Dune was published in 1965, but it didn't hit the big screen until 1984. For almost that entire span of 20 years, efforts were underway to adapt the book. In 1971, Apjac International, best known for the Planet of the Apes movies, acquired the movie rights and offered the director's chair to David Lean, the legendary British filmmaker behind another desert-based movie, Lawrence of Arabia. Lean passed, as did British director Charles Jarrott (Anne of the Thousand Days). While a director was sought out, screenwriters worked on the script and production plans were put into place, but it all fell apart when Apjac head Arthur P. Jacobs died in 1973.
Apjac sold the rights to Dune to a group of French investors, who hired avant-garde film and theatrical director Alejandro Jodorwsky as director. While he'd only directed three full-length films at that point, he definitely had the enthusiasm and ambition necessary to direct Dune…and then some. As detailed in the fascinating 2013 documentary Jodorwosky's Dune, the director planned to make a 14-hour movie with a dream cast including Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, and Salvador Dali, with a soundtrack provided by Pink Floyd. To nail down the production design, Jororowsky consulted such innovative artists as Moebius and H.R. Giger. He also wanted to depict melange, "the spice," as a magical blue sponge and completely change the ending of the novel.
When that project died, the rights were sold to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who hired Ridley Scott to direct. He dropped out because, as he relates in Ridley Scott: The Making of His Movies, he was ready to film the movie immediately, but it was going to take at least two and half more years of pre-production. Also, his heart wasn't in it, because his older Brother Frank "unexpectedly died of cancer" while he was working on Dune. Ultimately, the gig went to cult movie icon (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet) David Lynch.