What 'Dune' Author Frank Herbert Said About the 1984 David Lynch Adaptation (Flashback)

what 'dune' author frank herbert said about the 1984 david lynch adaptation (flashback)
© Universal Pictures

Dune, the new star-studded epic from Denis Villeneuve, is getting positive reviews and praise for its visual interpretation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic. Before the author died from cancer in 1986 at age 65, Herbert revealed that he was very pro-adaptations, including David Lynch’s translation starring Kyle MacLachlan as the book’s hero, Paul Atreides.

Upon the debut of Dune’s first cinematic adaptation in 1984, Herbert opened up to ET about his reaction to Lynch’s final product, MacLachlan’s casting, Star Wars comparisons and how the book was initially received. 

what 'dune' author frank herbert said about the 1984 david lynch adaptation (flashback)
© Getty Images / Joe Bergren Getty Images / Joe Bergren

“I didn’t hold back anything [in Dune]. It all hangs out and maybe people liked what they read. The critics didn’t like it,” Herbert told ET in 1984 leading up to the movie’s premiere. “The critics panned it when it first came out and it was rejected 22 times.”

In the years following Dune’s publication in 1965, the space opera found plenty of acclaim and literary awards to make up for its rocky debut. Plus, the novel (and later its many book sequels) amassed a devoted fan base across the globe. After Hollywood came calling for the best-seller to get a big-screen treatment, Herbert agreed and was pleased with the results. 

what 'dune' author frank herbert said about the 1984 david lynch adaptation (flashback)
© Universal Pictures Universal Pictures

“The story is there. They saved the story. It’s all there. That’s what the author worries about,” Herbert said. “It’s a different language on that screen and if they’re adroit, and sensitive about picking their visual metaphors, the story comes off the screen.”

In fact, Herbert revealed there was just a single excerpt from the book that he wanted to be featured, but didn’t make the final draft. “They only left out one scene that I wish they had included. The banquet scene. I know why they did it. There are time restrictions and other story constrictions,” he said. 

‘Dune’ Trailer No. 2

This video is unavailable because we were unable to load a message from our sponsors.

If you are using ad-blocking software, please disable it and reload the page.

‘Dune’ Trailer No. 2

Set over 8,000 years in the future, Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides (MacLachlan and now Timothée Chalamet), who lives in an intergalactic feudal society, where humans have spread out and colonized various planets in the universe. On one such planet, Arrakis, the Atreides family accepts the dangerous undertaking of being stewards over the mining of the universe’s only source of melange, a life-extending “spice,” coveted by everyone around them. In the deserts of Arrakis, Paul encounters the native Fremen people and evolves into a messiah-like figure who appears destined to lead their battle against an oppressive dynasty. 

Lest there be any confusion, Herbert was upfront about the presence of a social message subtext in the story. “There’s a metaphor here I want people to get,” he said.

what 'dune' author frank herbert said about the 1984 david lynch adaptation (flashback)
© Universal Pictures Universal Pictures

For longtime fans who had been carrying around dog-eared copies of the book leading up to the adaptation, Herbert predicted there would be some initial hesitations among his audience.

“Some of them will have my reactions, I think,” Herbert said. “Some of the sets are not what they visualized. Some are. And some are better. What would you expect from [Anthony] Masters (Dune’s production designer) and David Lynch? They’re both artists. Why wouldn’t they improve on the visual sense of the film? And they have free license to do this. This is what film is all about.”

what 'dune' author frank herbert said about the 1984 david lynch adaptation (flashback)
© Getty Images / Nancy Moran Getty Images / Nancy Moran

During the nearly two-decades since Dune had been published, Herbert became a celebrity. On top of the book selling millions of copies, a passionate fan base idolized the author and his works. And Herbert wasn’t having it.

“There are people who want me to be a cult figure and insist that I must be a cult figure,” Herbert explained. “My reaction to that is to say, ‘Go read the book again.’ In fact, go read all of them, because I was talking against cult figures.”

Before their careers would become forever linked via TV phenomenon Twin Peaks and cinema classic Blue Velvet, Lynch chose then-unknown MacLachlan to be his movie’s Paul. Herbert wasn’t dismayed by the casting of an untested actor. In fact, far from it. 

“That was exactly what I told them to do,” he recalled. “I said get somebody who’s never been on the screen before and put him in this part, so he doesn’t bring any detritus from other parts into the scenes.”

what 'dune' author frank herbert said about the 1984 david lynch adaptation (flashback)
© Universal Pictures Universal Pictures

He had another reason to favor MacLachlan for the part. As Herbert discovered upon their first meeting, not only was the movie’s leading man a longtime fan of Dune, but the book series had also gotten MacLachlan through some challenging periods of his teenage years.

