The long-gestating Dune remake has hit another snag with Deadline reporting that director Pierre Morel has left the project.

We reported way back in January that Pierre Morel had joined the project, and we also reported a month later that Chase Palmer was brought onto rewrite the script for Morel. Although Paramount is reportedly very keen on Palmer's script, the studio will cut ties with the project if a production start date isn't firmed up by Spring of 2011. There were rumors that Paramount was leaning towards putting the project in turnaround, but it seems the studio will give the production a little more time.

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Pierre Morel will still remain on board as executive producer. It isn't clear who Paramount is eyeing to direct the project now, although the studio and the estate of Dune author Frank Herbert must both agree on a director for the project to move forward. Producers Richard P. Rubinstein and Kevin Misher remain confident they can find a home for the movie outside of Paramount, if need be, on the strength of Chase Palmer's script. Richard P. Rubinstein said he didn't want to see Paramount extend the option after Spring of 2011, and that he wanted the studio to make a decision, one way or another, by then:

"We don't want to extend an option and watch the studio take seven years. This is on a short tether. It's a major book franchise, you can't walk into a store and not see a shelf full of Dune books."

Richard P. Rubinstein and Kevin Misher are taking the project out to directors today. We'll be sure to keep you posted with any progress on Dune as soon as more information is available.