EXCLUSIVE: Paramount has turned loose the giant worm, and everything else that was part of the seminal Frank Herbert science fiction novel series Dune. The studio’s four-year attempt to make a movie out of the franchise has fallen by the wayside. Paramount and the rights holders came to a parting of the ways as the rights lapsed. “Paramount’s option has expired and we couldn’t reach an agreement,” said Richard P. Rubinstein, who controls the rights to what is considered the biggest-selling science fiction book ever. “I’m going to look at my options, and whether I wind up taking the script we developed in turnaround, or start over, I’m not sure yet.”
Dune tells the story of an interplanetary battle for control of the desert planet Arrakis and its supply of Melange, a spice that can be ingested. Those who take it live longer and have a prescient sense of awareness. The substance is necessary for space travel. The book was turned into a 1984 flop by David Lynch, but a miniseries that came later fared better.
Rubinstein said that Paramount’s exit came down to dollars, but the producer said he and the rights holders were OK with it. “Sure, it’s frustrating, how long this has taken, but most of what I’ve done that worked out well over the years, like the miniseries The Stand, took a long time,” Rubinstein said. “Since I know what I want, eventually, I’ll find someone who’ll agree with me. What I like is that talent has interesting things to say on how they would approach it.” Rubinstein had been producing with Kevin Misher, but everything’s up in the air at the moment. “Right now, Dune has no commitments or attachments,” he said. Rubinstein and his company New Amsterdam made the Dune miniseries, and he is the gatekeeper for the rights on behalf of the author’s estate and ABC. Even though Pete Berg dropped out to do Battleship, Dune for a time looked like it had a fighting chance. Rubinstein and Misher quite liked the job that Taken helmer Pierre Morel did in collaborating with Chase Palmer. They managed to get a script that cut the mammoth subject matter down to a compelling story that could be told at feature length. Rubinstein said that he would probably re-approach Morel and Palmer, but those conversations haven’t yet happened. All they now need is a financier ready to put up the $100 million or so in production budget needed to get the film under way. If they do use the Palmer script, Paramount stands to recoup some of its development costs.