“Paul was someone I could retreat to in that difficult stage,” MacLachlan told ET leading up to the film’s premiere in 1984. “He was a loner and I identified very strongly with that characteristic in him.”

Plus, all three principle creatives — Herbert, Lynch and MacLachlan — identified as Washingtonians. “There’s kind of a natural bond being from the same state, but Kyle’s an easy guy to like and he is extremely personable in a natural way,” Herbert said.

In this interview, Herbert also reacted to interstellar tales similar to Dune being perceived as more accessible to audiences within pop culture at the time — with cineplexes still in the midst of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s science fiction explosion that began in the late ‘70s. The once niche genre was now mainstream thanks to the pair’s blockbusters like Star Wars and E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial. 

what 'dune' author frank herbert said about the 1984 david lynch adaptation (flashback)
© Lucasfilm via Getty Images Lucasfilm via Getty Images

But Herbert wasn’t concerned about Lynch’s work being placed into this new category of film. “No way that’s going to happen. I’ve seen [Lynch’s adaptation]. Star Wars was [comic books] for the screen,” Herbert said. “Very shallow in the story and character development sense. [The movie] should have had balloons in there with ‘Pow!’ and ‘Bang!’” he added with a laugh.

If he sounded bitter, there’s a reason. As Herbert saw it, along with many other notable authors and critics at the time, Dune had an enormous influence on the original Star Wars trilogy. Enough so that Herbert said that while he was developing the screenplay with Lynch, overlaps between the two properties caused “problems” on account of how much of the novel, according to Herbert, Lucas had already put on the big screen.

“It ‘borrowed,’ I think is the kindly word, from me [and] from a lot of other science fiction writers,” he claimed.

When reflecting on Dune’s immense fandom and cultural impact nearly 20 years after it was published, Herbert figured he wouldn’t be around for his work’s true endurance test.

“The best critic is time. ‘Does it endure?’ I’m not gonna be around to know if my grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to be reading this in college or that sort of thing,” Herbert said. “But it seems to me that that is a distinct possibility now.”

what 'dune' author frank herbert said about the 1984 david lynch adaptation (flashback)
© Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Chiabella James Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. / Chiabella James

Over 35 years after this interview, there’s a $165 million budgeted film that’s on track to secure Dune’s enduring legacy for a little while longer. While Lynch’s adaptation was a financial dud in 1984, Villeneuve’s movie already grossed over $120 million at the international box-office heading into its domestic release. And without any official announcement of a sequel from Warner Bros. (for now), the director explained to Variety last year that his Dune only covers the first half of the source material. “I would not agree to make this adaptation of the book with one single movie,” Villeneuve said. “The world is too complex. It’s a world that takes its power in details.”

In addition to Villeneuve being a longtime devotee of the original work, the author’s presence was felt behind the scenes in other ways, too. The filmmaker favored shooting on location in the deserts of Jordan and building elaborate sets as opposed to strictly using greenscreens. While promoting the movie this year, Dune star Josh Brolin told ET that the authentic terrain seemed like “what Frank Herbert intended.”

Dune (1984) streams on HBO Max. Dune is now in theaters and streams on HBO Max.

RELATED CONTENT

   

News Related

OTHER NEWS

John Travolta 'is so proud of his daughter's maturity' after Kelly Preston's death

John Travolta is “so proud” of his daughter’s “kindness and strength”. © Bang Showbiz John Travolta The ‘Grease’ star lost his wife Kelly Preston in July 2020 when she lost ... Read more »

Watch Zendaya's Reaction When Timothée Chalamet Calls Tom Holland Her 'Celebrity Crush'

© ‘Buzzfeed’ Busted! Though Zendaya and Tom Holland have kept their reported real-life romance primarily private, the 25-year-old Dune star did get a bit of playful teasing from her co-star, ... Read more »

Celebrities react to Alec Baldwin's 'horrifying' prop gun accident

1/27 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Mail Celebrities and industry figures took to social media after learning of the tragic accident that occurred on the set of Alec Baldwin’s forthcoming film ... Read more »

These video games are worth a fortune today

1/40 SLIDES © Courtesy Heritage Auctions The most sought-after and valuable vintage and recent titles You won’t believe the prices collectors are willing to pay for your old and not so ... Read more »

Inside Saddest Factory Records: How Phoebe Bridgers Is Quietly Building an Indie Empire

Phoebe Bridgers Charlie Hickey Claud Scruffpuppie Billboard’s third annual package spotlighting the independent music business opens with an inside look at the Phoebe Bridgers’ run label Saddest Factory Records. Just ... Read more »

