Peter Berg is Off of Dune; Paramount Wants Neill Blomkamp
As we've known for at least a year, Paramount has been trying to develop another take on Frank Herbert's seminal sci-fi classic Dune, originally attaching The Kingdom director Peter Berg. Since then, we've heard off and on from Berg, including this most recent update from September where he revealed that it would be a PG-13 "massive epic," which was a step in the right direction. Movie blog Pajiba is now reporting that Berg has left the project and "his Film 44 production company backed out." Now Paramount is scrambling to find a new director." According to them, District 9's Neill Blomkamp is one of only two alternatives.
The first question is why this blog would be reporting on Dune. Well, apparently there was a rumor in the summer that Robert Pattinson (ugh) was being considered for one of the lead roles, and they confirmed in their update that this stemmed from a conversation Berg had with Pattinson. But now that Berg is off the project, Pattinson isn't involved anymore (thankfully). We also know that newcomer Joshua Zetumer was hired the write the screenplay sometime last year. Pajiba adds that Zetumer turned in an "epic 175-page draft earlier this year." Perfect length for good Dune adaptation, but a little long for the studio, of course.
So now Paramount is searching for a director who can put the movie together for under $175 million, which shouldn't be too hard considering that is actually a pretty big budget, and someone who has "a preexisting passion for the novel and is enthusiastic about the project." According to Pajiba, the top choices are: Neil Marshall (of The Descent and Doomsday) and Neill Blomkamp (of District 9). We just reported a few days ago that Blomkamp's next original sci-fi project had been given the greenlight, so it's unlikely he'll jump on-board unless Paramount wants to wait a few years until he's done with that (which they may).
As for Marshall, while producer Kevin Misher is enthusiastic about him, the studio is not. And this time I completely agree with the studio - they're right in being skeptical of Neil Marshall. His only real hit so far was The Descent and Doomsday was a huge piece of trash (that left me worried). I wouldn't trust this guy unless I knew he was the right guy. In fact, I much rather prefer Blomkamp, and if I were Paramount, I'd happily wait until he's ready to come on-board just because I know his take on Dune would be pretty damn incredible to see. Of course, that may be asking for too much. Who would you want to direct Dune?