel Seydoux, asked him what he wanted to do next. He remembered hearing about a book (which he had never read). “I want to make Dune.” He then set out to find his ‘spiritual warriors’ with whom he was going to make this great film—and the amazing anecdotes of how he went after them are not-to-be-missed highlights of Pavich’s docu. Among them were a unique creative team of effects wizards and unique conceptual artists, including Dan O’Bannon, H.R. Giger, Moebius, and Chris Foss. Music by Pink Floyd and Magma. And a cast that would have included David Carradine, Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Udo Kier, Mick Jagger, and Jodorowsky and his son Brontis. Jodorowsky and his team put together a 600-page proposal book with shot-by-shot drawings, script, and costumes design; using these ‘Dune Book’ images, Pavich gives us a stunning glimpse into Jodorowsky’s vision.
It didn’t work. The studios said no to the $15 million-and-growing budget (as well as to the ‘uniqueness’ of Jodorowsky and his warriors). No money was forthcoming.
While the ambitious production collapsed after two years, Jodorowsky’s team of artists continued exploring the themes and styles started on the project and ended up changing modern science fiction forever: H.R. Giger, Dan O’Bannon and Chris Foss went on to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien; O’Bannon wrote Alien and Total Recall; Chris Foss also worked on Superman; Jean “Moebius” Giraud created artwork and futuristic worlds for The Empire Strikes Back, Tron, and The Fifth Element; he and O’Bannon created a comic book, The Long Tomorrow, that inspired the look and feel of Blade Runner; and he and Jodorowsky illustrated and wrote a series of graphic sci-fi comic, L’Incal (The Incal). As Pavich says, “All roads lead back to Jodorowsky.”
“I am incredibly grateful that we are the ones who are getting to tell the story of this never-realized film from one of the world’s greatest film directors,” says Pavich. “We hope to be able to impart to the audience a taste of what Jodorowsky’s version of Dune might have been like.”
JODOROWSKY’S DUNE was directed by Frank Pavich; with an eerie mood score by Kurt Stenzel; and featuring interviews with Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Brontis Jodorowsky, Richard Stanley, Devin Faraci, Drew McWeeny, Nicolas Winding Refn, Gary Kurtz, Diana O’Bannon, Amanda Lear and others.
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune – good or bad – had the potential of being one of cinemas cult darlings. With JODOROWSKY’S DUNE, “Frank Pavich,” as Variety says, “delivers his own mind-bending cult movie.”