The highly respected filmmaker Denis Villeneuve certainly seems to have settled himself into the genre of science fiction, having delivered the intense dramas of Enemy, Prisoners and Sicario in recent years. His latest release – Arrival – is currently wowing festival audiences with its imagining of a first contact situation with aliens, while he has already moved from that to his new project, Blade Runner 2. In promoting Arrival, however, he has spoken of his long-standing ambition to make a new adaptation of the 1965 James Herbert novel, Dune.
Many have tried to put the vast space epic onto the big screen – including Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1974 and Ridley Scott, in 1979. But David Lynch is, thus far, the only filmmaker to have made a theatrical version of the story – arriving at cinemas in 1984. In 2000 and 2003, the Sci Fi Channel broadcast Dune and Children Of Dune as television mini-series, but the big screen has eluded Dune for decades.
The story is set more than 21,000 years in the future, and finds that the human race has successfully colonized many planets, and established an aristocratic interstellar social system. Noble houses run each planet, under the oversight of the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. The family of Paul Atreides runs the desert planet Arrakis, but they soon discover that this is contentious territory, because it is the only source of the popular spice melange.
In conversation with Variety, Denis Villeneuve revealed his wish to craft a fresh take on Dune, while also detailing the issues that he expects would prevent that from becoming a reality.
“I had been wanting to do sci-fi for a very long time. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a movie that really impressed me as a teenager. And also Blade Runner. And Close Encounters of the Third Kind is also one of my favorites. I’m always looking for sci-fi material, and it’s difficult to find original and strong material that’s not just about weaponry. A longstanding dream of mine is to adapt Dune, but it’s a long process to get the rights, and I don’t think I will succeed. Also I would love to write something myself. I have two [sci-fi] projects right now that are in very stages. It’s too early to talk about them.”
Blade Runner 2 is one of the most highly anticipated films currently in production – but that is not all due to the legacy of the original Ridley Scott movie. A lot of that excitement surrounds the hiring of Villeneuve to bring that familiar sci-fi story into the modern era, with all his signature directorial moves. That being the case, a Denis Villeneuve adaptation of Dune would be an incredibly intriguing prospect indeed. With talent, all things are possible – so we shouldn’t write off this idea just yet.