'Dune: The Sisterhood' Showrunner to Exit HBO Max Series (Exclusive)

Dune- Photofest - Screenwriter Jon Spaihts- Getty - Inset - H 2019
Photofest; Inset: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

HBO Max has made its first showrunner change.

Jon Spaihts will step down as showrunner on Dune: The Sisterhood, the straight-to-series TV offshoot of the forthcoming feature film for the WarnerMedia-backed streaming service. A search is underway for a new showrunner to replace him.

Picked up to series in June, Spaihts turned in one draft of a script and a revised outline for the female-focused take on Frank Herbert's beloved 1965 novel Dune. Sources say Legendary TV was not happy with the early work Spaihts submitted and opted to remove him as showrunner on the production so he can instead focus on the yet-to-be-formally-announced film sequel to the forthcoming Dune feature.

Spaihts co-wrote the screenplay for the first film — also from Legendary — alongside Denis Villeneuve, who also produced and directed. (The first pic is currently in postproduction.) Villeneuve is attached to direct the pilot for Dune: The Sisterhood. The Spaihts- and Villeneuve-penned Dune feature — starring Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Zendaya and Oscar Isaac — is slated for a Dec. 18, 2020, theatrical bow. The film sequel has not been scheduled (or officially greenlit by Legendary).

Herbert's Dune novel examines a future in which humanity has spread across the galaxy to thousands of worlds, all ruled by the Padishah Emperor, The Imperium. Dune: The Sisterhood takes place in the same universe and explores the future through the eyes of a mysterious order of women: the Bene Gesserit. Given abilities by their mastery of the body and the mind, the Bene Gesserit expertly weave through the feudal politics and intrigue of The Imperium, pursuing plans of their own that will ultimately lead them to the enigmatic planet Arrakis — known to its inhabitants as Dune.

Spaihts will remain on board the series as an executive producer alongside Villeneuve, Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt and Kim Herbert for the Frank Herbert estate. Kevin J. Anderson will co-produce.

The TV series and feature film are the tip of the iceberg for Legendary's larger plan for Dune, which also includes video games, digital content packages and comic book series. Legendary CEO Joshua Grode told The Hollywood Reporter in April that the plan was to split Dune across two movies, though only the first one has been scheduled. To date, there have been more than 20 books in the Dune series, the first six of them written by Herbert. His son, Brian, and Kevin J. Anderson, continued the series.

This is the first showrunner change for an HBO Max scripted original series. The service, which will feature originals alongside library content (including Friends, The Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones) from across WarnerMedia's brands, is set to launch in May and cost $15 per month.

Nov. 5, 12:03 p.m. Updated with new release date for the Dune movie.