Denis Villeneuve Will Direct Dune

A sci-fi classic’s colorful screen history continues

Fans of high-minded sci-fi and moody cinematic dread rejoiced this morning with news that possibly the hottest director in the world, Denis Villeneuve, had signed on to helm a new adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic Dune.

Rumors of Villeneuve’s involvement have been swirling since a December report in The Hollywood Reporter. This morning, the author’s son, Brian Herbert, tweeted to confirm the news.

The movie is being developed by Legendary Pictures, which has some experience with smart sci-fi, having produced Interstellar, Inception and The Town. (editors note: The Boston geography doesn’t line up. A wormhole is the only logical answer for all those escapes.)

With the new project, Villeneuve will have some large, bizarre, shoes to fill.

Notable eccentric (official title) David Lynch took on the novel back in 1984. His adaptation was a critical and financial failure, but the film is, without a doubt, memorably strange. Twin Peaks regular Kyle MacLachlan starred as Paul Atreides, the nobleman/chosen-one/warrior who attempts to bring order to the desert planet Arakis after his father’s murder. Toto and Brian Eno contributed to the soundtrack, and, generally speaking, the movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. In fact, the final product was such a debacle that Lynch has replaced his name with various pseudonyms for the credits on most circulated versions of the film.

However, the oddest attempt at translating Dune to the screen is certainly that of Alejandro Jodorowsky. In the mid-70's the French-Chilean director assembled a mind-boggling cast that included Orson Wells, Salvador Dali, and Mick Jagger to perform his fourteen-hour script, which, according to rumor, had only a loose relation at best to the novel’s actual plot. Unsurprisingly the project was deemed unmakeable. The documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune covers a great number of the failed production’s innumerable absurdities. Perhaps most memorably, Dali’s involvement was contingent upon — in addition to his $100,000 per-minute-of-screen-time rate — a burning live giraffe appearing in the background of all his scenes.

But if anyone is up to the task of realizing Herbert’s original vision on the big screen, it‘s Villeneuve. The director’s most recent release, Arrival, based on a short story by sci-fi favorite Ted Chiang, was a hit with movie lovers and fanboys alike and is now an Oscar darling. For a follow-up, Villeneuve took on the beloved Blade Runner story, with a new reboot, Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. As long as the movie doesn’t break the Internet or cause some other kind of blackout, it will be out in October.

The Legendary Ted Chiang on Seeing His Stories Adapted and the Ever-Expanding Popularity of SF

With titles from Herbert, Chiang, and Philip K. Dick on his resume, Villeneuve might be the J.J. Abrams of literary sci-fi, or maybe the Hitchcock of space. Go ahead, come up with your own comparison and slap it on him.

Regardless of what you call Villeneuve, the Blade Runner 2049 trailer looks great, despite a complete lack of giraffes:

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