More than three decades removed from the premiere of Ridley Scott’s timeless sci-fi classic Blade Runner, fans of the original work are finally being treated to a sequel that's well worth the wait. While Warner Bros. hopes to reel in a newer generation of viewers with the stellar casting additions of Ryan Gosling and Jared Leto, there’s also hope that Blade Runner 2049 will finally answer some of the long-standing questions left lingering from the first film.
Visually splendid, thematically challenging, and purposely ambiguous, the script for Blade Runner was ahead of its time. For many years, the film was deemed an untouchable cult favorite among sci-fi enthusiasts for its eerily accurate predictions of the future and deeply philosophical musings on humanity.
Although the highly anticipated sequel is already making waves as another ambitious effort that's sure to stir up debates for many years to come, there's no denying the impact the original had.
Whether you're just now becoming acquainted with the Blade Runner mythos or you've seen the original countless times, the history of the series is just as intriguing as the movies themselves.
In honor of the return to Philip K. Dick’s world of replicants, here are 16 Things You Never Knew About Blade Runner.
During the early stages of any film, a revolving door of actors are considered for the role of the leading man. While writing the first draft for Blade Runner, Hampton Fancher pictured the rugged looks of Robert Mitchum in the part of the hard-boiled detective Rick Deckard. The writer later suggested Tommy Lee Jones and Christopher Walker as potential candidates, but it was Dustin Hoffman who caught the eye of Ridley Scott.
Despite collaborating on the film with Scott for many months, Hoffman abruptly dropped out of the project in 1980, leaving the leading role still to be filled. Other notable names once considered for the part included Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The final decision to cast Harrison Ford would ultimately be made thanks to Steven Spielberg, who strongly praised the actor’s work in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Philip K. Dick’s influential 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? may have been the inspiration behind Hampton Fancher’s screenplay for Blade Runner, but the man behind the adaptation didn't particularly care for the source material.
As a struggling television actor during the '70s, Fancher found himself strapped for cash. Looking to make a quick buck, he turned to screenwriting, adapting Dick’s book after taking a recommendation from a friend. Though not initially a fan of sci-fi movies, Fancher recognized the genre’s growing popularity. Adding changes to the original story, Fancher can also be credited with the title of the film.
Using working titles such as Android and Dangerous Days, the movie was finally given the name Blade Runner when Ridley Scott fell in love with the phrase from Fancher’s first draft. The term was stolen from a screenplay written by William S. Burroughs which focused on an apocalyptic healthcare crisis.
Burroughs’ film would have been an adaptation of the 1974 Alan Nourse novel The Bladerunner, which is where the phrase was first used.
As an Englishman, filming his first film in the States proved to be a chore for director Ridley Scott. Due to strict union practices in the U.S., Scott was not allowed to operate a camera himself, a fact which seemingly created distance between himself and Harrison Ford. To add fuel to the flames, Scott was adamant about capturing each scene perfectly, often shooting the same part multiple times before being satisfied.
According to film executive Katy Haber, who experienced the feud between Scott and Ford firsthand, it was the distant persona of the acclaimed director which rubbed Ford the wrong way. The Indiana Jones actor would often find himself performing in front of cameras without an audience as Scott watched from a 30 foot high crane.
The grueling hours and demanding schedule didn't help much either and Ford found himself retreating to his trailer after shoots to wind down from the most chaotic production of his career.
Although it was originally intended to be a less confusing subplot of the 1982 film, one of the biggest debates about Blade Runner revolves around bounty hunter Rick Deckard’s status as a replicant. If you listen to Ridley Scott’s version of the story, Deckard was always intended to be an android. Much like the character Rachael, he was supposed to be a newer Nexus-7 model, which had false memories implanted to make him believe he was human.
Having read Philip K. Dick’s novel, Ford protested the thought of his character being anything but human, a claim he has supported until now. In the end, a few key scenes would be filmed to drop subtle hints that the protagonist was indeed an android, but Ford would fight every one of them, suggesting that Deckard's cold attitude was part of his persona and had nothing to do with his potential status as a robot.
From the aerial view of futuristic Los Angeles, Blade Runner paints a portrait of a world crippled by industrial pollution, overpopulation, and urban decay.
The multicultural impact of a mass migration to the city is seen through the eyes of Deckard. The influences of the various cultures can be spotted in the movie’s heavy use of Japanese imagery throughout the story, but the fictional language spoke by the citizens is also a strong indicator of just how much the culture has changed in the future.
