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Film

When Orson Welles almost appeared in Jordowsky's 'Dune'

@Russellisation

With the arrival of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune almost here, after a considerable delay thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the classic science fiction tale will be brought to life for only the second time following David Lynch’s attempt in 1984. With a compelling lead cast capable of cosmic heights including, Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa and Rebecca Ferguson, Villeneuve hopes to reach new cinematic heights. Capturing the cinematic ambitions of Alejandro Jodorowsky rather than David Lynch. 

With some critics calling it “the greatest film never made”, Chilean-born avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky hoped to make an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic novel in 1974. Though he did not want to simply adapt the book and, instead, he desired to “change the public’s perceptions… change the young minds of all the world”. 

In a truly extraordinary undertaking, Jodorowsky planned to cast the surrealist artist and icon, Salvador Dalí, in what would’ve been his very first speaking role as an actor. Offering to pay the artist an extortionate fee of $100,000 per hour, Dalí agreed to join the project. Alongside the artist, Jodorowsky’s son, Brontis Jodorowsky was cast as the protagonist Paul Atreides, whilst the music was to be composed by Pink Floyd and Magma and H. R. Giger was brought in for the pre-production phase. A truly incredible feat of filmmaking potential, it’s a shame Jordowsky’s vision never came to life.

In addition to this eccentric cast of actors, Orson Welles was also due to join the team as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, with the influential director of Citizen Kane only joining the project with the promise from Jodorowsky that a personal gourmet chef followed him around and prepared all of his meals. 

To the disappointment of film fans and purveyors of culture worldwide, the 14-hour recreation of the sci-fi masterpiece as a psychedelic experience could not manage to procure the funds for production, with $2 million of the film’s $9.5 million budget already being depleted in the pre-production stage. Talking about the failed project in the celebrated 2014 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, the director lamented the fact that his vision was not successful because it was not “enough Hollywood”. 

In a 2012 essay, Jordowsky reflected on his failures, reporting: “All those who took part in the rise and fall of the Dune project learned how to fall one and one thousand times with savage obstinacy until learning how to stand. I remember my old father who, while dying happy, said to me: ‘My son, in my life, I triumphed because I learned how to fail’”. 

Somehow, somewhere, beyond the planet Arrakis lies a universe where Jodorowsky’s Dune exists. What a glorious sight it must be.

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