10 Fascinating Facts About Blade Runner
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.
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.
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.”
Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, by Paul M. Sammon