Dune Co-Screenwriter Shares the “Adventurous” Opening That Villeneuve Axed

Screenwriter Eric Roth is a veteran of the industry when it comes to adaptations. Before he worked with director Denis Villeneuve to tackle Frank Herbert’s Dune, he got Oscar nominations for his work on Forrest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Insider, A Star Is Born, and Munich.

Not everything Roth wrote made it into the final version, of course, and in a recent interview with IndieWire, he shares the “adventurous” opening he initially had for the movie.

“On [Dune] I had done some rewriting on Arrival for Denis,” Roth told IndieWire. “That’s when I met him over the phone. He was starting to shoot Blade Runner 2049; he was in Budapest. I did some work to bolster some things. Then he asked, ‘Would you be interested in doing Dune?’” And I said, ‘I don’t know. I’m not sure this is my bailiwick.’”

Roth admitted that he was never a “fanboy” of Dune but thought he could bring a fresh perspective to the material. “I like Denis,” he said. “He’s done some really good movies, very smart, a visualist. I said, ‘I’ll give it a whirl, but I might be a bit out there for you people.’ I took some risks: some paid off, some maybe should have paid off and didn’t.”

When asked which ones didn’t pan out, Roth shared his original opening for the movie: “Because I’m adventurous, I started the movie with what would seem to be Genesis—‘and God created’—and you think you’re seeing the formation of the Earth. And it’s Dune, with wild animals, things you’ve never seen. Denis said, ‘This is magnificent, but now we can’t afford the rest of the movie.’ I don’t know if that was his way of saying, ‘I don’t want to do it!’”

We’ll likely never know whether Villeneuve liked the idea or was simply being polite (I personally would assume the latter, but this is pure conjecture). Roth goes on to describe the co-writing process on Dune with Villeneuve and fellow writer, Jon Spaihts. “It had an oddball symmetry to it,” he said. “It was seamless, a weird way for three different people, who I’ve never seen, to work in a collaboration. Everybody’s strength came to the forefront. And Denis, with his wonderful style and vision, brought it all together into the movie he wanted to make.”

Roth is back at work now writing a Cher biopic as well as a Netflix romance staring Chris Hemsworth as a “rock ‘n’ roll guy, very sweet.” While we wait for Dune: Part 2 you can watch Villenueve’s first Dune movie through VOD.


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