When Deckard first meets the mysterious Gaff, played by Edward James Olmos, his character speaks to him in an unidentifiable language. Referred to as Cityspeak by Decker, this dialogue was entirely created by Olmos, who used a mixture of Japanese, Spanish, and German as well as Hungarian, Chinese, and French in order to achieve a realistic dialect which would incorporate all the ethnicities visible throughout the movie.
Dealing with the theme of dehumanization as well as issues the impact of genetic engineering on the definition of humanity, Blade Runner remains one of the most complete Philip K. Dick’s adaptations, despite its differenes from the original story. Although Dick died two months short of the film’s release due to complications from a stroke, he got a chance to glimpse the film before it hit theaters.
In a letter written by Dick, the sci-fi author acknowledged the movie, saying that the neo-noir was a convincing exploration into a hyper-realistic world which made the real world appear pallid in comparison.
Not only did he believe his work was justified by the film, but he praised Scott’s vision, believing that the movie would revolutionize the sci-fi genre and save it from what he called a derivative and monotonous death.
According to the distinguished film journalist Paul Sammon, who was commissioned to write a special article on the making of Blade Runner in 1981, Ridley Scott’s attention to detail on the set was so defined that he went so far as to create provocative, futuristic headlines for magazines which would never appear on film.
Although Scott believed his vision would leave an impression with viewers, test screenings in Dallas and Denver left much to be desired by the movie’s studio.
Going into the viewing expecting to see a Harrison Ford movie along the lines of Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark, audiences were left confused by the film’s story. Despite crafting a unique cinematic world, the film was believed to be a narrative mess.
As a means of simplifying the movie, the studio forced Scott to add voiceover narration from Ford, clarifying many scenes. Ford hated the narration so much, it reportedly affected his opinion of the film for many years.
From the moment Ridley Scott arrived stateside to begin production on Blade Runner, the movie was fraught with tension. Shooting under dire situations which required the crew to film at night for fifty days straight under the man-made rain of a Warner Bros. backlot, the movie became wildly expensive to make, going over schedule and over budget. The production’s final scene was shot just hours before the studio intervened to take creative control away from Scott.
Shortly after wrapping, Scott and producer Michael Deeley were temporarily fired from the project with Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin of Tandem Pictures stepping in as their replacements. Although Scott and Deeley would later be rehired, they never regained control over the picture. After multiple test screenings, Perenchio and Yorkin recorded Deckard’s now infamously bad voiceover narration for the theatrical cut.
Despite being the primary basis for Blade Runner, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? never refers to the bioengineered androids as replicants. In fact, the word was created specifically for the film in order to describe the synthetic robots designed to look like humans.
Instead of using the slang term "andy," which Philip K . Dick coined in his story, Ridley Scott wanted a term with no preconceptions. When David Peoples was brought in to rewrite the screenplay, he consulted his daughter, an expert in microbiology and biochemistry. She suggested a word dealing with replicating, much like the process of a cell when it makes a copy of itself. From that, Scott and Peoples were able to create the word "replicant" used in the series today.
Likewise, the term "skin-job" appears only in the movie as a derogatory term to describe the antipathetic androids.
In the land of big budget blockbusters, it can be hard to turn a profit. Thanks to the help of marketable brand names, however, large corporations have found ways to scratch the backs of studio executives while also bringing home a big payday.
Although Blade Runner 2049 is liekly to bring in a sizeable sum at the box office with its glowing responses from the critics, there will be many companies holding their breath as they hope to avoid one of the odder curses in movie-making history.
As a futuristic view of Los Angeles in 2019, the skyline seen in Blade Runner features many neon-lit adverts promoting some popular companies of the early '80s. As it turned out, many of those companies later had major setbacks, including bankruptcies, divestitures and losses.
Among the companies that went under, Pan Am Airlines and Atari are no longer standing. Likewise, Coca-Cola, one of the most recognizable brands in the world, lost millions after introducing their New Coke formula to the world in a huge marketing failure.
Working under a $28 million budget, the design crews behind Blade Runner’s dystopian setting were forced to get creative by borrowing props from former blockbusters to complete the film's overall aesthetic. When Deckard is picked up inside a police spinner at one point in the film, a launch sequence screen identical to the one used in Alien is clearly visible, making a quick reference to Scott’s other sci-fi classic.
