David Lynch turned down the chance to direct Star Wars: Episode VI (1983) to direct Dune.
Alejandro Jodorowsky had originally planned on filming Dune in the early 70's, and had enlisted the help of Jean Giraud and Hr Giger to create the movie's visual style. Salvador Dali was enlisted to play the part of the Emperor, and the soundtrack was to be done by Pink Floyd. According to Jodorowsky, "The project was sabotaged in Hollywood. It was French and not American. Their message was 'not Hollywood enough'. There was intrigue, plunder. The storyboard was circulated amongst all the big studios. Later, the visual aspect of Star Wars (1977) strangely resembled our style. To make Alien (1979), they called Moebius [Giraud], Foss, Giger, O'Bannon, etc. The project signaled to Americans the possibility of making a big show of science-fiction films, outside of the scientific rigor of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The project of Dune changed our lives."
Ridley Scott worked on bringing the film to the screen, but was unsuccessful. Hr Giger (who worked with Scott on Alien (1979)) was hired as a production designer.
Director David Lynch and producer Raffaella De Laurentiis arranged a screen test in New York with Sean Young for the role of Chani. Young's agent never told Young about the meeting, and she was in fact booked on a flight that evening to Los Angeles. Lynch and De Laurentiis missed their flight back to Los Angeles, and ended up catching the same plane as Young. During the flight, De Laurentiis noticed Young and told Lynch "I bet that girl's an actress." A stewardess told the pair that her name was "Sean Young", and De Laurentiis confronted Young about standing her and Lynch up. The misunderstanding sorted out, the three ended up drinking champagne and reading the script together upon returning to Los Angeles.
The inspiration for the design of the stillsuits was the medical textbook "Gray's Anatomy".
One scene called for Duke Leto (Jurgen Prochnow) to be strapped to a black stretcher and drugged. During one take, a high-powered bulb positioned above Prochnow exploded due to heat, raining down molten glass. Remarkably, Prochnow was able to free himself from the stretcher, moments before glass fused itself to the place he had been strapped. During the filming of the dream sequence, the Baron (Kenneth Mcmillan) approached Leto, who had special apparatus attached to his face so that green smoke would emerge from his cheek when the Baron scratched it. Although thoroughly tested, the smoke gave Prochnow first and second degree burns on his cheek. This sequence appears on film in the released version.
The tendons visible when Paul hooks the worm were made from condoms.
Two hundred workers spent two months hand-clearing three square miles of Mexican desert for location shooting.
Some special effects scenes were filmed with over a million watts of lighting, drawing 11,000 amps.
Some scenes were filmed in the same location and at the same time as scenes from Conan the Destroyer (1984).
David Lynch is seen as a radio operator on the mining ship that Paul and Duke Leto Atreides rescue from a sandworm.
Number of production crew came to a total of 1,700. Dune required 80 sets built upon 16 sound stages. More than 6 years in the making, it required David Lynch's work for 3.5 years.
Theatrical version is 140-minutes long; network TV version, disowned by director David Lynch, is 190 minutes long and features outtakes and additional footage. The TV print credits fake director "Allen Smithee" as director. The theatrical release features a brief introductory narration spoken by the "princess". The TV version has a longer spoken introduction by a narrator, with still paintings and drawings used to bring the viewer up to speed on the story. The TV version (available on Japanese Laserdisc) lacks the blue color in the Fremen's eyes, indicating that the scenes were cut before special f/x were added.
A third version of Dune, seen on KTVU in San Francisco in 1992, is the only one that edits together footage from both the theatrical and TV versions, putting back the violent scenes (such as the "heart sucking sequence") and theatrical versions of some scenes (such as Paul and Jessica running from a thumper). Also, Lynch's name is restored at the end (watch for the "Assistant to Mr. Lynch" credit).
Contrary to popular rumors, no 6-hours long director's cut, ever existed. The only "director's cut" of the film was the one shown theatrically; Lynch never had a hand in any other version of Dune. Lynch's original intention was for Dune to have been about 3+ hours long. To that end, about 5 hours was shot. This is also confirmed by author Frank Herbert wrote in the introduction to the book "Eye". It would be impossible for a 6-hour version to exist and even a 5-hour Dune would mean the inclusion of many scenes never intended for the final version (for reasons of redundancy, etc.). It is only necessary to read any of the final scripts for the film to realize that there was never any intention of making Dune more than 4 hours in length at the very most: the script for anything more just was never there.
There are two theatrical versions available in Europe, the only two differences between being the short scene in which the Navigator can be seen "at work" folding space; and a very short clip showing the cheek of Duke Leto torn open.
Region 2 DVD version, billed as 'TV extended version' is 180 minutes long and contains the extended intro and scenes. Lynch's name has again been removed and re-credited to fake director Allen Smithee due to his objection to the extended intro.