‘Dune’ Director Denis Villeneuve Says He Was ‘Destabilized’ by David Lynch’s 1984 Version: ‘Things Were Missing’

“There were some choices that were made that was very far away from my sensibility,” the filmmaker says of the divisive adaptation

Denis Villeneuve and David Lynch
"Dune" directors Denis Villeneuve and David Lynch (Credit: Getty Images)

Denis Villeneuve knew two things when he was 13: He wanted to be a filmmaker, and he wanted to adapt Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic “Dune.” So he was especially excited in 1984 when David Lynch’s adaptation starring Kyle MacLachlan hit theaters. But while he was “very mesmerized and impressed” by the “Mulholland Drive” auteur’s vision, he remembers feeling a little let down.

“I was destabilized by some of his choices,” the filmmaker said in a Thursday interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air,” later adding, “I didn’t feel that he captured some of the essence of specifically the Fremen culture — I felt that there were some things that were missing.”

The French-Canadian filmmaker’s second installment of his own “Dune” series, “Dune: Party Two,” hits theaters on Friday. Speaking with NPR’s Sam Briger, the filmmaker — previously best-known for features like “Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049” and “Sicario” — revealed that he was initially drawn to the book for its young hero, Paul Atreides.

“I think that the idea that a boy finds home in another culture that feels comfortable in a foreign country, that really moved me at that time,” he said. “And also, I was in love with biology when I was a student and it’s something that I was mesmerized about — Frank Herbert used ecology to express himself. It deeply moved me.”

Villeneuve got so serious about his passion for Herbert’s novel that he and a friend began writing stories and drawing storyboards for a hypothetical, far-off film adaptation.

“Our friendship was born from that dream of that one day we could be filmmakers. It’s the way we met,” he said. “We were inspired by the book, we started to do some drawings about the making of ‘Dune,’ but that was very old dreams.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Villeneuve was eager to see Lynch’s “Dune” when it debuted in 1984.

“I was very excited when I learned that the book would be brought to the screen. I remember watching the movie and being very mesmerized and impressed by how David Lynch approached it,” he said before adding: “I was destabilized by some of his choices.”

“Because that’s not how you would have done it, right?” Briger asked.

David Lynch Dune Universal Pictures
Kyle MacLachlan in David Lynch’s 1984 “Dune” (Credit: Universal Pictures)

“Yeah, David Lynch has a very strong identity as a filmmaker, of course, and it bled into the — it’s a fantastic interpretation of the book. But there were some choices that were made that was very far away from my sensibility. I remember watching the movie thinking to myself, ‘Someday, someone else will do it again in the future. It will happen.’ Because I didn’t feel that he captured some of the essence of, specifically, the Fremen culture — I felt that there was some things that were missing.”

“That’s the nature of adaptation, you know?” he concluded. “So I was expecting someone else to come back with the project at one point.”

As far as if he ever envisioned that he’d actually be the one to do it?

“I’m still pinching myself.”

Listen to Villeneuve’s full “Fresh Air” interview here.

Comments

2 responses to “‘Dune’ Director Denis Villeneuve Says He Was ‘Destabilized’ by David Lynch’s 1984 Version: ‘Things Were Missing’”

  1. William Edelman Avatar
    William Edelman

    Frank Ebert? Autocorrect is a pain in the butt, so human editing is vital to preventing idiotic mistakes, even typos, because some typos are egregious errors. This error — committed and then duplicated — is just disappointingly wrong, as it switches out a novelist’s name for a critic’s name. No one can successfully edit his/her own copy, so, for the love of Dune Messiah, HIRE SOMEBODY.

  2. Chris Wetzel Avatar
    Chris Wetzel

    Where have the editors gone?!?!? Of all things a writer should hold sacred, it is the name of another writer. On the eve of the release of a major motion picture based on an iconic science fiction novel, it would seem that the writer of this article would not misspell Frank *Herbert*’s name wrong twice in the same article.

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