Dune Writer Pitched An Opening That Would Have Used The Entire Budget

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Dune co-writer Eric Roth initially had an epic opening scene planned for Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of sci-fi classic Dune, one that he admitted was a little “out there.” It never eventuated on the screen, Roth explains in a new interview with IndieWire, with Villeneuve explaining that the one scene would have used up the film’s entire budget.

In the interview, Roth talked on being an unusual pick for a sci-fi epic like Dune. While the screenwriter has had great success with adapting books for the screen–with his past work including the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump and Oscar-nominated films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Insider, A Star is Born, and Munich–he hasn’t worked much in the realm of science fiction.

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Roth explained that this was potentially a benefit when working on Dune, with the writer able to bring an outsider’s perspective to a work that has more than its fair share of die-hard fans.

“I said, ‘What the hell, I’ll try it. What have I got to lose?'” Roth explained in the interview. “I like Denis. He’s done some really good movies, very smart, a visualist. I said, ‘I’ll give it a whirl, but I might be a bit out there for you people.'”

An example of one of his more “out there” ideas is the original opening Roth had written for the film. “Because I’m adventurous, I started the movie with what would seem to be Genesis–‘and God created’–and you think you’re seeing the formation of the Earth,” Roth explained. “And it’s Dune, with wild animals, things you’ve never seen.”

“Denis said, ‘This is magnificent, but now we can’t afford the rest of the movie,'” Roth continued. “I don’t know if that was his way of saying, ‘I don’t want to do it!'”

Whether the scene would have actually blown Dune’s hefty $165 million budget or whether that was just Villeneuve’s way of rejecting the concept, it’s clear Roth would have liked to have seen his version of Genesis play out on the big screen, referring to it in the interview as a risk that “maybe should have paid off and didn’t.”

A second Dune film has been announced for October 2023, with Roth also having written for the sequel, which will cover roughly the second half of the novel.

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