The fact that a movie version of Dune is so difficult to mount is absolutely nothing new. Before the 1984 David Lynch version (one I truly love, but has serious issues) it had a well-documented run of failure.
A bit of history: from 1971 until the ’84 release the movie had changed hands so much it would have broken the internet had it existed back then. Alejandro Jodorowsky was working on what almost certainly would have been an incredible film, utilizing the talents of Salvador Dali, H.R. Giger, David Carradine and Pink Floyd (to name a few). While Alien would be born from some of the concepts and script work, the thematic Dune would still have a lot of trouble getting produced.
Dino de Laurentiis obtained the rights and quickly went through many drafts, pissing off plenty of people along the way. Then came 1981, and with the rights set to expire de Laurentiis quickly forced the production into turnaround and the result was David Lynch’s Dune: a critical and financial flop.
So this brings us to the present day, and now comes a report that Paramount is being pressured by the rights holders into making a decision regarding its own interpretation of the 1965 literary classic, with a Spring 2011 deadline. They’ve already spent 4 years developing this behemoth, with Peter Berg at one time attached, so the danger here is that they’ll have to simply drop the project altogether and lose millions in development.
Some things never change, especially when it comes to Dune adaptations.