The Sandworms


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This shot shows the relationship between the crew and the 'worm canyon'. "This shot shows the relationship between the crew and the "worm canyon" (actually the breach in the Arrakeen Shield Wall) more clearly. In the right foreground are several worm wranglers, whose job it was to pull the worms by means of cables and create whatever performances these rubber creatures were capable of. We had several scales of worms.
"The longest ones (I believe they were something like 20 or so feet long) were capable of opening their mouths, revealing multiple rows of teeth, as well as of craning their bodies up and down and from side to side. Then there was a medium-scale set of worms that, if memory serves, was capable of some gyrations of the body but not of opening their mouths. Finally, there were about half a dozen small worms meant only for background action. The worms ran on tracks buried just beneath the sand, and were pulled on cables. It was messy and frustrating work. Most of the time, one worm or another would not work properly when the cameras rolled, so there were many retakes.

"Incidentally, at the very left edge of the picture you can see a crew member decked out in the safety gear many of them had to wear: tight cap, goggles, and safety mask. I recall having to buy about 150 of these things for the crew when we moved onto our so-called worm stage, where the scenes of the worms in the Arrakis desert were shot. I not only bought every safety mask available in Mexico City, but ended up having to order dozens of them from cities as far away as Monterrey."

Image/Caption courtesy of Charles L. Finance
© 1983/84
The FX crew filming the attack of the sandworms. "The FX crew filming the attack of the sandworms through the breach in the wall around Arrakeen, near the climax of the movie. The different-scaled worms are all on buried tracks covered by microballoons (nasty stuff, that!) and are pulled and manipulated by a bunch of worm handlers off-screen."

Image/Caption courtesy of Charles L. Finance
© 1983/84
Forced-perpective shot of the worms. Nearly all of Rambaldi's sandworms were employed in a series of forced-perpective shots depicting the creatures' passage through a breach in the Arrakeen shield wall.

Image/Caption courtesy of Eric Swenson
© 1983/84
A worm head mounted on the end of a rod. For a scene of a worm diving into the sand, Barry Nolan employs one of Rambaldi's smaller-scale worm heads, mounted on the end of a rod.

Image/Caption courtesy of Eric Swenson
© 1983/84
Bruno Landis - dentist to Shai-Hulud. Bruno Landis - dentist to Shai-Hulud.

Image courtesy of Bruno Landis
© 1983/84
Filter masks were mandatory on the worm stage. To avoid the inhalation of microballoons, filter masks were mandatory for all crew members working on the worm stage.
Barry Nolan films Carlo Rambaldi's worm head. Barry Nolan lines up a shot into the gapping mouth of Carlo Rambaldi's twelve-foot worm head.

Image/Caption courtesy of Eric Swenson
© 1983/84
Barry Nolan shoot a background plate of a worm tail. Barry Nolan and crew shoot a background plate of the tail section for later compositing with the live-action worm riders.

Image/Caption courtesy of Eric Swenson
© 1983/84
Gordon Hayman films a rearing sandworm Surrounded by cable operators, Gordon Hayman shoots high-speed footage of a rearing sandworm.

Image/Caption courtesy of Eric Swenson
© 1983/84
The worm head photographed against a blue screen. The closeup worm head is photographed against a blue screen.
A motion control camera is moved toward a worm head. A motion control camera on the Van der Veer effects stage is trucked toward the worm head - with moving smoke overhead suggesting stormy skies.

Image/Caption courtesy of Eric Swenson
© 1983/84
Worm Filming Worm handlers position model worms on the all-too-warm miniature desert set.
Paul's First Worm Ride On the Churubusco backlot, Kyle MacLachlan chases after a section of sandworm that is mounted on a track and pulled by a track off picture. A camera, mounted on parallel track, records his moves.