Director Peter Berg Assures That ‘Dune’ is Still On

Published 6 years ago by

dune header Director Peter Berg Assures That Dune is Still On

Director Peter Berg is a movie producing machine. Not only does he have the recently announced Battleship movie adaptation and a Hancock 2 sequel on the horizon, but he is still very much involved with the third version of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction masterpiece, Dune. With all those movies requiring heavy involvement from Berg, it’s no wonder he recently announced dropping another project, Red Steel.

A couple of years ago, Berg told the world he was attached to the big screen adaptation of Dune but since then the project has been bogged down in the seventh level of script writing hell. Dune may very well be a sprawling story, too complex and deep to tell in one two-hour movie. That complexity is most likely the reason why the current script is 200 pages long!

Here is a bit of trivia: One page of script equals about one minute of screen time. So if filming was to start today and with an unmodified script, then we are looking at over three butt-numbing, eye-draining hours of Dune time.

Berg sat down with MTV Movie News and reaffirmed his involvement with the project during an interview. Berg describes Dune as “a massive epic” with “definite [sic] franchise potential.” ¬†Um, yeah, I can see how a three-hour film would entertain the possibility of being broken down into smaller chunks, allowing audiences to absorb it all easier. Berg goes on to say:

“[We need to] figure out how we can beat [the script] into something manageable without offending the purists. Filmmakers have struggled [in the past] because it’s a very complicated book to crack.”

dune posters Director Peter Berg Assures That Dune is Still On

I’ll say it is; the original Dune novel was over 500 pages long, spawned 5 sequels and chewed up over 3000 pages in its entirety. The only other works of fiction that I can think that would be as hard, if not harder, to translate from page to screen would be Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia and Moore’s Watchmen. Two of those works listed have been made into epic multiple movies, and IMHO, Watchmen could have benefited from at least one more film to fully explain the story and the many sub-plots.

The mind-boggling thought needed to complete a film such as Dune did not sway the endeavors of directors David Lynch in 1984 and John Harrison in 2000. Lynch’s version was a valiant attempt but it came in woefully short at just over two hours. Still, that didn’t keep him from receiving an Oscar nod. ¬†Harrison’s version was made for the Sci-Fi channel (now SyFy), and had a slightly bigger budget and a much improved run time of close to five hours. Still, it left out many details because, ultimately, Dune is just too much story to tell with such limited resources.

(Continue to pg. 2 for discussion on the proper Dune approach)

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  1. The original Dune featured Sting, not David Bowie. Bowie was in Labirynth.

  2. Sonofa – I’m a bonehead. Thanks for the heads up. I got my glam rockers confused in my fantasy/scifi movies. Just another reason why musicians shouldn’t become actors (Britney Spears I’m talking to you Ms. “Dancing in her underwear during Crossroads”!

  3. It might be cool if they broke it down into the same chunks the book is divided into (“Dune”; “Muad’Dib”; “The Prophet”).

    Based on The Rundown and Hancock, I like Berg pretty well; I think he could pull it off.

    Besides Paul, the casting I’m most interested in is Jessica. I feel like if they screwed her up, it would be by going too young. It goes without saying that they’ll have to be careful with the Baron…

    I’ve never seen the David Lynch version, but I like the SciFi/SyFy version pretty well (except for some of the costuming, and Duncan’s, um, exit), and I really liked Children of Dune. That’s got one of my favorite movie soundtracks ever.

    …Man, you’re right; there’s a TON to think about. I look forward to tracking this one on SR.

  4. I think that a trilogy of 2-hour movies is a great idea for this. Unlike many of my friends and family, I liked the 1984 theatrical version but hated the director’s cut; I also did not like the TV movie. And I disagree with Berg; I think a reboot would be good for this.

  5. i dont think a 200 minute movie would be bad. i think within 10 years we will have longer movies,(the average movie like 2hours n 15 minutes) and we will have movies were they release part one of the movie and then 2 weeks later part 2

  6. to me Dune was a complex thought provoking epic and not a muscular teenager anguish. i highly appreciate any attempt to visualize frank herbert’s mythological, psychological and philosophical book, however, i think it requires a director and script writers with considerable depth of at least awareness/knowledge of all those different cultural background bits frank has inserted into his book. trying to simplify it, or narrowing it down to one corner/angle …hmmm….
    so – is it general true that these days the Only audience which goes out and pay, is teenagers and thus all movies are geared toward that specific audience ? the mature stories are left for tv ?

  7. @Kahless, Dead on brother. I couldn’t have said it better.

    (Who said anything about Bowie?)

