Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

10 Fascinating Facts About Blade Runner

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

All of Roy Batty’s precious moments may be lost in time, like tears in rain, but these Blade Runner facts aren’t going anywhere. Though Ridley Scott's original 1982 film may be getting a modern update with Blade Runner 2049, we're taking a look behind the scenes of one of the most iconic sci-fi movies of all time.

1. RIDLEY SCOTT SAYS RICK DECKARD IS DEFINITELY A REPLICANT.

It may be a major point of contention with sci-fi fans, but to director Ridley Scott the answer is clear: Yes, Blade Runner Rick Deckard is a replicant. In the director’s cut (not the original theatrical version), there’s a short scene where Deckard daydreams about a unicorn; later, near the end of the film, Gaff (Edward James Olmos) leaves an origami unicorn for Deckard to find.

“The unicorn that’s used in Deckard’s daydream tells me that Deckard wouldn’t normally talk about such a thing to anyone,” Scott explained to WIRED in 2007. “If Gaff knew about that, [the origami unicorn] is Gaff’s message to say, ‘I’ve basically read your file, mate.’” He knows about Deckard’s private daydreams because those daydreams were implanted in his (bionic) brain.

2. … BUT HARRISON FORD ISN’T SO SURE.

While Scott’s long been clear on his interpretation of Deckard as a replicant, Ford takes the opposite viewpoint, preferring to think of his character as human. “I thought it was important that the audience be able to have a human representative on screen, somebody that they could have an emotional understanding of,” Ford said in 2013. “Ridley didn’t think that was all that important.” Still, Scott has worn his leading man down over the years: “[Ford’s] given up now. He’s said, ‘OK, mate. You win. Anything, anything, just put it to rest.’”

3. DUSTIN HOFFMAN ALMOST PLAYED DECKARD.

At various times during development, Blade Runner’s original screenwriter, Hampton Fancher, pictured Robert Mitchum, Christopher Walken, and Tommy Lee Jones as Rick Deckard. Ridley Scott wanted to go in a completely different direction by casting Dustin Hoffman, whom he later acknowledged didn’t really fit the type. “I figured, unlikely though he may be in terms of his physical size as a sci-fi hero, as an actor Hoffman could do anything,” explained Scott. “Therefore, it really didn’t matter.”

Hoffman, Scott, Fancher, producer Michael Deeley, and production executive Katherine Haber worked on the film for months, workshopping Deckard’s character and shifting the script in a more “socially conscious” (Scott’s words) direction until Hoffman abruptly dropped out in October of 1980. “Frankly,” Scott later said, “I think it might have been something as simple as money.”

4. RIDLEY SCOTT DIDN’T READ THE BOOK ON WHICH IT’S BASED.

Ridley Scott
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW

Blade Runner is (loosely) based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by legendary sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. (It’s one of over a dozen movies based on his works.) But Scott didn’t read the book before making the movie: “I actually couldn’t get into it. I met Philip K. Dick later, and he said, ‘I understand you couldn’t read the book.’ And I said, ‘You know you’re so dense, mate, by page 32, there’s about 17 storylines.’”

5. PHILIP K. DICK HATED THE SCRIPT (AT FIRST).

Dick passed away before the film was completed, but he kept up with the script as it went through various permutations. He loathed Hampton Fancher’s original draft, saying he was “angry and disgusted” at the way it “cleaned my book up of all the subtleties and of the meaning … It had become a fight between androids and a bounty hunter.” A revised screenplay by David Webb Peoples brought Dick around: “I couldn’t believe what I was reading! ... The whole thing had simply been rejuvenated in a very fundamental way ... [The screenplay and the novel] reinforce each other, so that someone who started with the novel would enjoy the movie and someone who started with the movie would enjoy the novel. I was amazed that Peoples could get some of those scenes to work. It taught me things about writing that I didn’t know.”

6. TEST AUDIENCES HATED IT SO MUCH THAT A(N INFAMOUS) VOICEOVER WAS ADDED.

Who knows what Dick would have thought about the film version that actually played in theaters, though. After disastrous preview screenings, producers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio hired a third writer, Roland Kibbee (The Bob Newhart Show) to write a noir-ish voiceover for Deckard so that the movie would be easier to follow. Urban legend has it that Ford intentionally delivered a lackluster performance so that Yorkin and Perenchio would ditch the voiceover entirely. Whether or not that’s true, Ford was not a fan of the experience, calling it a “f*cking nightmare. I thought that the film had worked without the narration. But now I was stuck recreating that narration. And I was obliged to do the voiceovers for people that did not represent the director’s interests.” In Blade Runner’s 1992 “Director’s Cut” release and 2007’s “The Final Cut,” the voiceover was removed.

7. RIDLEY SCOTT USED SOME OF STANLEY KUBRICK’S THE SHINING FOOTAGE FOR THE ORIGINAL ENDING.

Another major change between the theatrical and director’s cut versions of Blade Runner is the ending, which was originally a happy one: Rachael and Deckard drive through the countryside, and we hear in the voiceover that Rachael is a new kind of replicant who can live as long as humans do. For the backdrop of that scene, Scott used outtakes from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

8. PHILIP K. DICK REFUSED TO DO A NOVELIZATION.

Harrison Ford in 'Blade Runner'
Warner Home Video

Dick was approached about penning a Blade Runner novelization, for which he would get a cut of the film’s merchandising rights. “But they required a suppression of the original novel,” Dick explained, “in favor of the commercialized novelization based on the screenplay,” so he refused.

Blade Runner’s people were putting tremendous pressure on us to do the novelization—or to allow someone else to come in and do it, like Alan Dean Foster. But we felt that the original was a good novel. And also, I did not want to write what I call the ‘El Cheapo’ novelization.”

At one point, Blade Runner’s team threatened to refuse Dick and his publishers access to the film’s logo or stills (essentially, subsequent printings would not be able to cite the book as the inspiration for Blade Runner), but they eventually backed down.

9. THE TITLE COMES FROM A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY.

Blade Runner’s title comes from William S. Burroughs’ Blade Runner (a movie), a film treatment based on Alan E. Nourse’s 1974 novel The Bladerunner (alternatively published as The Blade Runner). That book has nothing to do, content-wise, with Dick’s book or Scott’s movie; its plot involves a black market for medical services. Scott just liked the term as a description for Deckard’s replicant-hunting cop. The film was originally titled Dangerous Days.

10. IT’S CURSED.

It might not be quite as hardcore-cursed as Poltergeist or The Omen, but Blade Runner has a curse of its own … on the businesses whose logos appear in the film. Atari, Pan Am, RCA, Cuisinart, and Bell Phones all suffered severe business problems in the years shortly after Blade Runner’s release, as did Coca-Cola, whose 1985 “New Coke” experiment was less than successful. Members of the Blade Runner production team refer to this as the “product-placement Blade Runner curse.”

Additional Sources:
Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, by Paul M. Sammon

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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iStock
The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
iStock
iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare

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