Book Excerpt: What Philip K. Dick Really Thought of ‘Blade Runner’


With Blade Runner 2049 in theaters this week, interest is high for all things Runner-related – thus we have a new, “revised and updated edition” of the definitive behind-the-scenes account of its production, FUTURE NOIR: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul Sammon. And we’re lucky enough to present a fascinating excerpt.

It seems that author Philip K. Dick worried that Blade Runner was going to trash his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, so he remained wary of the production, never visiting the set during filming. But with barely two months left to live, Dick was able to see some footage of the film itself during a special screening arranged just for him—footage whose outstanding quality radically changed the writer’s mind. From the book:

“I got a call from one of the ladies at the [Blade Runner] production department saying that Philip K. Dick was coming down at three in the afternoon for a screening,” [David] Dryer recalls, [one of Blade Runner‘s special effects chief]. “She told me to assemble an effects reel showing the best of the best. So I did. I planned on showing it to Dick in EEG’s screening room, which was pretty remarkable. Doug Trumbull had one of the best screening rooms I’ve ever seen. The image on that screen was spectacular—it was in 70mm—and a great sound system had been installed that made the floor rumble.

“Now, Vangelis hadn’t supplied any music yet, but Matthew Yuricich had been painting some of his mattes to old Vangelis albums—Matt likes to paint to music. Since we were already familiar with that, we decided to also play Vangelis music while we showed our reel to Dick.

“Then the production rented out a chauffeured limousine to pick up Philip Dick in Santa Ana,” continues Dryer. “They were really giving him the deluxe treatment. That limo drove him all the way up to Maxella, and when he arrived at EEG, I noticed Dick had brought a woman along with him [Wilson]. I could also tell right away that Dick was unhappy; he acted like somebody with a burr up their ass. First he started kind of grilling me in this grouchy tone about all kinds of things—he wanted to know what was going on, told me that he’d been very unhappy with the script, and so on and so forth.

“So first we gave him a quick tour of the EEG shop, which I thought might settle him down. But Dick didn’t seem impressed, even when we showed him all the preproduction art and the actual models we’d used for certain effects shots. (Then, after Dick and Ridley had a meeting), we went into the screening room.”

“Dick was a bit guarded at first,” recalls Ridley Scott. “Until we doused the lights, turned up the music, and ran the reel for him,” adds Dryer.

However, according to Blade Runner’s coeffects supervisor, “Dick didn’t say a word at first. He sat there for twenty minutes like a statue. Then the lights came up, and Dick turned around to me. He said in this gruff voice, ‘Can you run that again?’ So the projectionist rethreaded and ran it again.

“Now the lights come up a second time. Dick looks me straight in the eye and says, ‘How is this possible? How can this be? Those are not the exact images, but the texture and tone of the images I saw in my head when I was writing the original book! The environment is exactly as how I’d imagined it! How’d you guys do that? How did you know what I was feeling and thinking?!’

“Let me tell you, that was one of the most successful moments of my career,” Dryer concludes. “Dick went away dazed.”

From Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon. Copyright 2017 Paul M. Sammon. Reprinted by permission of Dey Street, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.