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How ‘Dune’ influenced George Lucas’ first Star Wars film script
We have covered many times that George Lucas soaked up a thousand different inspirations from books and films that he wove into the grand tapestry of Star Wars.
We have however always shied away somewhat from Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Forget that Dune was made into a movie in 1984 by David Lynch, it’s the novel that had the influence on Lucas and his development of the original Star Wars script or “Journal of the Whills” as it was once titled.
While there should be no doubt about the influence that it had on Lucas, we cannot find a single article or quote by the man wherein he refers to Dune. But make no mistake, the comparison of some of the ideas in both movies are unmistakable…
If you wanted to be fairly uncharitable you could argue that A New Hope is basically Akiro Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress set on Dune.
Spice Up Your Life
In the first draft of Star Wars, the drug ‘spice’ was very much a central theme of script.
Lucas’s first version of Princess Leia was not fleeing from the Empire with the stolen plans for the Death Star but rather, holding a cargo of the drug ‘melange’ spice…the later script noted Han Solo smuggled of spice…
And let’s not forget that young Luke Skywalker once had the belief that his “father didn’t fight in the Clone Wars, he was a navigator on a spice freighter.”
Here’s a comparison of some direct lifts and inspirations
Dune’s influence on A New Hope
Princess Leia’s name is arguably inspired by the Princess Alia.Star Wars features a dry dessert planet called Tatooine. Remind me what kind of planet Arrakis was in Dune? “I don’t like sand“…The Jawa Sandcrawler was was possibly inspired by the mining vehicles Arakin’s used. Iffy on this connection.The Skywalker family were moisture farmers in a similar vein as the ‘dew collectors’.The ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ is very similar to how the sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit can use The Voice to influence the actions of others.In ANH, Luke Skywalker practices his lightsaber training against an automated training remote. This seems a direct lift from the part where Princess Alia works on her sword skills against an automated training dummy.Spice mining… Luke’s father was a ‘was a navigator on a spice freighter.’
The Empire Strikes Back was influenced by Frank Herbert
In Empire Strikes Back, the Millennium Falcon just manages to escape from the jaws of giant, space slug that was living in a space asteroid. In Dune, there are giant sandworms a giant one of which causes a bit of similar havoc when one attacks the Duke’s vessel. In ESB, the villain turns out to be hero’s father. In Dune, the villain out to be hero’s grandfatherAlia can connect her mind to her brother Paul Atredies physically. Kinda like what happens when Luke calls out to Leia after he’s fought Darth Vader.
How Return of the Jedi was inspired by Dune
Return of the Jedi’s Jabba the Hutt looks like a giant slug with a fat face and arms. This character may have been inspired by The God Emperor of Dune, Leto Atreides the Second who funnily enough was a 15-foot long slug. That novel was published in 1981, two years before the release of ROTJ. We do appreciate that Jabba was originally conceived in ANH as a human.Indeed, a lot of the whole Jabba The Hutt Palace scenes appear to have been inspired by the Children of Dune sequel.The sand desert where the Sarlaac Pit resides is called the Dune Sea
It also borrows heavily from Frank Herbert’s novel Dune, which I read when I was about twelve, mad about Star Wars and looking for something similar.
I was far too young to get Herbert’s mix of Orientalist fantasy, desert ecology and flaky 1960s mysticism but, as with Star Wars, that combination of swords and starships appealed to me. “
Let’s not forget Lawrence of Arabia having an influence on Star Wars
Both Dune and George Lucas were inspired by the story of Lawrence of Arabia which was a spiritual journey of sorts that took place in a desert. Lucas was most definitely inspired by the David Lean movie and use shots from it for both the original and prequels films.
We say this to show that though the book came before the film, they both share common inspirations. Indeed, 19 other movies went into the creation of Star Wars.
Speaking of the Great Bard…
Indeed, to dismiss Shakespeare’s work as an influence on George Lucas would be a mistake. Though Lucas may not have been directly taking paragraphs out of Shakespeare (unlike which he did for Tolkien!) his admiration of The Forbidden Plant exposed him to what was basically The Tempest set in space. Given Lucas’s love of films by Akiro Kurosawa, he most likely saw ‘Ran’, which was a remake of King Lear!
Shakespeare actually has a lot to answer for – it was his line from Othello that inspired the name of the Mortal Engines novel!
The Mandalorian Chapter: The Jedi may have also a wee Dune nod:
“Calodan” may be a reference to Caladan, which as you probably know as the planet that serves as the ancestral home of House Atreides.
“Corvus” could also perhaps be a nod to Alpha Corvus, another planet mentioned in the later Dune work by Herbert’s son. We suspect this is a bit of a stretch, however.
We think it’s a pretty good science fiction movie, though a patient watch is needed. You know how things come full circle?
George Lucas actually met with Lynch to discuss the possibility of Lynch taking the director’s chair for Return of the Jedi! Lynch turned him down which led to Richard Marquand having a crack.
Four: In The Battle for Endor, the Nightsister known as ‘Charal’ was played by Sian Phillips. She played the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in the 1984 film version of Dune.