HR Giger on Dune
"I first heard about 'Dune' through Bob Venosa, an American painter of fantastic realism who lived in Cadaqués with his family and was a frequent visitor at Salvador Dali's house. It was a project for a three hour 70 mm science fiction film, in which Dali was to play a leading role for a fee of $100,000 an hour (he was later invited to leave the film because of his pro-Franco statements). Bob Venosa telephoned me to say that the director Alejandro Jodorowsky, to whom Dali had shown my catalogue, was interested in my work. So I went to Spain, but unfortunately Jodorowsky had already left.
"Dali, however, showed a polite interest in my work and introduced his wife Gala, describing her as a specialist in monsters and nightmares whose external appearance completely belied her inner world, Gala then expressed the opinion that I would only need to wear a mask in order to completely match the world of my pictures, and this lead her into an hour-long diatribe against the evils of the world, of which she had years of experience. She was really one of the most impressive ladies I have ever met.
"I returned of Switzerland, stupidly leaving my current girlfriend in Cadaqués, where Dali used her as a model and tried to couple her with a young hippie. Dali wanted to celebrate the ceremony himself and supervise the accompanying rituals, in his own special way. I was secretly amused by the whole affair, as I had just read John Fowles' 'The Magnus' and quite understood what the old fox was up to.
"In December 1975 I went to Paris for the private view of an exhibition about the devil, for which I had designed a coloured poster. While I was there I went to Jodorowsky's studio and left my Paris address. Jodorowsky called me over and showed me the preliminary studies for 'Dune'. Four science fiction artists were busy designing spaceships, satellites and whole planets. As a gesture to me, a couple of photocopies of vaguely suitable pictures from my catalogue had been left lying around. Jodorowsky said that he would like me to try some designs - I could create a whole planet, and I would have a completely free hand. Three-dimensional models would be made from my sketches and actors superimposed on them. I could also design costumes and masks, etc. according to my own ideas.
"My planet was ruled by evil, a place where black magic was practiced, aggressions were let loose, and intemperance and perversion were the order of the day. Just the place for me, in fact. Only sex couldn't be shown, and I had to work as if the film was being made for children. Jodorowsky was fed up with having his films censored. A team of thirty specialists would transform my ideas into film. I was thrilled by the idea.
"When we came to talking about money, he said: "You may be a genius, but we can't pay you as a genius". When I asked him what the other contributors were getting, he said "Foss gets 4000 francs a month" - modest salary indeed for a creative designer on a project costing twenty million. He explained to me at length what good publicity it would be for me etc. We parted after we had agreed that he would telephone me about the salary, and he gave me the script so that I could start work right away.
"On returning to Switzerland I was astonished to receive a telephone call from one of Jodorowsky's assistants saying that i should produce a view of the castle on the planet we had spoken about, 55 x 65 cm, and bring it to Paris, where they would look at it and see if it was suitable for the film.
"Such are the penalties of being a 'Petit Suisse' ('Little Swiss')."