A Chat with Frank Pavich, Director of JODOROWSKY’S DUNE

I was very lucky to have caught Jodorowsky’s Dune at Fantastic Fest last year, along with checking out the film I also got to speak with the director of the project Frank Pavich as well.

This definitely has to be one of my favorite interviews I have ever conducted, because it was less like a subject and interviewer and more like two fans just discussing their favorite director, because by nature fans of Jodorowsky tend to be very passionate about both the man and his work.

So read on and enjoy, and definitely check out the film as it opens in New York this Friday.

So what inspired you to make a documentary about a film that doesn’t exist, what was the germ behind Jodorowsky’s Dune, if you will?

Once you know who Jodorowsky is, once you learn about all the elements that he was putting into this film, if you looked at the progression of El Topo to The Holy Mountain, The Holy Mountain to me is the ultimate. It doesn’t get better than that; it’s like literally the top of the mountain. In the documentary he says, “Then my ambition grew” and I was like what the hell? Where could it go?

Of course the only place it could go is up in space.

Once you start learning about his project, his cast Mick Jagger and David Carradine, Dali and Orson Wells all to the soundtrack of Pink Floyd with Jodorowsky behind it you’re dying to see and learn more. Would it be a good documentary? I didn’t know, but I wanted to hang out with him and be like Refn and see the book. It was kind of a selfish thing.

How hard was it to find Jodorowsky and get him to do the documentary?

Totally easy, he was so open, it was crazy. I found that foundation of his, sent him an email and they forwarded it to him. He emailed me and said, “I heard you want to meet, come to Paris and we will meet”.

So I went there and I think our first meeting was 15 minutes tops. It was basically the two of us sitting across from one another and I told him what I wanted to do. I wanted to document Dune, that I found the story fascinating, that I find him fascinating and I would love to tell the story. He simply said, “sounds great, sounds fantastic!”

He never asked me what my background was or how many films I made, to this day he has never seen anything else I have done. He just didn’t care. I think he got a feeling from me that I was obviously enthusiastic about it and that I was respectful to him and would be respectful to this story of his, which is so important to him. It’s a very personal thing to him.

I think that he just trusted me. Jodorowsky works on instincts, I think. The way he was casting, doing work it was very “I saw Dark Star, that is the guy I need! I have to find them”. It wasn’t like lets make a wish list; he just works on instincts and that is what he did when it came to us and the film.

Once I had him on board everyone else fell into place, because everyone loves him so much. He is still so revered by all of them. It was actually quite natural the way it all came together.

How long was the film in production?

There was a good 10 years of research. But if you’re talking hard-core production, I met Jodo in mid 2010 and started shooting in 2011 up until well into 2013. We premiered the film in Cannes and raced the film there and since have done adjustment work.

What was the process for you like as a fan of Jodorowsky and his films, getting to know him and befriending this man you revered so much?

I don’t know if I befriended him during the process, because he still didn’t know what the documentary was going to be. Was it going to be any good? Was it going to get finished?

So he would allow us to come in and shoot with him, we were never really close until now. Now that he has seen the film and he loves the film, he told us that it represents everything better than he could ever have imagined. Now we have become close. Now I can call him up. We had dinner in Munich a few months ago and I thought it was fantastic, I finally get to hang out with Jodo on this different level. I have proven myself with my work to a certain extent to him. Which for me is very important.

I am just so happy we got to tell Jodo’s story and he is as happy about it as we are. That was one of our biggest accomplishments and things I am most proud of.

Meeting H.R. Giger, what was that like interviewing him? That had to have been a surreal experience as well.

Oh my god. We don’t say it in the film, but we filmed it in his museum in Gruyeres and the establishing shot we use of Gruyeres, there is this black Jaguar that drives up and that is him. This is a road where cars aren’t allowed, so his would be the only car going up there and we just happened to pan up and we are like “Holy Shit, there’s Giger, he’s actually here.”

But it was really cool because we had full reign of his museum. They just gave us the keys and when we were done wrapping up our equipment, we locked the door and walked the key across the street to the museum people who were in the Giger bar.

This film is just full of mythical creatures like Giger and Jodorowsky.

Being a fan myself, what was it like when you first got your hands on the book?

It was insane! It was insane!

If remember correctly when I first met him, that first day we sat across from one another there was a table in between us and the book was there. It was kind of like you are sitting there, and here it is, BUT DON’T TOUCH!!!!!!

He was kind of teasing me and I don’t think I even got to open it that day. I just got to see it in front of me. Which was torturous, but hilarious also.

But once you start to go through it you see it obviously has a physical weight to it. It’s heavy but it also has this emotional and artistic weight, because there is so much in there. It’s a movie in this book. Every drawing, every scene, and every line of dialog everything is in there. It’s a crazy collection of everything. It’s amazing to be one of the few people in the world that had access to it.

We also had access to the original Mobius storyboards, because the book is just photographs. Once we got access to those, in some ways simple drawings, just pencil on paper, but there is so much emotion. You could see they were done quickly, but there is so much there and they tell you everything that you need to know.

Finally, what do you think about rumors that folks want to try and release the book now and you mentioned a CG company was interested in adapting the material to finally make the film. How does that make you feel being the catalyst for that?

We are a partial catalyst. If something does happen I feel like we are partially responsible for it.

I think we are more proud of being the catalyst for his new film. The fact that we managed to bring Michel Seydoux and Jodorowsky back together, who hadn’t seen each other in over 35 years. Their encounter is what gave the world a new Jodorowsky movie. Reinvigorating Jodo to make more films, breathing life into this aspect of his life again, that is what we are really proud of. That is the coolest thing.

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