We do nasty things to our leaders. We shoot them on the streets of Dallas and hang them on pieces of wood at Golgatha. We fondly say that in the United States we separate church and state. That's an asinine statement. I am a political analyst, and I've really never left journalism. I'm writing about the current scene. The metaphors are there. I'm writing about the political ecology, the religious ecology, the social ecology, and the physical ecology of our world. And I think you do not separate any one part of this from the other. You don't separate the mind and body and understand the human being.

Waldenbooks Interviews Frank Herbert and David Lynch

Interviewer Waldenbooks is proud to have the opportunity to speak with author Frank Herbert and director David Lynch. David Lynch is not only the director of Dune the motion picture but also the author of the screenplay. Right beside me is Frank Herbert, the author of the book, and, of course, all of the subsequent books which have become so immensely popular. The first question I wanted to ask is of the film-maker. Did you feel threatened by the fact that so many readers had seen Dune so many times before they'll have the opportunity to come into the theater to see your Dune?
Lynch You've got to be either stupid or crazy, you know, to do something like this, and I live in fear 24 hours a day.
Interviewer So you're definitely cognizant of the stature?
Lynch Yes.
Herbert Why don't me the question because I've seen the film.
Lynch Somebody has to do it, right? And someone had to do it, and I was.... the day I finished reading the book, I met with Dino in his office, and I was so high from finishing the book, and so thrilled with, you know, what I had read, I signed on. And I didn't really know that it was going to be 3 and a half of this type of year, but I'll let Frank tell you what he thinks.
Interviewer Dino DiLaurentiis came to you or brought you to Dune the project before you were even fully aware.... ?
Lynch I had never read... never even heard the word.
Herbert He thought it was June.
Lynch I thought he said June.
Interviewer I do want Frank the question about the film, what he thinks of it. And that is kind of a loaded question because Frank is a film-maker himself, something I didn't know until today. So you're not working with someone...
Herbert Documentaries. Different things.
Interviewer But, you're aware of the process, of the visual medium, and you're happy with the film.
Herbert Well, I get asked the specific question a lot of times. If the settings, the scenes, that I saw in David's film match my original imagination, the things that I projected in my imagination. I must tell you that some of them do precisely, some of them don't, and some of them are better, which is what you would expect of artists such as David and Tony Masters. I'm delighted with that. I mean, why not take it and improve on it visually? As far as I'm concerned the film is a visual feast. I would love to have some of the scenes as stills to frame and have around me. They're beautiful.
Interviewer So you feel there was a synergy between the two of you: the director/screen-writer and the creator of the concept?
Herbert Synergy? You mean the sum is more than the parts?
Interviewer That's right. That something better came out of the two of you working together?
Herbert I think so.
Interviewer What was Frank's participation? I am asking David this question.
Lynch I signed on to do Dune. I always... when I was working on the Elephant Man, I worked with Christopher Dvorn and Eric Bergman, and we tried to be true to the essence of, you know, the elephant man. And in Dune, I try to be true to the essence of Frank's, you know, book, which is not an easy thing because there are so many different lines and so many different things swimming about. It's picking and choosing and condensing and, you know, all sorts of things. So Frank's contribution was, you know, the book and his support from day one all the way through to now. He's always available, you know, for questions, and he's read almost every, you know, draft of the .... I did seven drafts. And, he's, you know, allowed me, you know, to do my thing, and his book is packed full with, you know, these, what I call, seed ideas. There's the big ideas, but there's so many little seed ideas, and those he let me, you know, sprout and run with. That was the thrill for me because there are things in the movie that were sparked by Frank, but they were allowed, you know, to grow out. I think it'll be neat for people who have read the book, they'll see a difference, but it is true to the essence of Frank's ideas.
Herbert The film begins as the book begins, and it ends essentially as the book ends. And I hear my dialog all the way through it, not just my dialog, but there's lots of other dialog. I had the funny sensation of watching the rough cut, not exactly too rough recently, of some of the cuts, the things that are not in there, of feeling that they'd happened just off stage or that we'd gone beyond them, but they'd happened, that we hadn't really lost them. There are only two scenes that I missed in the film, but I know why they were cut. They were pets of mine, and you shouldn't have any pets.
