Author Existence Failure: Frank Herbert died in 1985, leaving the Dune series on an apparent massive cliffhanger. His son and Kevin J. Anderson continued the series to mixed critical and reader response.
Doing It for the Art: Dune contains a sprawling universe adorned with myriad details and complicated histories, economics, and ecology. Frank Herbert loved to show his work, as detailed below. It began as work for a newspaper article ("They Stopped the Moving Sands"), but he became so enthralled that it became a passionate epic. He never even got around to finishing that article.
Outlived Its Creator: Since Frank Herbert's death, Brian Herbert (Frank's son) and Kevin J. Anderson have written a number of prequels and sequels.
The late Christopher Reeve of Superman fame was reportedly considered for the role at Paul in one of the earlier pre-Lynch periods - which makes the casting of Kyle MacLachlan even funnier as he would later voice Superman in the animated feature Justice League: The New Frontier.
Jodorowsky was planning to cast Salvador Dalí as the Emperor, Orson Welles as Baron Harkonen, Mick Jagger as Feyd, Gloria Swanson as the Reverend Mother and David Carradine as Duke Leto. Also, Jodorowsky cast his son Brontis as Paul Atreides, and had him go through several months training in martial arts and other various fighting styles before the project was shelved.
Jodorowsky was also going to use different bands to compose different musical leitmotifs for each planet. He had already signed up the bands Pink Floyd for Caladan and the french prog band Magma for Giedi Prime.
Duke Leto was going to be accidentally castrated following a ritual bullfight. Paul would have then been conceived as a virgin birth by way of his mother Jessica taking a drop of his father's blood and using her Bene Gesserit powers to turn it into semen to impregnate herself.
Duke Leto's death in Jodorowsky's version would have been even more gruesome and graphic than his death in the book. In the original book, Leto dies of poisoning. In Jodorowsky's version, Leto would have been mutilated to death, his arms and legs cut off with a giant set on pincers, tortured in an attempt to find Paul's location. When Leto fails to give up Paul and dies, the Baron in frustration then grabs the pincers and lops off Leto's head, tossing it into a box with the rest of his severed limbs, leaving what was left of his body on the table.
Jodorowsky had intended to have the ending of his film be vastly different from the book, having Lady Margot Fenring killing Paul by surprise. But as he dies, Paul's consciousness then infuses into the planet Arrakis. Paul then mocks the Emperor, by moving about from person to person, including Alia, Stilgar, and Irulan, who when inhabited, all speak in Paul's voice. The now non-corporeal Paul, fulfilling the prophecy of the Kwisatz Haderach, then causes Arrakis' terraforming to occur immediately, with the skies turning a brilliant blue. The movie then ends with the planet breaking orbit, to roam throughout space, to re-educate the universe.
The film's creative team included artists H.R. Giger, Jean Giraud (aka Mobius), and Chris Foss, as well as future Alien co-writer Dan O'Bannon. The movie got as far as conceptual art, a nearly completed script, and some costume design.
A huge hardcover book of storyboards drawn by Mobius and Jodorowsky was made mapping out the entire film and was presented to each of the major film studios at the time. However, no studio was willing to underwrite the cost and the project had to be scrapped.
The Road To Dune was based on Frank Herbert's original notes. The book changed rather drastically.
Why Fandom Can't Have Nice Things: An inversion in a meta-way, since it's the authors and their close ones, not the fans, who mind on this one: Due of the controversial nature of the sequels written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, and, while not outright spelled as such, some authors, like George R. R. Martin for a most visible example, had wrote post-mortem clauses to prevent either their families, their publishers or anyone else by the matter from continuing their works after their deaths, in an attempt to avoid a similar situation to befall on them.
Box Office Bomb: Budget, $40 million. Box office, $30,925,690 (domestic). It became an Old Shame to David Lynch and put producer Raffaella De Laurentis in the B-list of producers before she made a comeback with Backdraft.
Deleted Scene: Several scenes were cut from the theatrical release of the 1984 film and later restored to the extended versions, which is part of why they're so much longer. Of these, one of the most significant is the death of Thufir Hawat, a powerful scene in which Paul separates Thufir from the captured Harkonnen and offers him his life, only for Thufir to commit suicide rather than kill Paul. This omission creates something of a What Happened to the Mouse? moment in the original cut, as Thufir—one of the film's more important characters—can clearly be seen standing among the prisoners (between the Emperor and Gaius Mohiam) in one shot, and simply vanishes in the next; his disappearance is never explained.
Executive Meddling/Screwed by the Network: Dino De Laurentiis pared the film down by hours and the result was a confusing mess to many people who didn't read the book. It was such a negative experience for Lynch that he actually turned down the chance to do a director's cut years later and had his name taken off the extended version that was made without him, so while the extended version does expand on and explain the overall universe and setting better it's still mostly guess work.
Fatal Method Acting: Averted. One scene called for Duke Leto to be strapped to a black stretcher and drugged. During one take, a high-powered bulb positioned above Jürgen Prochnow exploded due to heat, raining down molten glass. Remarkably, Prochnow was able to free himself from the stretcher, moments before glass fused itself to the place he had been strapped.