Kierra & Karen Clark-Sheard Team Up Atop Gospel Airplay Chart

Kierra Sheard It’s a family affair atop Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart, as Kierra’s “Something Has to Break,” featuring her mother, Karen Clark-Sheard, rises to No. 1 on the list dated ... Read more »

Best albums by The Rolling Stones

1/29 SLIDES © Scott Gries // Getty Images Best albums by The Rolling Stones The transcendent sound of The Rolling Stones has redefined multiple genres of music. The band grew out ... Read more »

Churches to castles: historic places to stay in Britain

1/45 SLIDES © Cowdray Estate/Facebook Historic hideaways Britain has a long and illustrious history that has resulted in a wonderfully eclectic mix of architectural styles. From royal palaces and Gothic cathedrals ... Read more »

Delicious money-saving meals from canned foods

1/31 SLIDES © AnastasiaKopa/Shutterstock It’s in the can Having the essential canned foods in your store cupboard helps you save money and time but doesn’t mean you have to compromise on ... Read more »

Publishing Briefs: WCM Signs Jhené Aiko & Elvie Shane; Emeli Sandé Finds Reservoir

Jhené Aiko Warner Chappell Music has signed a co-publishing deal with Grammy-nominated artist Jhené Aiko. The deal includes all songs created by Aiko from January 2021 until the deal’s end, ... Read more »

K-Pop stars BTS dump Sony for Universal Music

K-Pop superstars BTS have ditched Sony Music’s Columbia Records as their distributor and marketing partner in favour of Universal Music. The move was confirmed by BTS’s management company Hybe after initial reports by ... Read more »

Brandon Lee's family offer support following Halyna Hutchins's death on film set

The family of late actor Brandon Lee have spoken out following cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’s tragic death in an onset firearm accident. © Provided by Cover Media Brandon Lee The incident ... Read more »

From USSR to Hollywood: how Halyna Hutchins succeeded as a top cinematographer

Halyna Hutchins was a talented and passionate cinematographer who was clearly enjoying her job as director of photography on Alec Baldwin’s latest cowboy movie. Over the past three weeks, she ... Read more »

You didn’t know these customs were offensive in some countries

1/56 SLIDES © Shutterstock You didn’t know these customs were offensive in some countries In a growing global culture of travel and tourism, it’s important to remember that our seemingly normal ... Read more »

'Dune' star Timothee Chalamet's wildest and most playful fashion moments

1/19 SLIDES © Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock Timothee Chalamet pushes the envelope in the best way possible when it comes to men’s fashion. To celebrate the debut of his newest movie, “Dune,” on ... Read more »

Breaking down different kinds of skiing

1/11 SLIDES © Lukas Gojda // Shutterstock Breaking down different kinds of skiing Traversing or gliding across snow has been a common sport for millennia. Fragments of skis—primitive but unmistakably similar ... Read more »

How U.K. Touring Is Struggling to Keep On Truckin’

LONDON — In April 2022, when Ed Sheeran begins his + – = ÷ x shows — which he’s calling the Mathematics Tour — dozens of trucks from the U.K. ... Read more »

System of a Down Postpone L.A. Stadium Dates After Singer Serj Tankian Tests Positive For COVID-19

Serj Tankian of System of a Down System of a Down were forced to postpone their two planned hometown shows this weekend at Banc of California Stadium after singer Serj ... Read more »

How Angelina Jolie Keeps From Being a 'Dramatic' Mom to 6 Kids

1/35 SLIDES © Sara De Boer/startraksphoto.com Mother of six! Angelina Jolie has more than a handful of children in her brood, so it’s no surprise that the actress loves gushing about ... Read more »

Will Iran’s Censorship, Looming Internet Shutdown Dash Mehdi Rajabian’s Grammy Chances?

Mehdi Rajabian Iranian composer and musician Mehdi Rajabian would like nothing more than to be nominated for a Grammy. But the Iranian government’s plans to shut down communications to the outside ... Read more »

It's 'Lit'! Kim Kardashian's Kids Throw Her a 41st Birthday Party

Best birthday! Kim Kardashian’s kids helped her celebrate her 41st year on Thursday, October 21. © Anthony Harvey/Shutterstock Kim Kardashian Kim Kardashian’s Greatest Quotes About Motherhood Read article “The party ... Read more »

Adele calls divorce her 'biggest ever risk'

Adele says her divorce from Simon Konecki was her “biggest risk”. © Bang Showbiz Adele The ‘Easy on Me’ hitmaker – who announced their breakup in April 2019 after a ... Read more »

Carrie Underwood can't stand her husband's collection of 'dead things on the walls'