Lynch No, they were pets of mine, too, but I know which scenes they are. Those are the things... that's the trouble. The film right now is 2 hours and 20 minutes, and it rolls along gangbusters. But certain scenes that Frank and I both liked, I think would have, you know, stopped the film.
Interviewer Was this merely a stroke of luck that two artists from two different mediums, obviously two sensitive artists, didn't really experience any substantial difficulty in molding or contributing to the production of this film?
Lynch On my part I consider it pretty lucky, yeah.
Interviewer Did you expect the license that Frank gave you?
Lynch I met Frank, you know, three and a half years ago when I first signed on. I didn't know who or what I was going to be meeting. I had seen his picture, this bearded, you know, guy on his books, right?
Herbert Guru author.
Lynch Yeah, so, but it's turned out to be like... well Frank is an idea man. They're the best kind of people in my book around. Ideas are.... everybody, you know, feeds of them, but, you know, very few people can catch them. They're out there, but they're so elusive. You have to, you know, be kind of sneaky and sneak up on them and capture them. Frank captures these, you know, fantastic ideas, and I really, you know, respect that.
Interviewer Frank, you are obviously satisfied with the result.
Herbert Yes, very much so. But the funny thing happened. Dino called me. I didn't know David from Adam's offer. And he called me and he said that he had hired David Lynch to do the.... to direct the film of Dune. This was after a couple of... well I think they would have been disasters. David knows why. So, I said: "David who?" and he said David Lynch. He said Elephant Man. So I went out and got a tape of it and played it on my video, and I had a funny gut sensation we had the guy who could do it. When you're doing a film from the written word, you're translating into a different language. It is as though you were translating from English to Swahili. The visual language is a different language, and there was such subtlety and such beauty in the Elephant Man. I've seen it about eight times, I think, and I get something new from it each time, something peripheral or something right in the mainstream that was done visually as a visual metaphor. I've never told David this, but this is true. This is what happened to me. I had this gut sensation we've got him, you know, the guy who can do it.
Interviewer I'm glad we're having this talk. David, did you as a film-maker... I think by anyone's estimation Dune was written very visually as a piece of literature, visual description, visualization of that is very immediate. Did that help you in your translation to the screen?
Lynch Well, like I said, I really in a way forget a lot of the book now because there have been so many drafts of the screenplay in between, but some things I really think, in you mind, you think that Frank described things. But when you go searching, some things are described of course, but some things are left to your imagination, even in the book. And, um...
Herbert That was deliberate I might add.
Lynch And you get a feeling, and your mind takes over from there. A lot of times, you go searching for descriptions of things, they weren't there or I realized that I was picturing something and I was falling in love with what I was picturing. Frank allowed me to go with my interpretation in how things looked, and because of that I was able to.... my interpretation is one thing. And then I started working with Tony and we went through two or three different steps into sort of the stratosphere of interpretation and we got clicking on four really nifty different worlds and the look of each one.
Interviewer So, the motion picture is truly an entity unto itself. If you love the book, you'll love the movie picture even more because it takes on a new dimension.
Lynch I can see how everyone who reads the book is going to interpret it, and their interpretation is not mine, but I have to .... it has to go through me as the director like a filter, and things pass through me and it's not going to be other people's interpretation. Some people may love it, and some people say it's not what they pictured and they would be disappointed. You know, that's the way it is.
Interviewer Again, the book being so visual, some people... anyone who has read has been there before.
Lynch Exactly.
Interviewer What about the tools that you had to employ as a film-maker, especially a modern film-maker in this day and age? What did you do?
Lynch Every technique known to film-making has been used on this picture, except for stop-motion, strangely enough. And, so, I've learned a tremendous amount of technical things. We built over about 80 sets in what amounted to 16 sound stages down in Mexico, travelled all over the world, Rafaella and I, Rafaella is the producer, first looking for locations and finally going to Mexico. I've seen actors for this picture all over the world. And people in this film are from all over the world. At one point there was 1,700 people on the crew, and that's a huge amount of people. And sometimes I'd turned around on the set, and there would be 600 people, and they are not extras, you know, crew people, or visitors, or camera crews, or whatever, you know, on the set, so it has been a strange experience, but a huge, fantastic experience.