  8. @Jess – That would be me in the article. I originally list Bowie instead of Sting and Bob was kind enough to catch it for me.

  9. Warning !!!!
    (I haven’t read any of the comments so KMA,,,)

    I don’t get why they keep dipping Dune in the spice,,, we’ve had a movie, a dvd directors cut, and a spin off series, and whatever else I missed,,, ??? Wtf !
    It never gets better,,, 8-O

  10. To be honest I never got into Dune, I didn’t think the story was that big and that complex. Who knows, maybe I’ll get into it whenever Berg’s version comes out. Damn, Berg is one busy dude, he doesn’t just have all these Movies, he’s also heavily involved in Friday Night Lights and isn’t he involved in that Virtuality show? Anyways, when is he ever gonna have time for Dune anyways?

  11. Another excuse to immerse myself in spice and sandworms!!!! I am a huge fan, I have read all the books and watched all of the movies and the mini-series

    I welcome a three movie adaptation, I think it will do more justice than any of the adaptations has, even thought in my opinion they are all Good!!!!!

    Im sure Frank Herbert is looking down on it and smiling!

  12. @790: It’s like “The Ten Commandments,” or the
    “Wizard Of OZ,” The Life of Christ,Mohammad, or Gandhi.
    Some people would like to make a definitive version.
    Tell the ultimate tale despite the handicaps and problems.

    Before every one tunes me out I want to say that; I don’t
    think it’s possible to “create an ending,” a last scene,
    that matches the tone and what Frank Herbert intended than
    what Harrison did in the mini. You might be able to
    make it visually more real or better looking but
    you won’t out do it. Just watch it, the closing scene
    to the miniseries. If you know the story and it doesn’t
    bring a tear to your eye, your not a “DUNE” fan nor
    understand or appreciate the story.

    Their are several other places in the miniseries where Harrison chose to show the power of Mr. Herbert’s story. Paul and Gurney at the dinner party, Paul and Jessica at the
    point were Paul shows Jessica the future, having
    become the Lisan al-Gaib. Paul calling for action
    as the water came forth from the stone, and the response
    of the Fedaykin to his call. Those scenes didn’t
    read exactly like that in the book! That was the art
    of film making, adapting to the screen. Why do that?
    Because where Frank could allow you to read the
    characters thoughts, could take the time to set up
    each event in the story, building one thing on another
    until you can almost believe your reading a piece of
    your very own national history. Yeah it’s that good.

    Now we come to the nub of the problem. Lynch’s script
    wasn’t any shorter back in the 80′s! Even after whole
    events were cut completely out. The dinner party, Thufer,
    Gurney, and Duncans escape. What happened immediately after
    their escape. Many of the problems Paul and Jessica had
    in the desert after the flight from Arakeen. Gurney’s deal
    with Tuek. The Sardaurkar pogrom against the Fremen. Feyd’s
    100Th gladiatorial victory and the games and Count Fenring’s
    visit. Feyd’s attempt to assassinate the Baron. The
    importance of the other forces, organizations, and guilds
    had in the story and many other things.

    It’s unrealistic, silly, and VAIN to think you can excise,
    “cut and fold” the story and come up with anything beyond
    a hollow shell. Don’t be fooled as Lynch was. Lynch wasn’t
    stupid he was going to get a nice payday, no matter what
    happened. He might have been a little gullible, but possibly
    figured that, so early in his career a failed Science Fiction
    film wouldn’t be that big of a disaster. Who watched Science
    Fiction films anyway? At the beginning he thought the book was titled June!
    He made enough dough to have a family and continued to
    make films, but the slow return of the De’Laurentis investment certainly hurt that families flagging company. Word got around. The eventual division and slow burn of Lynch’s “DUNE” kept hurting his career, because while it wasn’t without admirers it wasn’t a conventional commercial or artistic success.

    I throw Herbert’s own words at Berg he would be wise to heed them; “Failure is It’s own Demonstration!” This isn’t 1977 and “DUNE” isn’t “Star Wars!” Take the examples of success that the past so plentifully provide and DIVIDE this loaf or film a different Herbert property. You Know
    “Destination Void” or the “Dosadi Experiment” have elements that would tune a director into the Herbert Oeuvre and style.

  13. My apologies to Mr. De Laurentiis for misspelling his name.
    Need to quit editing on line!

  14. to the ‘Old man’

    while I understand your comments, I don’t necessarily agree.

    Dune in all its forms is something I have enjoyed for a long time, and while I understand that they have to excise certain things, there are some things that have to remain.

