The City of Absurdity   D U N E
About the Film

David Lynch | Frank Herbert | Jack Nance


David Lynch

"Dune is a dark film. I want to create a mood using light and shadow – not depressing, but mysterious like the '40s noir films."

"...the day I finished reading the book, I met with Dino in his office, and I was so high from finishing the book, and so thrilled with, you know, what I had read, I signed on. And I didn't really know that it was going to be 3 and a half of this type of year..."

"I signed on to do Dune. I always... when I was working on the Elephant Man, I worked with Christopher De Vore and Eric Bergren, and we tried to be true to the essence of, you know, the Elephant Man. And in Dune, I try to be true to the essence of Frank's, you know, book, which is not an easy thing because there are so many different lines and so many different things swimming about. It's picking and choosing and condensing and, you know, all sorts of things. So Frank's contribution was, you know, the book and his support from day one all the way through to now. He's always available, you know, for questions, and he's read almost every, you know, draft of the .... I did seven drafts. And, he's, you know, allowed me, you know, to do my thing, and his book is packed full with, you know, these, what I call, seed ideas. There's the big ideas, but there's so many little seed ideas, and those he let me, you know, sprout and run with. That was the thrill for me because there are things in the movie that were sparked by Frank, but they were allowed, you know, to grow out. I think it'll be neat for people who have read the book, they'll see a difference, but it is true to the essence of Frank's ideas. "

"We [Lynch, De Vore, Bergren] were in sync, but, they wanted to go in different directions – other aspects of the novel were more important to them. Of course, had they done the picture, my ideas would have clouded their vision. A writer is a filter – his ideas pass through his personal artistic screen before they hit the paper. Dune's notions came from Frank's book, but I interpreted them. In turn, Dino was my editor – he helped shape the script"

"Dino knew the project needed heart, not just another cold sci-fi pitch. Besides, I was never a science fiction fan. But, Herbert's book incorporates dream sequences, complex textures, different levels of meaning and symbolism; it concerns people, their emotions, their fears and goals – and also provides an opportunity to create whole new worlds by combining elements in ways that have never been done before."

"I can see how everyone who reads the book is going to interpret it, and their interpretation is not mine, but I have to .... it has to go through me as the director like a filter, and things pass through me and it's not going to be other people's interpretation. Some people may love it, and some people say it's not what they pictured and they would be disappointed. You know, that's the way it is. "

"...we were really together. It was a great experience. And we were in a foreign world, and we were, you know, in Mexico City, which is.... I will always feel is the perfect place to make Dune because Dune is a foreign world and for foreign worlds. And if I was making it in Arizona, it would be too normal. Mexico City was just the right atmosphere, the right mood to kind of let your.... just it was help your mind get out there, you know, and to.... Dune."

"Although I didn't design the props I was actively involved in creating a certain look. For instance, once a component for the Spacing Guild Navigator sequence was built it had a logic that dictated how the other structures should look."

"Caladan, the water planet supports large forests, so the entire Atreides castle was built from hard wood carved into strange patterns. Its society, based on traditional military organization, utilizes many weapons made of wood and metal-especially gold."

"Arrakis, by contrast, is a dry planet, so we designed all sorts of paraphernalia for desert survival. My personal favorite, Giedi Prime, is an oil planet with one city; we used steel, bolts and porcelain for construction. The Emperor's homeworld is sophisticated-and layered with gold. Herbert described many of the settings in the book, but we still had lots of leeway. We developed a concept for each planet, and every structure conformed to them. Unfortunately, many objects actually built didn't end up in the film, so they'll have to wait for the sequel!"

"It's a picture made for music and I'm an old-fashioned director, so I love it. There's a full under-score -- a 90-piece orchestra, a choir, Toto and sound fx combine to add a layer of real power. Symphonic sound and synthesizers, like all of Dune, is a mixture of the old and the new."

"I started selling out on Dune. 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. And little by little – and this is the danger, because it doesn't happen in chunks, it happens in the tiniest little shavings, little sandings – little by little every decision was always made with them in mind and their sort of film. Things I felt I could get away with within their framework. So it was destined to be a failure, to me."

"That picture cut me off at the knees, maybe even a little higher. I went pretty insane on that picture. Little by little I was making compromises. It was like, 'We have to watch David. If he goes in the direction of Eraserhead, we're dead in the water,' so I had to be restrained. I just fell into this middle world. It was a sad place to be."

"Every technique known to film-making has been used on this picture, except for stop-motion, strangely enough. And, so, I've learned a tremendous amount of technical things. We built over about 80 sets in what amounted to 16 sound stages down in Mexico, traveled all over the world, Rafaella and I, Rafaella is the producer, first looking for locations and finally going to Mexico. I've seen actors for this picture all over the world. And people in this film are from all over the world. At one point there was 1,700 people on the crew, and that's a huge amount of people. And sometimes I'd turned around on the set, and there would be 600 people, and they are not extras, you know, crew people, or visitors, or camera crews, or whatever, you know, on the set, so it has been a strange experience, but a huge, fantastic experience."

"In retrospect I can see that I started getting into trouble on Dune early on, and it wasn't just the final editing that did it, although I think the film could be way, way of better. I still worry that I don't know if it could ever be a great film, or even a real good film. I don't know. I forget so much about it."


Frank Herbert (author of the Dune novels)

"Well, I get asked the specific question a lot of times. If the settings, the scenes, that I saw in David's film match my original imagination, the things that I projected in my imagination. I must tell you that some of them do precisely, some of them don't, and some of them are better, which is what you would expect of artists such as David and Tony Masters. I'm delighted with that. I mean, why not take it and improve on it visually? As far as I'm concerned the film is a visual feast. I would love to have some of the scenes as stills to frame and have around me. They're beautiful."

"Yes, very much so [satisfied with the result of the film]. But the funny thing happened. Dino called me. I didn't know David from Adam's offer. And he called me and he said that he had hired David Lynch to do the.... to direct the film of Dune. This was after a couple of... well I think they would have been disasters. David knows why. So, I said: "David who?" and he said David Lynch. He said Elephant Man. So I went out and got a tape of it and played it on my video, and I had a funny gut sensation we had the guy who could do it. When you're doing a film from the written word, you're translating into a different language. It is as though you were translating from English to Swahili. The visual language is a different language, and there was such subtlety and such beauty in the Elephant Man. I've seen it about eight times, I think, and I get something new from it each time, something peripheral or something right in the mainstream that was done visually as a visual metaphor. I've never told David this, but this is true. This is what happened to me. I had this gut sensation we've got him, you know, the guy who can do it."

"The film begins as the book begins, and it ends essentially as the book ends. And I hear my dialog all the way through it, not just my dialog, but there's lots of other dialog. I had the funny sensation of watching the rough cut, not exactly too rough recently, of some of the cuts, the things that are not in there, of feeling that they'd happened just off stage or that we'd gone beyond them, but they'd happened, that we hadn't really lost them. There are only two scenes that I missed in the film, but I know why they were cut. They were pets of mine, and you shouldn't have any pets."


Jack Nance (Nefud)

"...he [David Lynch] doesn't like anybody telling him what to do. Which was a thing on Dune – all these guys in suits coming down to Mexico City from Universal Studios looking over his shoulder. It didn't work very well. He didn't work very well."

"Lynch doesn't like to talk about DUNE and we don't!"

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© Mike Hartmann