David Lynch “died a death” over Dune

David Lynch learned an important lesson about retaining creative control from his experience on Dune

David Lynch “died a death” over Dune
Kyle MacLachlan in Dune (1984) Screenshot: Rotten Tomatoes Trailers/YouTube

David Lynch’s feelings about his 1984 Dune adaptation are no secret. For how much regret he has about it, it’s actually pretty remarkable he’s still willing to talk about the movie, which starred his future Twin Peaks leading man Kyle MacLachlan. At least this time around, there’s a silver lining, that the failure of Dune was a learning opportunity. The truth is this was a lesson he “knew even before” Dune, but sometimes you’ve gotta have those lessons reinforced, it seems.

Here’s the story: “I knew already one should have final cut before signing on to do a film. But for some reason, I thought everything would be OK, and I didn’t put final cut in my contract. And as it turned out, Dune wasn’t the film I wanted to make, because I didn’t have a final say,” Lynch explained to NPR’s Wild Card. “So that’s a lesson I knew even before, but now there’s no way. Why would anyone work for three years on something that wasn’t yours? Why? Why do that? Why? I died a death. And it was all my fault for not knowing to put that in the contract.”

Dune (1984) has now been culturally overshadowed by Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation, but Lynch hasn’t totally moved on. Speaking with The A.V. Club in 2022 (you’ll note, after Dune part one had already come out), Lynch admitted he might be interested in recutting Dune. “[People] have said, ‘Don’t you want to go back and fiddle with Dune?’ And I was so depressed and sickened by it, you know? I want to say, I loved everybody that I worked with; they were so fantastic. I loved all the actors; I loved the crew; I loved working in Mexico; I loved everything except that I didn’t have final cut. And I even loved Dino [De Laurentiis], who wouldn’t give me what I wanted [laughs]. And Raffaella, the producer, who was his daughter—I loved her,” he said. “But the thing was a horrible sadness and failure to me, and if I could go back in I’ve thought, well, maybe I would on that one go back in.”

Lynch knows “it’s not going to happen,” and it doesn’t sound like he even thinks it would be any good, but it does apparently represent some unfinished business for him. “I always say, and it’s true, that with Dune, I sold out before I finished. It’s not like there’s a bunch of gold in the vaults waiting to be cut and put back together. It’s like, early on I knew what Dino wanted and what I could get away with and what I couldn’t. And so I started selling out, and it’s a sad, sad, pathetic, ridiculous story,” he explained to The A.V. Club. “But I would like to see what is there. I can’t remember, that’s the weird thing [laughs]. I can’t remember. And so it might be interesting—there could be something there. But I don’t think it’s a silk purse. I know it’s a sow’s ear.”

 
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