Herbert I want to add a little bit to this. A strange thing happened at the wrap party down in Mexico. At least a dozen of the actors and actresses who were in it came up to me and said, individually, more or less the same thing: that they were sorry it was over. They had such a good time.
Interviewer So it wasn't necessarily a gruelling experience that drove everyone insane?
Lynch No, we were really together. It was a great experience. And we were in a foreign world, and we were, you know, in Mexico City, which is.... I will always feel is the perfect place to make Dune because Dune is a foreign world and for foreign worlds. And if I was making it in Arizona, it would be too normal. Mexico City was just the right atmosphere, the right mood to kind of let your.... just it was help your mind get out there, you know, and to.... Dune.
Herbert There was a certain kind of rapport between the producer and the director. We had our disagreements, but they weren't major disagreements, they weren't shouting disagreements or anything like that. If you could explain your point, people listened to you. The only time I objected to something that was going to be done, David and Rafaella and everybody else listened to me and they didn't do the thing I didn't want done.
Lynch I can't remember what it was.
Herbert You weren't going to kill off...
Lynch Oh yes that's right. Yes, yeah.
Herbert That's the only thing I ever objected to.
Interviewer Did they kill them off then?
Herbert No, yeah, they did.
Lynch But in the proper way.
Herbert In the proper way, yeah.
Interviewer So we'll see that when we go to the motion picture?
Herbert You'll see an authentic scene that is from the book, very poignant.
Interviewer Who's going to be killed?
Herbert Let's don't tell them.
Interviewer So there are two more Dune projects, potential Dune projects already in the works?
Lynch In the works. I have started writing on the script to Dune II. It needs a lot more work, and then I'll show it to Frank, and I'll see what he thinks.
Interviewer You'll be a tough audience then?
Herbert Tougher than hell.
Interviewer Now, it is interesting that Frank didn't do the screenplays for Dune. Why did that happen.
Herbert Well, I did a screenplay, and it was awful.
Lynch I never read Frank's script. I don't believe it was awful.
Herbert It was too long. It lacked the proper visual metaphors. I was too close to the book to be able to see it as a film. David didn't have that problem. Working on this film with David has taught me a great deal about taking the printed word, a screenplay and making it into a film. Now I feel confident to do a screenplay. I don't know if I can do a screenplay of one of my own books. Well, yes, I can. I'm doing it.
Interviewer So you have definitely learned from each other in this experience a great deal?
Herbert I would say so, yeah.
Lynch Mmmhmm.
Interviewer And that would make the next two pictures something that you would look forward to?
Lynch Oh yeah, I look forward to it, you know... I'm a little bit, well we all are. I'm a little bit Duned out right now.
Herbert Dune-in we say.
Interviewer Three and a half years you've been on this project.
Lynch That's right. Three and a half years.
Interviewer That's a long time. But the results are, from what everyone says, well worth the effort. What, and that leads me to the last question I want to ask David as a film-maker... have you thought of how the public is going to respond to this? In other words, as you made the film, have you had a place in your mind where you've been contemplating what the response will be? How people will react to what you are doing?
Lynch Well, I've thought about.... a lot about the films I've loved, and what it was. It wasn't.... It was an experience that I had while watching them that I couldn't get anywhere else. I never got it anywhere else. Ever. And I would so gladly pay my five dollars to have that experience. And it took me... the films that I loved took me to another place, even if it was twenty years ago or present day, but another place, and gave me an experience, and I think that is what I hope Dune will do. And it is four different worlds and a trip through them that you can't experience anywhere else. Ever.
Interviewer Thank you very much, David, for sharing your thoughts and background on the film with Waldenbooks.
Lynch Thanks a million.

Last Modified: August 6, 1996
Tape provided by: Kevin Buchli
Created and Maintained by: Christian Gilmore
Comments and Questions: cgilmore@phoenix.princeton.edu

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