Before House of Gucci, Ridley Scott spent some time with House Atreides.
At 84, Scott has had a busy year, releasing a pair of adult dramas, The Last Duel and House of Gucci, within months of each other. But long before a worldwide pandemic pushed those two movies into the same calendar year, Scott directed two of the most influential science fiction movies of all time: Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982).
But, as Scott reaffirmed in a recent interview with the Inside Total Film podcast, he came close to putting his stamp on another iconic sci-fi universe. Before David Lynch’s infamous bomb and Denis Villeneuve’s recent box office success, Ridley Scott spent seven months in pre-production on his own adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
On Inside Total Film, Scott rejected the idea that Herbert’s book was somehow unfilmable.
“It’s always been filmable. I had a writer called Rudy Wurlitzer… He’d written two films: Two-Lane Blacktop with James Taylor, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, which had Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson,” Scott said. “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.”
However, Scott said that he was put off by producer Dino De Laurentiis’ insistence that the movie be filmed in Mexico.
“We said, ‘We did a script, and the script is pretty f***ing 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. 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.’”
Scott has previously been quoted on this subject in Paul M. Sammon’s book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. There, Scott gave a similar story on the work that went into the script, but gave a more personal reason for his decision to ditch Dune.
“I’d worked on Dune for over half a year. Previous to that I’d brought a writer over to London whom I considered pretty good, Rudy Wurlitzer, to work with me. In a seven-month period he’d come up with a first draft script that I felt was a decent distillation of Frank Herbert’s book,” Scott said. “But I also realized Dune was going to take more work. A lot more work. And I just didn’t have the heart to attack that work.”
Scott said that the death of his older brother, Frank, in 1980 made him feel uneasy about committing the time it would take to get a big movie like Dune across the finish line.
“Frankly, that freaked me out. I felt I couldn’t sit around for another two and a half years on Dune, which is how long I thought it was going to take, preparing and waiting on this thing. I needed immediate activity, needed to get my mind off my brother’s death. So I went and told Dino I had to depart Dune and that the script was his.”
Whatever the reason for Scott’s departure, David Lynch took the reins, Scott made Blade Runner, and the rest is sci-fi history.