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Trivia / Dune (1984)

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  • Actor-Inspired Element: Brad Dourif came up with the mentat mantra.
  • Alan Smithee: David Lynch took his name off the extended cut, which was not only directed by Alan Smithee but written by Judas Booth. Of course that surname has a history with Lynch.
  • Approval of God: In the introduction for his 1985 short story collection Eye, Frank Herbert discussed the film's reception and his participation in the production, complimented Lynch, and listed scenes that were shot but left out of the released version (although he disliked the scene in which Paul shows psychic powers over climate).
    "I enjoyed the film even as a cut and I told it as I saw it: What reached the screen is a visual feast that begins as Dune begins and you hear my dialogue all through it. I have my quibbles about the film, of course. Paul was a man playing god, not a god who could make it rain."
  • Ascended Fanon: This movie introduces the concept of the Guild Navigators having multiple stages of mutation, with the one shown in the opening being a third-stage Guild Navigator. Frank Herbert liked the concept and incorporated it into his later books.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: Kyle MacLachlan was a fan of the original novel and Paul was his favorite character, so he was eager to play him in the big screen.
  • 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.
  • Career Resurrection: This movie may not have helped very many careers, but it did (along with critical darling Paris, Texas) save Dean Stockwell's career which had been flagging since the 60s. His performance as the conflicted Dr. Yueh led to a very successful two decade comeback in film and TV.
  • Cast the Expert: The then 9 years old Alicia Witt, who played the "pre-born" Alia, was an actual child prodigy in real life, talking by the age of two and reading by the age of four. She would go to have even more accomplishments for her age afterwards.
  • Creator Backlash: David Lynch repented doing the film, as he had signed up despite knowing that they wouldn't allow him to cut it the way he wanted, something that he perceived as "selling out". He originally wanted to do a three-hour film, but requirements from the studio forced it to be trimmed down by one hour.
    "Looking back, it's no one's fault but my own. I probably shouldn't have done that picture, but I saw tons and tons of possibilities for things I loved, and this was the structure to do them in. There was so much room to create a world. But I got strong indications from Raffaella and Dino De Laurentiis of what kind of film they expected, and I knew I didn't have final cut."
  • Creator-Chosen Casting: The Baron's physician did not appear in the novel. David Lynch created a role for Leonard Cimino because he was a fan of the actor.
  • Dawson Casting: Kyle MacLachlan and Sting, both in their mid-late 20s, played the 15 year olds Paul Atreides and Feyd Rautha (although it's unclear, and quite unlikely, that they are still supposed to be 15 in the movie).
  • Deleted Role: Danny Corkill (Orlop) is shown in the onscreen credits despite his scenes being deleted from the theatrical release.
  • Deleted Scene: Lynch's rough cut was over four hours long, of which he wanted to do a cut of almost three hours, but the theatrical cut ended up being only two hours long; it was so bad that Patrick Stewart joked every single cast member lost at least two scenes with the shuffle. Many scenes were later restored to the extended versions, though.
  • Dueling Movies: With Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Both are films set in a Desert Punk vision of the distant future, with various giant insects/worms, a blend of medieval and futuristic styles, and a Messianic Archetype protagonist. In fact, Miyazaki himself stated that the original Dune book was an inspiration for the film and manga. Many audiences in Japan have compared the two films as Dune premiered just a few months after Nausicaä. Nausicaä was a massive blockbuster success in Japan. Dune still performed decently and was more beloved by Japanese audiences than most other territories, but even its Japanese success was not enough to save the film from being a Box Office Bomb.
  • Executive Meddling: The film had its runtime pared down by one hour, and the result was a confusing mess to many people who didn't read the book. Oddly, though, that's David Lynch's preferred cut of the film, as he was so displeased with the three-hour TV version (it was done entirely without him, as he had refused to return to the director's chair) that he asked for his name removed from the credits.
  • Fake Brit: Kyle MacLachlan and Virginia Madsen use British accents in this movie.
  • Follow the Leader: This was Dino De Laurentiis' second attempt, after Flash Gordon (1980), to make a Star Wars of his own.
  • In Memoriam: The opening contains a dedication to Federico De Laurentiis, who was the younger brother of producer Raffaella De Laurentiis (and by extension, the son of Dino De Laurentiis) and who was killed in a plane crash in July 1981.
  • The Merch:
    • A line of action figures from toy company LJN (yes, that LJN) was released to lackluster sales in 1984. The collection featured figures of Paul Atreides, Baron Harkonnen, Feyd, Rabban, Stilgar, and a Sardaukar warrior, plus a poseable sandworm, several vehicles and weapons, and a set of View-Master stereoscope reels. Figures of Gurney and Lady Jessica previewed in LJN's catalog were never produced. In 2006, SOTA Toys produced a Baron Harkonnen action figure for their "Now Playing Presents" line. In October 2019, Funko announced a "Dune Classic" line of POP! vinyl figures, the first of which would be Paul in a stillsuit and Feyd in a blue jumpsuit, styled after the 1984 film. An alternate version of Feyd in his blue loincloth was released for the 2019 New York Comic Con.
    • Parker Brothers released a board game based on the film. There was also a coloring book.
