EXCLUSIVE: Four decades after Dune scribe Frank Herbert published his acclaimed 1972 novel Soul Catcher, the book has been optioned for the big screen by producer Dimitri Villard. The Flight Of he Navigator and Once Bitten producer first pursued the Herbert tome during the 1980s but tabled his film career to run music company ArtistDirect until last year. Now he’s returning to the screen biz with Soul Catcher, about a militant Native American student who kidnaps the 13-year-old white son of a U.S. politician, intending to sacrifice the child for vengeance against wrongs committed against his people. As the captor and the captive flee from hunters across the Pacific Northwest, they form a bond that throws the planned act into question.
The late Herbert’s seminal Dune remains the best-selling science fiction of all time and was adapted into a 1984 feature film by David Lynch and a TV miniseries and sequel in the 2000s. It’s also the only property of his to get a feature film treatment, though he penned dozens more novels and short stories before his death in 1986. Soul Catcher is a rare mainstream Herbert novel but shares many of the author’s signature themes in its intersection of ecology, politics, and Native American religious beliefs.
“The book is an extraordinary example of Frank Herbert’s brilliant writing, and it is something I’ve always wanted to turn into a film,” said Villard. “I remember the rights being unavailable when I first pursued the Soul Catcher project in the ’80s, but as my producing career developed I never forgot the powerful effect the story had on me. Now, with full support from the Frank Herbert estate, we have the opportunity to make a culturally impactful film that combines elements of suspense, high drama, mysticism and Native American history that will resonate for years to come and appeal to the millions of Frank Herbert fans worldwide.”
Villard negotiated for a year with the Herbert estate and next is looking to attach a director whose vision can steer the character-driven piece. He’s also brought on Rene Haynes (Dances With Wolves, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, Squanto, Crazy Horse, Buffalo Soldiers), who specializes in Native American and First Nations castings and cast the Quileute/Wolfpack characters in Summit’s Twilight franchise. Greg Bernstein negotiated the deal on behalf of Villard with Jody Hotchkiss repping the Herbert estate.