Ridley Scott Says His Unmade ‘Dune’ Had ‘F*cking Good’ Script, but He Refused to Shoot in Mexico

Scott felt shooting "Dune" in Mexico City would be a hardship, so he backed out of directing the film.
Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

This year’s Oscar contenders include Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” and Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” and it turns out there’s a bit of crossover between these two properties as Scott was once attached to direct the 1980s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic science-fiction novel. Scott intended to direct “Dune” in between his two other science-fiction classics “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” the director recently confirmed to Total Film magazine.

“It’s always been filmable,” Scott said about Herbert’s novel, long considered impossible to bring to the screen in a successful manner. “I had a writer called Rudy Wurlitzer, of the Wurlitzer family…He’d written two films: ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ with James Taylor and ‘Billy the Kid,’ which had Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson…We did a very good take on ‘Dune’ because early days, I’d work very, very closely with the writer. I was always glomming the look of the film onto what he or she was writing.”

Scott’s “Dune” fell apart because of producer Dino De Laurentiis’ wish to film the movie in Mexico, which is not something the director would go for. As Scott remembered, “Dino had got me into it and we said, ‘We did a script, and the script is pretty fucking good.’ Then Dino said, ‘It’s expensive, we’re going to have to make it in Mexico.’ I said, ‘What!’ He said, ‘Mexico.’ I said, ‘Really?’ So he sent me to Mexico City. And with the greatest respect to Mexico City, in those days [it was] pretty pongy. I didn’t love it.”

Scott continued, “I went to the studio in Mexico City where the floors were earth floors in the studio. I said, ‘Nah, Dino, I don’t want to make this a hardship.’ And so I actually backed out and instead moved on to ‘Legend’ with Tim Curry and Tom Cruise.”

Dino De Laurentiis ended up recruiting David Lynch to direct his adaptation of “Dune,” and that infamously turned into a nightmare for the “Eraserhead” director. Lynch’s “Dune” was a box office and critical misfire, so much so the director lobbied to get his name taken off the movie since the studio slashed his budget during production and did not allow him final cut privilege. Villeneuve had far greater success with his “Dune” this year.

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