Dune Screenwriter Eric Roth Talks About His Scrapped Opening To The Movie

Adapting Frank Herbert's sprawling sci-fi saga, "Dune," is nothing short of a Herculean task, and Denis Villeneuve succeeded in doing the same with the help of screenwriter Eric Roth. Roth is a major player in the screenwriting arena, having adapted numerous books for the screen, including "Forrest Gump," "The Insider," and "Munich." In a recent interview with IndieWire, Roth spoke about how he scrapped his opening to Villeneuve's "Dune," which had Biblical connotations, and mostly had to be removed due to budgetary/thematic reasons.

'Then God created ... Arrakis'

Roth explains how he was never a sci-fi aficionado, but had read the book when he was a young boy, enjoying it "at least equally" like other works in the genre, including Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" and Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series. The immense appeal of "Dune" is undeniable, but it is not a universal phenomenon for every 14-15 year old to necessarily adore the series, and such was the case with Roth. While he clarified that he understood how it defined a lot of people, he himself was never a "fanboy" in the traditional sense of the term. This arguably allowed him to approach the material objectively, something he describes as a process that involved some risks that worked, while others didn't:

"That gave me an objective view of it. I grew up in that era, which "Dune" was part and parcel of — psychedelics and all the things that I lived through. I was a hippie, I have a lot of kids, grandkids. And so I said, "What the hell, I'll try it. What have I got to lose?" I like Denis. 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 about the risks that did not work but "should have," Roth went on to describe how he intended to start the film with a "Book of Genesis" moment, which could chronicle the creation of the world of "Dune," which would have purportedly included various planets across the galaxy:

"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!"

While this particular beginning might have completely altered the tone of the inception of "Dune" as a cinematic experience, it is perhaps for the best that Roth scrapped this opening. The opening Roth and Villeneuve went with instead — namely Chani's monologue about how her planet is ravaged by colonialists and the persecution of her people — is far more effective in terms of exposition and the film's sociopolitical commentary.

Most of the principal past of the film will be returning for "Dune: Part Two", which has a tentative October 2023 release date as of now.