    I believe that the original movie, which was my first experience of Dune was good. I know a lot was taken out and in some cases things weren’t the way the Frank wanted them, but sometimes money does have to be a factor.

    I also like the ‘take’ that Franks son Brian and KJA have done with the Dune universe, I like the whole explanations of the Butlerian Jihad and the ‘House’ novels.

    I am also open to new interpretations and you have to look at alot of the recent Marvel movies that many people said would be crap.

    Iron Man

    They were all big successes because in many cases they stayed true to the story but changed it slightly and gave it a new twist.
    Also many of the directors or stars were big fans of the characters/story as Peter Berg says he is.

    Give the guy a chance. I think we may all be pleasantly surprised.

    However Im sure Im gonna get heckled for this though!

  15. Also can I just say that I thought James Mcavoy was awesome as Leto Atreides!!!!!! DEfinately one of my favourite portrayals in Dune.

  16. Chris first of all Mcavoy played Leto the second in “Children of Dune” not Leto
    in “Frank Herbert’s Dune.” Now I figure that might be what
    your referring to, but if you don’t say what you mean
    how can anyone take you to mean what you say?! The could
    be said and is hotly debated around the web about what
    BH and KJA have written in their “DUNE” novels.

    They are trivial literature Frank’s “DUNE” novel isn’t!

    It’s interesting too the three movies you mention all have
    sequels that continue to tell each of their respective
    stories. So while you might be able to tell a story about
    say Paul Atreides life growing up on Caladan, to compress
    a work like “DUNE” into a single movie is like trying to
    tell Nolan’s first two “Batman” stories in one movie or “Lord
    of the Rings.” It’s just too big, too complicated and
    ends up like Lynch’s movie. I liked it on some levels too
    but I remember eating dinner after watching it the first
    day it opened and my date, another “DUNE” fan said; what
    was that?! That wasn’t anywhere near the story I read!!

    So at the very least the audience is divided.

  17. Hi Old Man

    I did mean Leto the second in Children of Dune, and if I dont mean what I say???? excuse me for making an offhand comment without taking the extra few minutes to explicitly explain what I meant, I assumed however incorrectly that people might realize who the actor played and in what mini series! obviously people on here arent as smart as I thought they were, or is it just some of them??

    As for BH and KJA’s supposed ‘trivial literature’, I know that ‘die hard’ fans dont like it, but that really does show lack of vision on their part doesnt it?

    I refer to the fact that these novels were generally planned out by Frank Herbert and have been interperated by his son and KJA.

    Unless you believe the conspiracy theorists who think that it is all some large plot by Brian and KJA to make alot of money.

    Also I didnt suggest at all that they ‘compress’ dune into a single movie, I think a trilogy would suffice, especially if they are two hours in length each.

    Obviously some losses will have to be made but I think that overall it will be a good interpretation, made by a fan for the fans HOPEFULLY!!!!

  18. Chris everyone is ignorant of something. As for what BH & KJA are doing it’s painfully obvious, they are just trying to make a living.

    They have cranked out novels one about every 12 to 18 months. If you’ve read their novels carefully, you’ll realize that the depth, observation, attention to detail, not just regarding story elements, but to the detail of the prose is far short of the art in the original books. Frank did much more extensive work with his novels than BH & KJA. It’s obvious why so many years passed between each of Franks’ books. Here are the years they were published,
    1965, 69, 76, 81, 84, 85. Look at the time lag between Children and God Emperor 1976 to 1981. Five years. Now look how long it took the seasoned author of the original work to write the next sequel. Three years. Despite having done research since 1959 for “Dune,” it still took three to six years to write follow on books. Now look at the time it took to go from Heretics to Chapterhouse. Only a year, and by the way he was ill at the time. It’s not like Frank was a slow writer, it’s because it took lots of time to do that kind of work! He loved his art. His son and Kevin, not so much. I can’t fault them for not being productive, but you can’t say that there works are worthy sequels or follow on novels to Frank’s. It’s more like a parallel universe. A contradictory one at that. They are trivial literature

  19. I recently re-read Dune (my fourth time through now) and plugged through the audiobook too. Every time I read the story I get new insights, new ideas, and new revelations on what I previously thought about that masterpiece. In all honesty I have no desire to read anything Anderson touches after his wretched drivel in the Star Wars universe. To get his stuff after Timothy Zahn’s was nothing short of soul-crushing.

    Berg has a challenge in front of him, a huge one, and I’m eager to see what comes out the other end of the mulcher. It’s far to early to judge what he’s going to come up with, so no definitive statements yet.