At times during filming, the crew responsible for engineering the landscape were frantic about building the set in time. As a result of a rushed production, they grabbed a saucer top used in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind as well as a miniature five foot tall Millennium Falcon figurine from Star Wars to fill out unused spaces on camera.
To top things off, after a few bad screenings left Scott looking for a more upbeat ending to his film, he consulted legendary director Stanley Kubrick, who allowed him to reuse helicopter footage from The Shining as part of the movie's closing scene.
Apart from being directed by the same person, Blade Runner shares more in common with the Alien franchise than you may believe. In a Blu-ray extra featured on the release of Prometheus, a diary from Sir Peter Weyland, founder of the multinational technology company Weyland Corp, admits that the creation of the synthetics seen in the Alien franchise may have had something to do with Eldon Tyrell, inventor of the replicants.
According to Scott, the connection between Alien and Blade Runner was so strong that he once considered calling the Weyland company Weyland-Tyrell. Instead, the synthetics can be interpreted as the next evolutionary step above Tyrell’s creations, as Weyland calls them robotic abominations in his observation of his former mentor’s inventions.
It remains to be seen if this connection will stretch further into the Blade Runner mythos, but the tie-in certainly leaves more options available for future sequels.
When principal photography wrapped in 1981, Ridley Scott found himself in a bind. As a auteur with a perfectionist mentality, he had filmed multiple scenes over and over again, leaving him with tons of material that would ultimately go unused. When everything was said and done, the first cut of the film was rumored to have been roughly four hours in length, though no one can recall having seen this version of the film.
If you're a newcomer to the Blade Runner mythos, you may be asking which version of the film you should watch. Between the more ambiguous work print version screened for test audiences to the U.S. theatrical release featuring a happier ending, seven distinct cuts exist. Today, the Director’s Cut and Final Cut are most widely known for Scott’s involvement in the changes made to the final presentation. If you're looking for help on where to start, we’d suggest working with one of the latter two suggestions before viewing some of the other less stellar edits available to the public.
A product of the Netherlands, Dutch actor Rutger Hauer was unknown in the U.S. prior to being cast as the rogue leader of the Nexus-6 replicants in Blade Runner. During the casting process, it was production executive Katherine Haber who recommended Hauer to Ridley Scott. After Scott caught a glimpse of Hauer’s abilities in films like Turkish Delight and Katie Tippel, he cast him immediately without having met him.
Although Hauer’s unnerving performance as the poignant android proved to be a highlight of the film, the first meeting between Scott and the actor did not go so well. As a way of breaking the ice, Hauer decided to play a joke on the director, showing up wearing green glasses, pink satin pants, and a large sweater with an image of a fox on the front. Scott was so surprised by the oddball attire that he nearly fainted from the sight.
Today Blade Runner is lauded for its groundbreaking visuals which helped to pave the way for such films as The Matrix and Minority Report, but during its initial release, Ridley Scott found himself in a box office battle with a family-friendly alien picture.
Hitting theaters in the summer of 1982, Blade Runner’s premiere date was hot off the heels of some of the most prolific sci-fi classics of the era. Although other films of the time included Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Thing and Conan the Barbarian, the most prominent battle for the number one spot among ticket purchasers was between Scott’s film and a little known Steven Spielberg movie called E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
In the end, Blade Runner wheeled in a dismal $33.8 million, which is a shocking revelation considering the movie’s $28 million budget.
Thirty-five years ago the feasibility of emotionally capable artificial intelligence taking over the world was virtually nonexistent, but today the dystopian future predicted in Blade Runner feels like a not so distant inevitability. Although we’re still many years away from true androids and flying hovercars, there's reason to believe that the L.A. landscape seen in Scott’s film could one day become commonplace across multiple cities.
Years before the jumbotron invaded Times Square, Scott advertised Coca-Cola in a neon-lit display large enough to cover the side of a skyscraper. Not only did Blade Runner foresee how major corporations would market to consumers, but they also predicted a leap in technological innovation.
Since 1982, robots have become more human-like; U.S. company Terrafugia has revealed a prototype for the first flying car; and profitable companies have begun their push into the private funding of space exploration. All these ideas were first seen if the '80s sci-fi fantasy, which shows just how beyond its years Blade Runner truly was.
Do you have any other Blade Runner trivia to share? Sound off in the comments!