Carrie Underwood gets frustrated with her husband’s belongings cluttering up their home. © Bang Showbiz Mike Fisher and Carrie Underwood The ‘Love Wins’ singer has revealed what really grinds her ... Read more »

Shanna Shuts Down Troll Who Says Her Kids Will Be Kardashian 'Royalty'

Don’t knock her crown. Shanna Moakler fired back at an Instagram troll who claimed her kids will become part of reality TV “royalty” following Travis Barker‘s engagement to Kourtney Kardashian. ... Read more »

Penn Badgley Names the 'Worst' Thing Dan Humphrey Did on 'Gossip Girl'

© Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic Unlike his fictional counterpart, Penn Badgley has plenty of Gossip Girl secrets he’s willing to tell! The 34-year-old actor, who famously played Dan Humphrey on the hit teen ... Read more »

Selma Blair Reflects on Having Her Son Arthur Shave Her Head Ahead of Stem Cell Transplant (Exclusive)

© ET Selma Blair is sharing her journey with multiple sclerosis (MS) in her new documentary, Introducing, Selma Blair. The neurological disease is something the 49-year-old actress has been battling ... Read more »

Dove Cameron on Keeping Her Love Life Private and What She's Learned On Tour (Exclusive)

© etonline Dove Cameron has had a change of heart about openly discussing her love life. ET spoke to the 25-year-old “LazyBaby” singer, and she revealed why she’s decided to ... Read more »

We Tasted 5 Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets and These Are the Best

1/6 SLIDES © Shutterstock We Tasted 5 Fast-Food Chicken Nuggets and These Are the Best There’s something so satisfying about dunking a fresh, hot chicken nugget into the dipping sauce of ... Read more »

Highest-rated dessert shops in Albany, according to Tripadvisor

1/10 SLIDES © Canva Highest-rated dessert shops in Albany, according to Tripadvisor Research—and plenty of anecdotal evidence—shows that people tend to eat more calories and crave more sweet foods in the ... Read more »

The most shocking lies ever told by celebrities

1/30 SLIDES © Getty Images The most shocking lies ever told by celebrities We all tell lies—it’s just part of being human. And, of course, celebrities are no exception. Some of ... Read more »

Highest-rated dessert shops in Newark, according to Tripadvisor

1/12 SLIDES © Canva Highest-rated dessert shops in Newark, according to Tripadvisor Research—and plenty of anecdotal evidence—shows that people tend to eat more calories and crave more sweet foods in the ... Read more »

Celebrity Weddings of 2021: See Which Stars Tied the Knot

1/63 SLIDES © Courtesy Sarah Levy/Instagram Even a pandemic can’t stop wedding bells from ringing. As the world slowly began to open back up in 2021 following the COVID-19 crisis, stars ... Read more »

Hilarious snaps reveal bizarre ways people overcome everyday issues

1/12 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Mail It can be more sustainable and cost effective to solve a problem in your house using creativity instead of going to the shops, but ... Read more »

Gene Simmons puts his Las Vegas mansion on the market for $14.95m

1/17 SLIDES © Evangelina Duke-Petroni | The Ivan Sher Group Quick turnaround: Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, 72, is selling his home near Las Vegas for $14.95 million, People reported on Thursday. ... Read more »

11 Secrets Texas Roadhouse Doesn't Want You to Know

1/12 SLIDES © Provided by Eat This, Not That! 11 Secrets Texas Roadhouse Doesn’t Want You to Know When you really want a nice juicy steak and all the sides, but ... Read more »

ABBA release third track Just A Notion from upcoming comeback album

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo ABBA have released Just A Notion – the third track from their upcoming November 5 comeback album, Voyage. The iconic Swedish pop group – ... Read more »

Hunter Hayes Resurrects a Song Six Years in the Making — Courtesy of 'Tell Me'

Hunter Hayes has always been one to follow his instincts. He’s never questioned his gut and he’s never been scared to turn left when the world is telling him to ... Read more »

London's gateway to the world: Images show life at UK's biggest port

1/12 SLIDES © Provided by Daily Mail London’s gateway to the world for 200 years: Rarely-seen images capture life at UK’s biggest port since 19th century, when ‘knocker-uppers’ fired peas at ... Read more »

13 Cozy Chicken Pot Pie Recipes That Are Actually Healthy

1/15 SLIDES © Provided by Eat This, Not That! 13 Cozy Chicken Pot Pie Recipes That Are Actually Healthy On a stressful or nerve-wracking day, nothing is better than coming home ... Read more »

These stars appeared on game shows before they were famous

1/30 SLIDES © Getty Images These stars appeared on game shows before they were famous Many people would leap at the chance to get their 15 minutes of fame on a ... Read more »