EXCLUSIVE: A ticking clock situation is playing out at Paramount Pictures over the sci-fi classic Dune, one that is emblematic of how studio infatuation for branded fare has brought with it the added burden of pleasing rights holders who not only get gross deals but also a big say in how movies are made and released.
Rumors raced recently that Paramount would end four years of development on the Frank Herbert novel by putting the project in turnaround. I’m told that’s not true, but the studio will be done with Dune by next spring if it hasn’t firmed a production start by then. The rights holders won’t grant another option extension. Armed with a new Dune draft by Chase Palmer, the studio and producers Kevin Misher and Richard P. Rubinstein are going out to directors today to create a new movie out of the 1965 book that is reputed to be the biggest selling science fiction novel ever. Despite the ticking clock, Paramount is proceeding as cautiously as it would on any project that will carry a price-tag well north of $100 million. Unless studio brass is absolutely confident by the time the buzzer goes off, Paramount will kiss the project goodbye. It will forfeit the six figures it has paid in option costs and risk development costs, though it could recoup some of the latter if another backer embraces the script Paramount paid Palmer to write. (more…)