  • Not Screened for Critics: Several re-schedules at the last minute ended up with screenings having to be cancelled.
  • On-Set Injury: Jürgen Prochnow suffered first- and second-degree burns to his face while filming his death scene. To achieve the effect, a tube connected to a pump was attached to a prosthetic cheek over Prochnow's face. However, a malfunction caused heat to build up inside the fake cheek and spill near molten goo on Prochnow's face once it was torn open.
  • The Other Marty: Virginia Madsen replaced Anne-Louise Lambert as Princess Irulan during the shooting, while Patrick Stewart did the same for Aldo Ray.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Kyle MacLachlan was a fan of the books, while Patrick Stewart was of David Lynch's work.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Aldo Ray was initially cast for Gurney Halleck, but left due to "health reasons", which Sean Young (Chani) translated as Ray being fired for alcoholism.
  • Screwed by the Network: Dino De Laurentiis pared the film down by one hour and the result was a confusing mess to many people who didn't read the book. Paired with the fact that they later an extended version behind his back, 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.
  • Spared by the Cut:
    • One of the most significant cuts to the theatrical version 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 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.
    • The duel between Paul and Jamis (in which Jamis ends up killed) was also omitted from the theatrical cut.
  • Star-Making Role: For Kyle MacLachlan, in which was also his movie debut. Afterwards, he started showing up in David Lynch's other works such as Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.
  • 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. The franchise would not see a new big screen adaptation until 2021.
  • Throw It In: An unusual case of an entire actor having to be thrown in, as the reason why Patrick Stewart was chosen to replace Aldo Ray was a monumental confusion. Lynch's production team called Stewart to the production on the belief they were getting another Patrick Stewart, an actor that played King Henry the Fourth in a London matinee of Henry IV and whom Lynch and company had seen backstage in costume. Naturally, when our Stewart showed up at Lynch's hotel room to meet him (eagerly, as Stewart already knew of Lynch and admired him and his work), Lynch had no clue who he was, but of course it was far too late to go look for someone else. Stewart's schedule also had to be acommodated for his role in another film he was making at the time in Europe (Windy, directed by Masato Harada), so he was flown in and out of Mexico City to Europe for around the next six weeks.
    • Piter's litany on sappho juice was Brad Dourif's idea.
  • Troubled Production: A cover article in Time Out referred to it as "the movie that cost the Earth", and as Cracked put it, "Dune changed hands in the wake of collapsed ruin so many times, it was like the Goddamned monkey's paw."
    • 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 Alejandro 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 plot point (namely, Paul impregnating his mother with Alia) that wasn't in the book, which Herbert himself stepped in over. (Scott denies that the latter part happened, while Harlan Ellison claims it did, writing "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 considered returning after recovering, but left when De Laurentiis insisted he film in Mexico City, and decided instead to make Legend (1985).
    • 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. Another casting issue came when Aldo Ray, the actor originally cast as Gurney Halleck, was forced to drop out just after filming began due to his alcoholism. Lynch decided on an actor named Patrick Stewart (no, not that one) and asked to have him flown out to the set for an audition, only for a mix-up to result in a completely different Patrick Stewart (yes, that one) being flown out instead. Fortunately, Lynch decided he fit the role quite well, and decided to roll with it.
    • 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 Moctezuma's Revenge afflicting half the Europeans on the crew (Virginia Madsen in particular became so sick that she had to shoot the fight between Paul and Feyd while sitting on a bar stool hidden under her hooped skirt). 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.
    • According to Patrick Stewart, the stillsuit was the most uncomfortable costume he had ever worn. Max von Sydow thought the same, but he put up with it because he loved how he looked in it.
    • 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 considered it a failure. The fact that an extended version was done behind his back didn't improve things, and he ended up so sick of the trouble that he refused to have his name attached to it and told them to get lost when they proposed a director's cut.
  • Vindicated by Cable: The film was a Box Office Bomb, but became a cult classic through TV airings and on home video.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • 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.
    • Val Kilmer was reportedly almost cast as Paul. Christopher Reeve also auditioned, while Dexter Fletcher and Rob Lowe were considered.
    • The film under Scott was going to include incestuous themes between Paul and his mother (at least according to Harlan Ellison, as Scott has denied it).
    • 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". Sylvia Kristel was also considered.
    • Helena Bonham Carter was originally cast as Princess Irulan, but scheduling conflicts with A Room with a View forced her to leave the film. Kim Basinger, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kristy McNichol, Tatum O'Neal, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Meg Ryan and Brooke Shields were also considered.
    • John Hurt was offered the part of Dr. Yueh.
    • David Lynch might have ended up making a Director's Cut had Universal not assembled the extended television version behind his back.
    • William Hurt, a great fan of the books, had lobbied heavily to be in this film. Seeing how the film turned out, however, he became glad that he was rejected. Hurt later appeared in the 2000 miniseries playing Leto.
    • Lynch turned down the director's chair for Return of the Jedi to make this film.
    • A survival adventure video game based on this film, entitled Noah, was planned as the first major title by Tango Gameworks, the future developers of The Evil Within and Hi-Fi RUSH, only for it to enter Development Hell and end up nearly bankrupting the studio before ZeniMax swooped in to purchase them.