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Before Star Wars or Alien or any of those sci-fi movies that pretty much defined the genre, there was a little movie-in-the-making called Dune. You might have heard of it; it was a book originally written by Frank Herbert in the ‘60s, and would go on to be a (pretty terrible) film by David Lynch. But before Lynch got his hands on it, there was a version of the film developing into something totally groundbreaking—something so ahead of its time, in fact, it couldn’t even get made.
A new documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, tells the story of a misunderstood, outrageously avant garde director, Alejandro Jodorowsky, a man responsible for what was, at the time, some pretty out-there films that made Clockwork Orange look like a skip in the park. After two cult-worthy movies, Dune was to be the director’s opus. And when you’ve got the opportunity to make an opus, you go all out. Like… all out.
By the end of a two-year, international quest to find what Jodorowsky calls throughout the documentary his “spiritual warriors,” he had signed on everyone from Mick Jagger to Orson Welles, even Salvador Dali signed on. The men he picked as his behind-the-scenes talent—Dan O’Bannon, Moebius, H.R. Giger, to name a few—would go on to be some of Hollywood’s most integral parts of the sci-fi machine. But even with an all-star cast and a production team that make George Lucas weep, Hollywood wasn’t getting behind it. They saw Jodorowsky as a lunatic and, more importantly, a financial liability.
While Dune—this version at least—was doomed to never be made, the story of its near success and subsequent failure is an inspiring one. As Jodorowsky says himself, “You can’t make a masterpiece without a little madness.”
You might not rally the masses with your unique vision, but you sure better try.