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Director Frank Pavich takes us behind the magic of 'Jodorowsky's Dune'

I'm always kind of fascinated when I get to talk to filmmakers, and when the discussion is about what just might be the greatest movie never made, it gets that much more interesting because much like us filmmakers are also fans. I got the chance to talk with Frank Pavich, the director behind "Jodorowsky's Dune" at look at his motivations behind making the project, how his primary subject never thought it would see the light of day and how inspirational this story has actually become nearly 40 years later after their initial planning of Jodorowsky's version of "Dune".

A life changing experience for a filmmaker

Dave Voigt: There are always stories about productions that never happen throughout movie making lore. How did you ultimately come across and decide on this one for your film?

Frank Pavich: I think this just sort of one of those urban legends and has always been floating around in the ether. If you've heard of it or are already aware of who Alejandro Jodorowsky is and aware of his art films, which certainly aren't for everybody but the people that they are for, they are really for. I had always been a fan of things like "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain" and you always heard this rumor that he was going to do this version of Frank Herbert's "Dune" a full ten years before David Lynch did, and I for one floored by that and could never believe it. But once you do the research and learn more and more about it just gets that much more incredible from the people that he had assembled, with the amazing ensemble of artists, actors, musicians that he assembled like Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, Pink Floyd and HR Giger. When you put those elements in a blender and shake them all up, it really gets the imagination going. There are so many unmade film projects, but this one has always sparked my imagination and it is by far the greatest movie never made.

DV: Was everyone involved on board with your idea to tell this story?

FP: Oh yeah, I mean everyone involved had just had such an amazing experience working with him back in the mid-70's and they really relished their time together and truly only have great memories of the entire project together. They all have great respect to him for letting them be creatively free, he hired people to do what they simply do best. For most of them, particularly some like Jean 'Moebius' Giraud this was his very first film experience. It was the best experience for them and when they all went on to do other work I think all these people came to grips with the fact that this might have the best experience that they would ever get to have while working on a project of this magnitude and their lives were changed forever after working on this film.

The first person that I got to get involved was of course Alejandro and once he was on board then I could reach out to people like Giger and others and say we have his full cooperation, then they were more than happy to jump on board and were quite eager to share their stories of it all. It's an experience that has stayed very close to so many of their hearts even after all these years.

DV: It's truly amazing to me how this film that never got made, has still influenced so many other films over the years.

FP: It really is, you know I don't think that I can recall an unmade project that has ever felt as complete as this one really does. Especially one that exists in a book like this one does from the first scene to the last scene like this does. I certainly can't think of any that have such detail to them. I mean a lot of people are of the opinion that Kubrick's "Napoleon" might be the best film never made and while that MIGHT have been a great film, it stopped when it stopped and it is just research in boxes while the power and majestic nature of "Jodorowsky's Dune" is alive and couldn't just be contained in that book as it had to get out into the universe through the subsequent comics, books and films that Alejandro and all of these men were involved with because it was just too powerful of a story to sit in a box and just in that book.

DV: Watching Alejandro describe it all was just so infectious, did you ever get to experience like Nicolas Winding Refn did, basically cover to cover?

FP: (Laughs) Well a little bit, I don't think that I ever got the cover to cover version like Refn did but I like to think that I had the most access. Nicolas may have got the whole story, but I got to come back time and time again, to photograph it, scan it, make photo copies and do everything. I really feel like I am the one who has actually seen it, even though I have to convince myself of that a lot of the time.

But there are certain sequences that Alejandro just acts out and describes with such detail. Not only what was supposed to happen on screen but what it meant as well, just see him go through it all is quite an experience.

DV: How have you found your experience with what really is such a movie for movie nerds? Through the festival circuit to a theatrical run and now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

FP: It's just been incredible, it started out with me not knowing anybody personally and really have no way in, until Alejandro agrees and we make the movie, and working for years together after blindly reaching out to him. Then the movie gets accepted to Cannes, and Alejandro is there at the premiere, and we are showing it to the world and him for the very first time. And playing across the glove for the past year from Japan, to Hong Kong, all over Europe and the US & Canada then getting picked up by Sony Pictures Classics and it is still playing in theatres even now over three months later, it is humbling and mind boggling all at the same time and it has been great. This tiny little doc is still playing and I pinch myself everyday because my life is now very different because of this film and because of Alejandro, that's just what he does. He makes art that changes people's lives and their experiences.

He always said that the worst thing in the world is for someone to walk into a movie theatre and come out two hours later as the same person. He wants to change people, he truly wants to transform people through his art. He transformed my life, and I think this film does that as well as people will come out of it 90 minutes later and be transformed and inspired to create thanks to energy that he creates in people.

DV: How cathartic do you think it was for Alejandro to be able to tell his story after all these years.

FP: I really think that it has been quite cathartic for him, because I have heard him say in subsequent interviews that the reason he said yes to me was that he didn't think that we would finish it. So he just said , yeah great and it really did allow him to open up because I don't think that he ever suspected that years later that we would now be sharing it with the world. I think that we just approached him at the right time, if we had come to him years earlier it just may not have been the right time and could have been very painful. But now he is at a certain age where he can come to terms with it and really embrace what the film means.

It really does amaze me how we made this film about this unmade film, and it isn't a depressing or woe is me type of experience and that it is actually quite uplifting and inspirational by saying "Look at what I did, and how it changed the world of movies as we know it".

DV: Do you think we'll ever really know how the landscape of movies would have changed if his "Dune" had actually been made?

FP: You that is what is so interesting, if the film was or wasn't made so much of the esthetic of science fiction filmmaking was changed just by all of these unique artists coming together that there are so many variables and it could have such impacts and reverberations for better or for worse on films like "Star Wars", "Alien" and even the superhero movies of today that is almost impossible to answer.

DV: It makes you appreciate how everything landed where it did too...

FP: Exactly and that is Alejandro point of view too, that it is grand and looking back he wouldn't change a thing.

"Jodorowsky's Dune" is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, Digital Download and On Demand from all major providers.

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