Jon Spaihts has stepped down as showrunner on HBO Max's Dune: The Sisterhood series in order to focus on writing the sequel to Denis Villeneuve's Dune movie, instead. The new take on Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel is moving forward at Warner Bros., with Villeneuve directing a big-name cast led by Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Oscar Isaac as his father, Duke Leto Atreides, the overseer of the desert planet Arrakis or Dune. Villeneuve's followup to Blade Runner 2049 is scheduled to open in December 2020, and has its eye on launching an entire franchise.
Meanwhile, The Sisterhood TV spinoff about the Bene Gesserit (a powerful, if enigmatic, order of women in the Dune universe) is currently in the works at WarnerMedia's streamer, which launches in May 2020. The show was picked up to series in June and was being developed by Spaihts, who also worked on the Dune movie script with Villeneuve. Dana Calvo (Good Girls Revolt) joined the series as co-showrunner in July, but there haven't been any major updates to report in the months since.
THR is now reporting that Spaihts has left Dune: The Sisterhood in order to focus his efforts on writing the Dune sequel instead. The second Dune movie hasn't been officially green-lit yet, but producer Brian Herbert (Frank Herbert's son and writer of several Dune books and short stories) previously confirmed the first film will only cover half of the original Dune novel. As such, Spaihts will be adapting the latter half for the next film.
Villeneuve was set to direct Dune shortly after Legendary picked up the IP's movie and TV rights in late 2016, and the plan has always been to produce brand-new content for a variety of mediums. According to THR, Legendary TV wasn't pleased with Spaihts' most recent script draft for The Sisterhood and decided to remove him as showrunner, allowing him to focus all his attention on the upcoming sequel instead. Spaihts has far more experience writing for the big screen than on television right now, with his previous credits including Prometheus, Doctor Strange, and Passengers. With that in mind, it comes as less of a surprise that Legendary decided to keep him working solely on the movie side of the Dune franchise for the time being.
The search is underway for Spaihts' replacement on The Sisterhood, but it's possible the show will be pushed to the back-burner while WB waits to see how Villeneuve's Dune movie performs at the box office. The film won't have to compete with any other major sci-fi tentpoles over the 2020 winter holidays, what with Star Wars going on break until 2022 and Avatar 2 not arriving until December 2021. However, neither Dune nor Villeneuve are guaranteed bets, commercially-speaking. After all, Blade Runner 2049 was a box office bomb that failed to fully cover its $150 million+ budget, and Dune's "politics in space" approach will make it a harder sell than the other franchise movies slated to open in December 2020 (like Uncharted). If nothing else, though, the spice will flow for at least one film.
- Dune (2020) release date: Dec 18, 2020