Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jodorowsky's Dune

Tonight watched a great documentary, about Chilean/French director Alejandro Jodorowsky's gallant attempt to make a movie based on Frank Herbert's Dune
You've got to admire the guy. He'd made three absolutely wacko films in the late 60s / early 70s, Fando y LisEl Topo and The Holy Mountain which against all the odds had been quite successful. So for the next project, his producer gave him carte blanche. What do you want to do next?  The reply was Dune. He'd never even read the book but a friend had said it was great so Dune it was. 
Work began in 1975 with Jodo signing up people left, right and centre. David Carradine who was enjoying fame with the Kung Fu  TV series said yes; Mick Jagger - yes; a bloated Orson Welles - yes; 76-year-old Gloria Swanson - yes; Salvador Dali - yes ("but it must include a flaming giraffe and Amanda [Lear, his then muse]". 
For special effects he wanted Douglas Trumbull who'd done 2001 A Space Odyssey, met him, didn't like him, went out to a little cinema nearby and saw Dark Star and hired the guy, Dan O'Bannon, who did the FX for that instead ("Sell everything you have and come to Paris now"). His powers of persuasion were incredible. 
For the designs he hired artists HR Giger (who'd never done a film before) and Chris Foss (famous for Asimov SF covers). For the storyboard he hired the best French cartoonist Jean 'Moebius' Giraud. For the music he approached Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield and Gong, but settled for Magma (Giger would later design their Attahk sleeve) and Pink Floyd. And finally he cast his own son, aged 12, in the lead role as Paul. Pre-production rolled on and finally a massive, meticulously produced storyboard was sent to all the Hollywood studios… and you can guess what happened next.
Hollywood didn't like it. Too expensive, too long, too crazy, too ambitious. Over.
Jodo and co were mortified, made worse when, a few years later, they found out that it would be made by David Lynch, a director Jodo greatly respected. It took enormous willpower to go see the film in 1984. He felt sure it would be a success and his humiliation would be complete. But the film was rubbish, a failure. So it had a happy ending.

PS. Jodorowsky lived in Mexico City during most of the 60s and it was where he shot his first film, Fando y Lis - the first screening of which ended in a near riot, after which was banned outright.

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