If you want proof of how badly HBO Max wants the “Dune” franchise to succeed, look no further than the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the spinoff TV series, “Dune: The Sisterhood.” Before the most recent news (more on this in a second), the series has already gone through multiple showrunners (Jon Spaihts, Dana Calvo, and creator Diane Ademu-John have all stepped away) over the years it’s been in development. However, last fall, things seemed to be in order. Alison Schapker took over as sole showrunner, casting was finalized, and production began in November. But now, months later, it would appear the series is back to the drawing board.
According to a new report from Deadline, production of the first season of “Dune: The Sisterhood” is on an extended hiatus. In addition, HBO Max announced the departures of director Johan Renck (“Chernobyl”) and actress Shirley Henderson (one of the leads).
“As ‘Dune: The Sisterhood’ has entered a pre-scheduled hiatus, there are some creative changes being made to the production in an effort to create the best series possible and stay true to the source material,” an HBO Max spokesperson said. “Johan Renck has completed his work on the series and a new director will be brought on; through mutual agreement, Johan is moving on to pursue other projects. Additionally, Shirley Henderson will be exiting the series and will no longer be playing Tula Harkonnen.”
The series takes place thousands of years before the events of Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” feature films and follows the rise of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood through the stories of a few different women in the Harkonnen house. The series is just one of a potential few that could find their way on HBO Max, to help round out the franchise that is expecting the second film “Dune: Part Two” in November. So, why is this hiatus drawing so much attention? Well, the departure of the director and one of the main cast members is a startling thing to happen this deep into production. And the report claims that this drama could be much deeper than HBO Max is willing to admit.
The report says there are two views as to what is happening. Both agree that there is creative issues behind the scenes that need to be resolved. However, one source said the hiatus was already planned, while the other disagrees. The creative issues seem to stem from the showrunner issues that plagued the show prior to production. Apparently, the new showrunner, Schapker, might not have been given enough time to properly develop the series her way, and when production began, it was clearly not going in the right direction and needs to be developed some more. The report also claims that Renck’s direction was a bit too “auteur” for what HBO Max was hoping for and didn’t match the style that had been shown already in the “Dune” feature film.
The other issue that now exists is the potential length of the hiatus. The report said the hiatus could last seven months, and this length could wreak havoc on the schedules of the talent involved. Basically, if the show doesn’t begin production in a timely manner again, there could be more unplanned departures. Yes, it’s a bit of a mess.
All this to say, it’s clear HBO Max really would like the “Dune” franchise to grow. Why else would the streaming service (as well as Legendary and Warner Bros. Discovery) try this hard to get one (really expensive) series to air? Unfortunately, we’re not sure what the future holds for ‘The Sisterhood,’ but as it stands, things aren’t looking too great.