“I know that every single fan will walk into the theater with a baseball bat,” said Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve. “I’m aware of that and I respect that, and it’s okay with me because it’s art. Art is risk, and I have to take risks.” Villeneuve’s sequel opens in theaters this Friday; in it, Ryan Gosling plays a young blade runner who tracks down Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard, the star of Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, who has been missing for 30 years. A blade runners duties involve tracking down “replicants,” bioengineered androids, and killing (“retiring”) them. While we wait for the new movie to arrive, here are ten fascinating facts about the making of Scott’s original, based on Philip K. Dick’s dystopian novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.
Rutger Hauer had creative license with his character and created several now-iconic moments in the film, like his famous “tears in rain” line (Hauer says he only cut some words from the original script’s speech) and the cradling of the dove.
Ridley Scott’s first cut of the film was over four hours long.
The snake scale on the electron microscope is actually marijuana.
That Harrison Ford hair was no accident:
“The haircut was my idea. Ridley had envisioned a big felt hat in his first visual concept of the character at a time prior to seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was important to me not to wear the same hat in one movie after another. I didn’t want to drag the baggage of one project to the next. You can’t do that. So the hat was out. Ridley still wanted something to distinguish the character and I wanted something easy-care. So I got that haircut, figuring it would give the character definition, a certain look.”
Screenwriter Hampton Fancher wanted Robert Mitchum for the role of Deckard and wrote the character’s dialogue with the actor in mind. Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, and Dustin Hoffman (eek) were also contenders at different points in the production.
Author Philip K. Dick thought that Rutger Hauer was the perfect Roy Batty:
I was looking at the stills of him and I said, ‘Oh my God, this is the Nordic superman that Hitler said would come marching out of the laboratory. This is the blond beast that the Nazis were creating. And of course the origin of the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was my research into the Nazis for The Man in the High Castle.’
Ford and Scott didn’t always get along on the set, but he wasn’t the only reason Ford was occasionally (ok, frequently) miserable. From IMDb:
Although for many years Harrison Ford refused to talk about the film, he did contribute to the 2007 DVD documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner (2007), claiming he has reconciled with Ridley Scott and made his peace with the film. In fact, Ford says the thing he remembers most is not the grueling shoot or the arguments with his director, but being forced to record the voiceover which executive producers Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin insisted be in the film. Ford doesn’t actually mention any names, but in discussing the voiceover which was used in the theatrical cut, he says it was written by “clowns.”
The Blade Runner set was a tense environment overall:
Blade Runner was made on a very tense set. Due to American union rules, director Ridley Scott could not bring his own British crew, and felt hampered by strict codes that would not allow him to operate a camera himself. He was also constantly frustrated by crew members, financers and producers who kept questioning him about his artistic choices. Conversely, the majority of the American crew didn’t enjoy working on the film, or working with Scott, who they considered to be cold and distant, and whose perfectionism caused shooting days that often lasted around 13 hours. According to insiders on the set, crew members were leaving or being fired all the time, and the call-sheets were the only sure way to see who was still working on the production. Towards the end of principal photography an incident occurred which has become known as the T-shirt war. In an article in the British press, Scott had casually commented that he preferred working with English crews because when he asked for something they would say, “Yes gov’nor” and go get it, but things weren’t that simple with American crews. Makeup supervisor Marvin G. Westmore saw the article and was disgusted. In retaliation, he had t-shirts printed with “Yes gov’nor my ass!” on the front, and either “Will Rogers never met Ridley Scott” or “You soar with eagles when you fly with turkeys” on the back. A mildly amused Scott and several of his closer collaborators had t-shirts made with “Xenophobia sucks” on them, and Scott would wear a cap that said “Guv”. Scott later said it was meant as a joke, and to defuse the situation; he simply hoped that people would be confused by the word “xenophobia” and had to ask what it meant. Apparently, the strategy worked, and it broke the ice for a while.
Visual influences for Blade Runner include Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks, French science fiction comics magazine Métal Hurlant, the Hong Kong landscape, the industrial landscape of his former home in England, and the work of futurist Italian architect Antonio Sant’Elia.
Martin Scorsese expressed interest in adapting the film, but never optioned the novel. Gangs of New York scribe Jay Cocks would have written Scorsese’s version at that time.