After four years and at least two attached directors, the attempt to bring Dune – Frank Hebert’s science fiction classic (and first of a series) – to the big screen again have crumbled, reports Deadline Hollywood. Both Peter Berg and Pierre Morel were attached to direct during the course of development. Deadline’s story features a hopeful producer, and (at least) a $100 Million dollar plus price tag for the film. The film was in development at Paramount, and is now looking for a new production house.

For the first filmed version, Dune was to be directed by Alejandro (El Topo) Jodorowsky for producer Dino De Laurentiis, but in the 1980′s  the project moved to Ridley Scott and then finally David Lynch, who did the film instead of Return of the Jedi. With all of the backstory and messianic implications, the finished film turned out beautiful but hard to follow – so much so there was a booklet distributed at some screenings to help clarify the characters and their relationships.

The film has since gained a cult following, but the narrative seemed impenetrable in a feature-length narrative. Such may be why Lynch’s footage was turned into a mini-series (albeit done without his consent) for later television broadcasts, and a TV mini-series was made of the material in 2000 for the-then Sci Fi Channel. Other than being shot by the legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, it is not all that notable, but did lead to a sequel mini-series, “Children of Dune.”

The appeal of the source material is that it’s a rich science fiction universe, and generated numbers of sequel books, meaning that if the first film worked it would be easy to get going on the next. And the studios are currently very invested in the franchise business. The problem is that the story of Dune is a hard to condense, and in the four years since this got started the industry has had more heat in comic books than in Science Fiction and Fantasy – with a number of would-be Tolkein-type films dying at the box office.

The other problem is that it’s near-impossible to do this sort of film on the cheap. From space adventure to gigantic worms, the story of Dune is cut from a very large cloth, and there’s no point in doing it without that scale. Berg may have been solid, passionate choice, but the second Pierre Morel got attached the project was doomed. Nothing against Morel, but he was coming in after Taken, which made a lot of money but was a fluke (as his next film attested).

We may yet see Dune again on the big screen, but it would take a deeply interested party with a strong vision, and someone who can command a budget.

Is Dune dead, or just waiting for another go?