25 oct 2021

Dune: Jodorowsky’s precious storyboard is up for auction

While Denis Villeneuve’s Dune – a blockbuster adapted from Frank Herbert’s cult science fiction novel –  is currently breaking box office records, the storyboard of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s first aborted adaptation is coming up for auction at Christies in Paris on November 22. This prestigious working document,  of which only ten copies remain, is the only vestige of the Franco-Chilean director’s failure, as cult as it is fascinating,  in the 70s.

Released in France last September and in the United States a few days ago, Denis Villeneuve’s film Dune is currently dominating the worldwide box office. For his latest film, the Canadian filmmaker was inspired by the cult science fiction novel of the same name written by American Frank Herbert in 1965. Within a vast empire spanning a multitude of planets, a despotic and jealous  emperor orchestrates a fratricidal war between rival houses, sending his enemies to a planet that is none other than a vast and dangerous desert exploited for the precious substance it contains, the spice. An undisputed classic of sci-fi, the fascinating book has already inspired great filmmakers of the twentieth century, but not always with the same success. Because if Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation is currently enjoying all the votes, it was not the same for Alejandro Jodorowsky in the 70s. The only vestige of his aborted project, the storyboard of his film adaptation of the novel, the first in its history, arrives at auction at Christie’s in Paris on November 22. 


Financed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the previous film by the Franco-Chilean artist and director The Sacred Mountainwas already a fantastic feat . Shot in Mexico, the film plunges into a futuristic universe rich in fantastic landscapes and populated by sorcerers from other galaxies, particularly imbued with its author’s taste for esotericism and mysticism. On the strength of this success, Alejandro Jodorowsky decided in 1973 to adapt Frank Herbert’s famous novel, released eight years earlier, for the first time . Pharaonic, Dune already promises to mark the pinnacle of its career, with Orson Welles, Salvador Dalí, Mick Jagger and Alain Delon announced in the cast, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and Magma on the music and the French comic book author Moebius (Jean Giraud) on the costumes.

Accompanied by French producer Michel Seydoux, Alejandro Jodorowsky went to the United States in search of financing, as the monumental project required a colossal budget. In their suitcases, the two men took their precious storyboard with them in order to seduce the biggest American studios. Despite the originality of the project, American producers are cautious about the sums they will have to advance for its realization. So, due to a lack of funding, the grandiose project was unfortunately abandoned in 1977, after five years of work during which no sequence had time to be shot. Following this project, Dune discouraged many filmmakers. It was not until ten years later, in 1984,  that American David Lynch offered his adaptation of the novel, receiving a poor critical reception coupled with a bitter commercial failure. However, as the novel reached new generations of readers, the film became a cult film over the decades, reawakening the fascination for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s attempt at the same time.


In 2013, the American Frank Pavich directed a documentary on the unfinished adaptation of the Franco-Chilean and was a great success with fans of this failed epic. Today the storyboard of the project is being auctioned by Christie’s in Paris on November 22 as part of a sale of rare books and manuscripts. The only vestige of this aborted project,  the precious object exists today in only ten copies: like a comic book, the working document includes hundreds of drawings by Moebius of each shot and an almost complete cut of the film directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Vincent Belloy, specialist in charge of sales, comments : “The sale of one of these surviving examples is a major event and an extraordinary opportunity for collectors and enthusiasts to acquire a legendary document in the history of cinema.” The lot is currently estimated at between 25,000 and 35,000 euros.



The sale of Dune’s storyboard will take place on November 22 at Christie’s,  Paris. 

Storyboard of Dune.
Preparatory drawings.