Dune Reboot Names Writer and Director

Variety reports that the new reboot of Frank Herbert‘s Dune has landed Forrest Gump screenwriter Eric Roth to go along with Arrival director Denis Villeneuve announced in February. While Villeneuve is an reasonable choice, Roth, who has never written a sci-fi script, seems out of left field.

Screenwriter Eric Roth

Roth, the man who made Forrest run

The over-the-top original, released in 1984 and directed by David Lynch, was a box office flop, recovering only approximately $30 million of its $40 million budget. It has since gone on to become a cult classic, although not without controversy. An extended version was released on TV, adding in rough cuts, stills, and other raw footage. Lynch was so opposed to the release he refused to allow his name to be associated with the cut, opting for an Alan Smithee directing credit and Judas Booth for his screenwriting credit. Despite the abysmal box office showing and the writer/director’s reluctant participation in the film’s syndication, there was also a three-part miniseries released in 2000.

The story focuses on the battle for control of the spice-producing planet Arrakis. The Harkonnens have been ousted and the Atreides have taken over. The planet has a strange pull on Paul Atreides (played by Kyle MacLachlan in his first role), the Duke’s son, who appears to be the Messiah that the planet’s inhabitants, the Fremen, have been waiting for. After the Harkonnens seize control back in a bloody coup, Paul escapes to live with the Fremen, training them in the art of the Bene Gesserit fighting technique called the weirding way. With an army of Fremen behind him and incorporating the planet’s spice worms, Paul wrests control back from the Harkonnens to let the Fremen finally have a say in the governance of their planet and the spice it produces.

Director Villeneuve on set of Arrival

Producer Legendary, currently riding high on the Kong: Skull Island wave and the potential that holds for future films, made a deal with the Frank Herbert estate that could include both film and TV projects. The original novel, published in 1965 and winning both a Hugo and a Nebula award, was followed by five novels written by Herbert, and two by his son Brian Herbert, who then developed a few spin-offs from the original on his own. The potential for sequels and prequels from this deal could be monumental, if (and that’s a big if) this reboot lives up to the standard Villeneuve set with Arrival. Roth’s other scripts tended toward emotionally-charged dramas, so this could be the weak link in the production.

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