Aldo Ray was cast for Gurney Halleck, but later fired for alcoholism, as confirmed by Sean Young (Chani). The official word was that he left due to "health reasons". Patrick Stewart replaced Ray on extremely short notice. Already working on a movie (Uindii, directed by Masato Harada) in locations across Europe, he was filming in the Moselle valley in Germany on a Friday morning, then ended up in Mexico City at Saturday night for a stillsuit fitting. He had also been mistakenly chosen by Lynch on his name alone. (Stewart already knew of Lynch, and admired him and his work.) Lynch thought he was getting another Patrick Stewart that played King Henry the Fourth in a London matinee of Henry IV, who Lynch and others of the production team had seen backstage in costume. Lynch was impressed with his look and asked the others to find out the actor's name. When Ray was fired, Lynch brought up the actor's name as the replacement. When Stewart showed up at Lynch's hotel room to meet him (presumably before the fitting), Lynch had no clue who he was, but of course it was far too late to go look for someone else. Stewart was also accommodated for his role in Uindii by being flown in and out of Mexico City to Europe for around the next six weeks.
Stillborn Franchise: Any plans to adapt the other books in the series were scrapped when the film bombed. It was reported that David Lynch was working on the screenplay for "Dune Messiah" and was hired to direct a second and third "Dune" film.
Plans to adapt Frank Herbert's 1965 novel to film went back over fifteen years, with the aforementioned Arthur Jacobs being the first to buy the rights to it not long after it came out... at which point he sat on them, consistently holding out for more money, until he died several years later.
In 1975, Chilean director Alexandro Jodorowsky, with backing from the Seydoux brothers (a pair of French producers), picked up the rights for $100,000. He invested more than $2 million into pre-production, writing a script for a 10-20 hour miniseries starring Salvador Dalí and Mick Jagger with music by Pink Floyd, before running out of money, with the rights going to the Seydoux brothers.
Italian independent mega-producer Dino De Laurentiis was the next to get involved, buying the rights from the Seydoux brothers for $2 million and turning to Herbert himself to write the script. When that didn't work out, he turned to Ridley Scott, fresh off the success of Alien. That, too, didn't work out — Scott's vision for the film's aesthetic was similar to that of Alien, which de Laurentiis felt would've made the film feel too derivative, and there was also an argument over Scott and his co-writer Rudolph Wurlitzer writing an incest scene that wasn't in the book, which Herbert himself stepped in over. (Scott denies that the latter part happened. Harlan Ellison confirms it though, adding "Have you ever heard Frank Herbert bellow with rage?") Finally, just when it was looking like the film might actually enter production, Scott's older brother, Frank, died unexpectedly, forcing the emotionally devastated Scott to withdraw from the project entirely. Scott opted not to return after recovering, deciding instead to make Blade Runner.
Finally, de Laurentiis found David Lynch, who had just made The Elephant Man, and hired him as writer and director. The first argument was over casting; Lynch wanted to cast Freddie Jones, who he had worked with on The Elephant Man, and had to go against much resistance from de Laurentiis to do so. De Laurentiis planned to fire Jones, but changed his mind upon seeing the first dailies and went so far as to apologize to Jones for being skeptical of him.
Churubusco Studios in Mexico City was selected as the shooting location, due to the nearby desert and the devaluation of the peso making it possible to shoot the film for a quarter of what it would've cost in the US. Unfortunately, with that cut-rate cost came cockroach infestations, Mexico's byzantine bureaucracy, brownouts that necessitated having backup generators on hand at all times, a primitive phone network with only one direct line to the production office, worse smog than Los Angeles, and Montezuma's Revenge afflicting half the Europeans on the crew. In addition, Francesca Annis accidentally blew herself up with a gas oven and was hospitalized for several weeks. Production began in March 1983 and took six months to complete due to all the problems the production faced, coming in $4-7 million over its planned $38 million budget.
Problems didn't end with the production. The film was taken out of Lynch's hands in post-production, and diverged so greatly from his vision that he refuses to have his name attached to certain cuts of the film.
Ridley Scott was originally attached to direct. He left the production after his older brother suddenly passed away. Scott wanted to start working as soon as possible, but Dune would take far too long to reach production. Scott decided to leave the project in favor of Blade Runner, which was ready to start production immediately.
David Lean was offered to direct the film, but turned it down.
At one point, the film was going to include incestuous themes between Paul and his mother.
Jack Nicholson was reportedly considered for the role of Gurney Halleck at one point. He also considered directing the film in the 1970s, but decided against it, realising what a huge undertaking it would be.
Feyd-Rautha was originally to have stepped out of the "steam bath" nude. Sting had agreed to shoot the scene nude, but the studio panicked and told the costume designers that they had to put something on him. The skimpy winged g-string he wore was made almost at the very last minute before the scene was set to film.
Glenn Close turned down the role of Lady Jessica, not wanting to play "the girl who is always running and falling down behind the men".