Wake Up, Time To Die: 5 Things You Might Not Know About 'Blade Runner'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
June 25, 2012 12:02 PM
7 Comments
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One of the many reasons "Prometheus" was eagerly anticipated by so many was the director's track record in the sci-fi genre. Ridley Scott had only made two science fiction pictures before this year's blockbuster, and both are considered classics (and arguably his best two films). The first was 1979's "Alien," the direct inspiration for "Prometheus." And the second? 1982's "Blade Runner," the noirish mystery adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep," which has been one of the most talked about and influential science fiction films of all time, particularly in terms of its grim look at Los Angeles in 2019.

The film, which follows Harrison Ford's "blade runner" Deckard as he's tasked with tracking down four murderous "replicants" (life-like robots) who've escaped from an off-world colony and are hiding out on Earth, wasn't a success when it first arrived, partly thanks to the tumultuous, compromised release, but the cult behind the picture has grown and grown over the years. And coincidentally, just as he gears up to work on the script with original scribe Hampton Fancher, we've hit the 30th anniversary of the film, which was released on June 25, 1982. To mark the occasion, we've pulled together five nuggets of information that you may not be aware of about Scott's sci-fi classic -- check them out below.

1. "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain"
We could have seen versions of the film directed by Martin Scorsese or "To Kill A Mockingbird" helmer Robert Mulligan

In another, parallel world, it's possible that we might not know Martin Scorsese as a man who made his name with the gangster movie, but as a science fiction pioneer who reinvented the genre before "Alien" or "Star Wars" came along. According to Paul Sammon's seminal making-of book "Future Noir," Scorsese and screenwriter friend Jay Cocks (who would go on to co-write "Gangs Of New York" and the "Blade Runner"-like "Strange Days") met with Philip K. Dick in 1969, two years after Marty's feature debut "Who's That Knocking At My Door?" and a year after the publication of Dick's "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?," to talk turning the novel into a film. Discussions proved fruitful, but the book went into development elsewhere: producer Herb Jaffe ("Fright Night") optioned it in the 1970s, and got his son Robert ("Demon Seed") to write a script, one that Dick hated so much that he joked about beating up the screenwriter. But it was writer Hampton Fancher and producer Michael Deeley who were the ones to get over most of the hurdles, although the first director attached wasn't Ridley Scott, but was in fact Robert Mulligan ("To Kill A Mockingbird," "Same Time Next Year"). The veteran helmer worked with Fancher on a script for three months, before becoming frustrated and quitting. Michael Apted, Bruce Beresford and Adrian Lyne were all considered to replace him before Scott, who'd been approached early on, became free, frustrated with slow progress on his version of "Dune," and unable to get a green light on the historical epic "Tristan & Isolde."

2. "More human than human is our motto"
A version of the film starring Dustin Hoffman, Barbara Hershey, Debbie Harry, Sterling Hayden and Joe Pantoliano? It might have happened.

When Fancher was writing his script, he envisioned it as a noirish tale with Robert Mitchum playing Deckard, and Sterling Hayden (who, as it turned out, made his last film with 1981's "Venom"), but their age ultimately made this an unrealistic proposition. For Deckard, Scott spent months negotiating with Dustin Hoffman, but he the two couldn't come to agreement on their approach for the character, so Hoffman left for new pastures ("Tootsie"). Beyond that, an extensive list of leading men were considered -- "Future Noir" reveals that Tommy Lee Jones, Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, William Devane, Raul Julia, Scott Glenn, Frederic Forrest, Robert Duvall, Judd Hirsch, Cliff Gorman, Peter Falk and Nick Nolte were all possibilities, but it was early word on "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" that persuaded Scott that Harrison Ford was the best choice (actor Morgan Paull, who read the role of Deckard in screen tests, impressed Scott enough that he was cast as ill-fated blade runner Holden in the opening scenes).

Still, Scott might have come to regret the choice, as the two clashed on set. Scott was still nervous with actors, and left Ford out to dry a little, the actor later saying, in Tom Shone's "Blockbuster," "There was nothing for me to do but stand around and give some vain attempt to give some focus to Ridley’s sets.” In producer Alan Ladd Jr's words, "Harrison wouldn’t speak to Ridley and Ridley wouldn’t speak to Harrison and I was stuck in the middle, ‘Could you tell him to do this, or tell him to do that?’ It was difficult." Scott acknowledged later, "Harrison and I are very similar. It can be perceived that we’re bad tempered and crotchety and actually we’re not. We’re actually relatively good fun, [but] if you have a discerning actor, who is smarter than most, he’s gonna ask questions, and you’d better have your answers. If you haven’t got your answers there’s likely to be a row. You have a row and your adrenaline flushes out all the other stuff you’ve got going through your mind and you suddenly come up with a very distilled answer...rage flushes it out. I get very articulate.” But the two have subsequently made up, with Ford contributing to interviews for the 2007 release of the Final Cut.

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7 Comments

  • Tyler Foster | June 25, 2012 6:53 PMReply

    The last page is missing a stage of progression: the print they discovered (which also played in Seattle, I believe...I thought it was "discovered" here, but I could be wrong) was the "Workprint" included on Disc 5 of the DVD and Blu-Ray box sets. When they put the movie on DVD, Ridley was busy shooting a film, but the studio used his notes to reconstruct the film in a rough approximation of a "Director's Cut," which was the version available on DVD until the Final Cut was finally being put together with Ridley's direct involvement.

  • Nathaniel Poe | June 25, 2012 4:12 PMReply

    Joe Pantoliano was in the running for Sylvester? Who's Sylvester? Did you mean J.F. Sebastian, the part that eventually went to character actor William Sanderson?

  • Brian Boyle | June 25, 2012 2:44 PMReply

    The replicants are neither "life-like robots" nor androids, nor are they cyborgs. They are human beings; genetically-engineered human beings. Better, stronger, faster, but with a built-in failsafe...four-year lifespans. Both Hannibal Chew and JF Sebastian say as much in their dialogue.
    CHEW: "I do eyes. Just, just eyes. Just genetic design. Just eyes. You Nexus, huh? I design your eyes."
    SEBASTIAN: "Ah, I knew it. 'Cause I do genetic design work for the Tyrell Corporation. There's some of me in you."

  • Leigh Richert | June 25, 2012 12:52 PMReply

    6. Ridley Scott actually RESHOT a couple of things for his official re-release of the DVD, including re-doing the scene where Ford shoots the stripper replicant through the glass. I believe this was done around the year 1999.

  • Tyler Foster | June 25, 2012 6:50 PM

    No, the reshoots were done for the Final Cut. The filming of these reshoots is included in the documentary on the Blu-Ray and DVD.

  • Jarrett | June 25, 2012 12:27 PMReply

    Your synopsis of Blade Runner is wrong. Deckard doesn't fall for any of the replicants he's hunting, rather a completely different character, who also is a replicant.

  • Jim | June 25, 2012 3:52 PM

    Well, that's true at the outset, but he is told to kill her later in the film.

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