Early stalled attempts
In 1971, the production company Apjac International (APJ) (headed by Arthur P. Jacobs) optioned the rights to film Dune. As Jacobs was busy with other projects, such as the sequel to Planet of the Apes, Dune was delayed for another year. Jacobs' first choice for director was David Lean, but he turned down the offer. Charles Jarrott was also considered to direct. Work was also under way on a script while the hunt for a director continued. Initially, the first treatment had been handled by Robert Greenhut, the producer who had lobbied Jacobs to make the movie in the first place, but subsequently Rospo Pallenberg was approached to write the script, with shooting scheduled to begin in 1974. However, Jacobs died in 1973.
In December 1974, a French consortium led by Jean-Paul Gibon purchased the film rights from APJ, with Alejandro Jodorowsky set to direct. In 1975, Jodorowsky planned to film the story as a ten-hour feature, in collaboration with Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, David Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Alain Delon, Hervé Villechaize, and Mick Jagger. It was at first proposed to score the film with original music by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Henry Cow and Magma; later on, the soundtrack was to be provided by Pink Floyd. Jodorowsky set up a pre-production unit in Paris consisting of Chris Foss, a British artist who designed covers for science fiction periodicals, Jean Giraud (Moebius), a French illustrator who created and also wrote and drew for Metal Hurlant magazine, and H. R. Giger. Moebius began designing creatures and characters for the film, while Foss was brought in to design the film's space ships and hardware. Giger began designing the Harkonnen Castle based on Moebius' storyboards. Jodorowsky's son Brontis Jodorowsky was to play Paul Atreides. Dan O'Bannon was to head the special effects department.
Dalí was cast as the Emperor. Dalí later demanded to be paid $100,000 per hour; Jodorowsky agreed, but tailored Dalí's part to be filmed in one hour, drafting plans for other scenes of the emperor to use a mechanical mannequin as substitute for Dalí. According to Giger, Dalí was "later invited to leave the film because of his pro-Franco statements". Just as the storyboards, designs, and script were finished, the financial backing dried up. Frank Herbert traveled to Europe in 1976 to find that $2 million of the $9.5 million budget had already been spent in pre-production, and that Jodorowsky's script would result in a 14-hour movie ("It was the size of a phone book", Herbert later recalled). Jodorowsky took creative liberties with the source material, but Herbert said that he and Jodorowsky had an amicable relationship. Jodorowsky said in 1985 that he found the Dune story mythical and had intended to recreate it rather than adapt the novel; though he had an "enthusiastic admiration" for Herbert, Jodorowsky said he had done everything possible to distance the author and his input from the project. Although Jodorowsky was embittered by the experience, he stated that the Dune project changed his life. O'Bannon entered a psychiatric hospital after the production failed, and worked on thirteen scripts; the last of which became Alien. A 2013 documentary, Jodorowsky's Dune, was made about Jodorowsky's failed attempt at an adaptation.
In 1976 Dino De Laurentiis acquired the rights from Gibon's consortium. De Laurentiis commissioned Herbert to write a new screenplay in 1978; the script Herbert turned in was 175 pages long, the equivalent of nearly three hours of screen time. De Laurentiis then hired director Ridley Scott in 1979, with Rudy Wurlitzer writing the screenplay and H. R. Giger retained from the Jodorowsky production. Scott intended to split the book into two movies. He worked on three drafts of the script, using The Battle of Algiers as a point of reference, before moving on to direct another science fiction film, Blade Runner (1982). As he recalls, the pre-production process was slow, and finishing the project would have been even more time-intensive:
But after seven months I dropped out of Dune, by then Rudy Wurlitzer had come up with a first-draft script which I felt was a decent distillation of Frank Herbert's. But I also realised Dune was going to take a lot more work—at least two and a half years' worth. And I didn't have the heart to attack that because my older brother Frank unexpectedly died of cancer while I was prepping the De Laurentiis picture. Frankly, that freaked me out. So I went to Dino and told him the Dune script was his.
- —From Ridley Scott: The Making of his Movies by Paul M. Sammon
1984 film by David Lynch
In 1981, the nine-year film rights were set to expire. De Laurentiis re-negotiated the rights from the author, adding to them the rights to the Dune sequels (written and unwritten). After seeing The Elephant Man, producer Raffaella De Laurentiis decided that David Lynch should direct the movie. Around that time Lynch received several other directing offers, including Return of the Jedi. He agreed to direct Dune and write the screenplay even though he had not read the book, known the story, or even been interested in science fiction. Lynch worked on the script for six months with Eric Bergen and Christopher De Vore. The team yielded two drafts of the script before it split over creative differences. Lynch would subsequently work on five more drafts.
This first film of Dune, directed by Lynch, was released in 1984, nearly 20 years after the book's publication. Though Herbert said the book's depth and symbolism seemed to intimidate many filmmakers, he was pleased with the film, saying that "They've got it. It begins as Dune does. And I hear my dialogue all the way through. There are some interpretations and liberties, but you're gonna come out knowing you've seen Dune." Reviews of the film were not as favorable, saying that it was incomprehensible to those unfamiliar with the book, and that fans would be disappointed by the way it strayed from the book's plot.
2000 miniseries by John Harrison
In 2000, John Harrison adapted the novel into Frank Herbert's Dune, a miniseries which premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel. As of 2004, the miniseries was one of the three highest-rated programs broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel.
2008 film attempt
In 2008, Paramount Pictures announced that they would produce a new film based on the book, with Peter Berg attached to direct. Producer Kevin Misher, who spent a year securing the rights from the Herbert estate, was to be joined by Richard Rubinstein and John Harrison (of both Sci Fi Channel miniseries) as well as Sarah Aubrey and Mike Messina. The producers stated that they were going for a "faithful adaptation" of the novel, and considered "its theme of finite ecological resources particularly timely." Science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and Frank Herbert's son Brian Herbert, who had together written multiple Dune sequels and prequels since 1999, were attached to the project as technical advisors. In October 2009, Berg dropped out of the project, later saying that it "for a variety of reasons wasn't the right thing" for him. Subsequently, with a script draft by Joshua Zetumer, Paramount reportedly sought a new director who could do the film for under $175 million. In 2010, Pierre Morel was signed on to direct, with screenwriter Chase Palmer incorporating Morel's vision of the project into Zetumer's original draft. By November 2010, Morel left the project. Paramount finally dropped plans for a remake in March 2011.
In 1993, Recorded Books Inc. released a 20-disc audio book narrated by George Guidall. In 2007, Audio Renaissance released an audio book narrated by Simon Vance with some parts acted out by Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton and other performers.