Hi, Bryan Here…
I’m sure you have either seen, read, or heard of the sci-fi epic tale of ‘Dune‘ by now. You know the film by David Lynch that starred Kyle MacLachlan, Sting, Max Von Sydow, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Stewart, and Sean Young? Well, if you saw the film, you would know that it is very similar to a lot of science-fiction movies that we have seen over the past thirty years, but it never was a box office smash or held up in later years. Sure, there is a small cult following for it now, but it has nowhere near the amount of fans that ‘Star Wars‘ or ‘Star Trek‘ fans have now.
‘Dune‘ was a book from 1956 by Frank Hubert that was adapted for the big screen by Lynch (‘Eraserhead‘, ‘Twin Peaks‘, ‘Mullholland Drive‘). But did you know that before Lynch started directing his cast of characters, that cult icon filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (‘El Topo‘, ‘The Holy Mountain‘) was set to make ‘Dune‘ into a ten hour feature film that was going to have Salvador Dali (the painter) and Orson Welles star in his film, amongst others? Well that’s true, as Jodorowsky set out on several countries constructing a dream team of filmmakers to make this epic sci-fi film that Jodorowsky himself was convinced would change the world. And even though the film was never made, his dream of changing the world or changing the ways movies were made came true.
Director Frank Pavich spent quite a few months with Jodorowsky, interviewing him, and some of the people (who are big names in Hollywood now) who worked on this movie with him, and how this project ultimately fell apart. One thing is for sure, as we see Jodorowsky flip through his two thousand page illustrated book and screenplay of his version of ‘Dune‘, his spirit and soul are as lively today at age 85 as they were back in his much younger days. Jodorowsky was and is still not about making money for the suits in Hollywood, but rather showing an artistic and entertaining piece of cinema, no matter how obscure or insane it might be (Yes, his movie ‘The Holy Mountain‘ incited riots in Mexico when it came out).
Pavich shows us through interviews, digital stills, and old footage what happened in those couple of years as Jodorowsky tried to make ‘Dune‘. Come to find out, Jodorowsky, traveled to meet actors he heard of or were fans of on screen, and point blank asked them to be in his film, to which most all of them said “yes”. He also took this method to find his storyboard illustrators, special effects team, and director of photography, as he asked them all to drop what they were doing and move to another country to make this epic film. Among these people were H.R. Giger and Dan O’Bannon (the ‘ALIEN‘ movies), who were both no names at the time.
When it came to casting, Jodorowsky asked Salvador Dali to be in the film, to which Dali responded with “yes, but only if I’m paid $100k per hour.” Jodorowsky ended up offering him $100k per minute of screen-time, and he snatched Welles up by offering to hire the head chef of his favorite restaurant to cater every meal to him personally. Needless to say, Jodorowsky had an unorthodox way of making a film. But back then, studios weren’t wanting to make ten hour movies or trilogies yet, specifically not one that would be rated R by a virtually unknown in the states director. And now way over budget and not receiving any more money from the studio, the project eventually fell apart after all the work that had been completed. And Jodorowsky still believes that this version of ‘Dune‘ could have been the best film ever made, and nobody ever will see it. However, his ideas for special effects and Giger’s drawings of the planets and buildings in ‘Dune‘ were featured in other films like ‘Alien‘, ‘Star Wars‘, ‘Total Recall‘, and ‘Masters of the Universe‘.
So in a way, Jodorowsky’s vision came to life in other films, and his dream team of filmmakers went on to be the cream of the crop in Hollywood, as his gigantic illustrated screenplay made the rounds in Hollywood, and other directors took what they saw and used it as their own. This truly was one of the greatest films never made, and after watching this engaging documentary, I wanted Hollywood to give Jodorowsky money to make his version finally. But I know that will never happen. And there are many instances like this that has happened over the years, but one thing is for sure. Alejandro Jodorowsky has kept true to his nature and himself in making movies and will never yield to the execs of Hollywood. ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune‘ is one fine documentary that gives you a small glimpse into the chaotic scene of what it was like to make one of the biggest pictures ever made, only to have it not happen.
4 out of 5 STARS
I had the pleasure to sit down with director Frank Pavich and discuss the documentary and all things Jodorowsky. Click Here for the fun interview.
– Bryan Kluger