Dune: Val Kilmer was the number one choice to star in David Lynch’s movie

Val Kilmer was the number one choice to play Paul Atreides in David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune before Kyle MacLachlan came around.

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

Dune, Val Kilmer

I always love a good “what if” when it comes to casting. What if Sean Connery didn’t turn down the role of Gandolf? What if Tom Selleck was Indiana Jones? And what if Val Kilmer was Paul Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune?

Although David Lynch‘s adaptation of Dune was a critical and commercial disaster upon release, the film has gone on to develop a passionate cult following. Max Evry’s upcoming book A Masterpiece in Disarray: David Lynch’s Dune – An Oral History dives into the making of the movie with interviews from the cast and crew. Mashable has an exclusive excerpt from the book that reveals just how close Val Kilmer came to starring in the movie.

According to production office assistant Craig Campobasso, Val Kilmer was actually the number one choice to play Paul Atreides in Dune before Kyle MacLachlan came around.

We screen-tested Michael Biehn, Kevin Costner, Lewis Smith. There were a few others. Val Kilmer, of course, because Val was actually the number one choice up until Kyle did his screen test. Paul-Muad’Dib is not an easy character. Kyle made it look easy, but if you saw all the other actors struggling… Michael Biehn did not live up to it. Kevin Costner did not. It’s not that they’re bad actors; they just didn’t fit the criteria for Paul-Muad’Dib because you’re looking for this inner strength. Kevin Costner wasn’t known at that time, and I do remember him being nervous because I helped him get into the costume of Paul-Muad’Dib and I could feel his sense of nerves about it. 

Everett McGill, who played Stilgar in the movie, added, “My memories of Val are clearer in that he was represented by my agent, I knew him, and I was called to Mexico City just for his test. Val’s classical training was at Juilliard, and he showed a smooth yet forceful poise and was very comfortable with the rhythm and texture of the dialogue. I would say his Paul, to use a metaphor, was more Daniel Craig than Pierce Brosnan. I thought he did very well, but later I heard Dino had misgivings over the shape of his lips.” Be sure to check out the rest of the excerpt on Mashable, it’s well worth the read.

When the David Lynch movie was gearing up to start production, Val Kilmer was largely unknown, but his breakout role in Top Secret! happened to hit theaters just a few months before Dune.

Speaking of Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two will “explore the mythic journey of Paul Atreides as he unites with Chani and the Fremen while on a path of revenge against the conspirators who destroyed his family. Facing a choice between the love of his life and the fate of the known universe, he endeavors to prevent a terrible future only he can foresee.” The film was supposed to hit theaters later this year, but it was announced just yesterday that the release had been pushed back to March 15, 2024.

Source: Mashable

About the Author

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Based in Canada, Kevin Fraser has been a news editor with JoBlo since 2015. When not writing for the site, you can find him indulging in his passion for baking and adding to his increasingly large collection of movies that he can never find the time to watch.