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

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 25, 2012 at 12:02PM

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, and 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.
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Blade Runner, Harrison Ford

Meanwhile, Dick had suggested "Dallas" star Victoria Principal to play Rachael, and was thankfully ignored, and testing came down to three contenders -- Nina Axelrod (who can be seen on the "Dangerous Days" documentary on the Final Cut release, and went on to become a casting director), Barbara Hershey, and Sean Young. The latter got the part, but Hershey made her mark: the story of a spider being devoured by its young that Rachael tells was her suggestion. Rutger Hauer was always Scott's first choice, thanks to his work with Paul Verhoeven, and the director was clearly a particular fan of the Dutch helmer's 1973 picture "Turkish Delight," as he wanted to cast Hauer's co-star in that film, Monique van de Ven, as fellow replicant Pris, but she had a scheduling conflict. Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry was discussed at one point, while Stacey Nelkin also tested for the part, before getting another role in the film (see below); her screen test is also in "Dangerous Days." Finally, former NFLer Frank McRae ("1941," "48 Hrs") was cast as Leon, until Brion James freaked out Scott's secretary to the degree that he thought he had to cast him, while future "The Matrix" star Joe Pantoliano was in the running for Sylvester.

Blade Runner

3. "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe"
The missing replicant that caused debate among fans for so long was actually a mistake, leftover from earlier drafts.

Given the substantial changes from the source material, and the many writers involved, it's no surprise that things got a little confusing, and that's particularly true when it comes to the fifth and sixth replicants -- in all versions before the Final Cut, Bryant tells Deckard there were four on the loose, but seconds later, says that six escaped, with one killed by an "electronic gate." The fifth was actually a character called Mary, who'd been present in many earlier drafts. Fancher's original take was very different; the replicants are simply called "androids," and the Voight-Kampff test can detect them after only six questions (although Rachael makes it to thirteen, rather than a hundred). At the end, Batty kills Tyrell's entire family, as well as Sebastian, while Rachael kills herself, so Deckard doesn't have to do it. Mary, the sixth replicant, a maternal, housewife-like character analogous to Irmgard Baty in the novel, is included in this take, and survived to Fancher's next draft, completed on July 24th, 1980. It's mostly closer to the finished version, although concludes with Deckard killing Rachael. The first draft by David Webb Peoples (dated December 15th, 1980), broke away a little; it opens with Batty pulling Mary and Leon from an Off-world Termination Dump, and includes at least two extra Replicants; a character called Roger, who attacks Deckard in Leon's hotel room, and Tyrell himself -- Roy kills his creator, only to discover that the real Tyrell was placed in hibernation after getting a terminal disease, but passed away during a power outage a year earlier. It was also darker in the conclusion; Deckard makes Gaff take the Voight-Kampff test, and kills him, and again shoots Rachael in the finale. Mary survived until very late on; Scott cast actress Stacey Nelkin, who'd also tested for Pris, in the part, but it was excised before filming. However, the script inconsistency involving six escaped replicants went unnoticed, and was only fixed in the 2006 Final Cut version. A note on the title; Fancher's first draft used the novel's, before it was changed to "Dangerous Days." The name "Blade Runner" actually came from a William S. Burroughs screenplay, an adaptation of the Alan E. Nourse novel "The Bladerunner," which Scott got producer Michael Deeley to buy the rights to, but at the last minute, tried to change it to "Gotham City." Understandably, "Batman" creator Bob Kane and DC Comics were reluctant to sell the rights...  

Blade Runner, Ford, Sean Young
4. "Too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?"
There have been three sequel novels, as well as David Webb People's 'sidequel' "Soldier," and a video game with a narrative that runs alongside the original, with a new protagonist.

Scott is finally getting moving on a sequel for "Blade Runner," it would seem, but he's far from the first to try. Soon after the release of the "Director's Cut" helped to restore the reputation of the film, sci-fi author K.W. Jeter penned a novelistic sequel, "Blade Runner 2: The Edge Of Human," published in 1995. Sticking mostly to the continuity of the film, it involves Sarah Tyrell, the human template for Rachael, hiring Deckard to hunt down the missing sixth replicant, even as the template for Roy Batty hires Holden (the blade runner in the opening scene, shot in the chest by Leon), to track down Deckard, who he thinks is the sixth replicant. Two further sequels follow: 1996's "Blade Runner 3: Replicant Night," which sees Deckard on Mars working as a consultant to a movie crew making a film based on his life (seriously...), and 2000's "Blade Runner 4: Eye And Talon," which follows Iris, another blade runner, on a quest to find Tyrell's owl (again, we're not making these plots up). The 1997 video game "Blade Runner" (there was an earlier 1985 game, based, confusingly, on Vangelis' score, rather than the film, which involves you hunting down "replidroids") also builds out the universe, following blade runner Ray McCoy as he tries to hunt down more escaped replicants, taking place across the same timeline as the film. Deckard doesn't appear, but Sean Young, Brion James, James Hong, Joe Turkel and William Sanderson all reprised their roles and lent their voices to the game (although Edward James Olmos refused to return as Gaff). Writer David Webb Peoples also penned a script called "Soldier," which he considers to be a "sidequel" to "Blade Runner," inspired by the deleted opening scene in an Off-world Termination Dump. The script included several references to "Blade Runner," including a mention of the Tanhauser Gate and a glimpse of a spinner, but sadly, Paul W.S. Anderson was hired to direct, and turned it into a critically-reviled picture, and a box-office disaster. Other attempts were made at a sequel, however: Stuart Hazeldine (writer of Spielberg's upcoming Moses movie and the aborted "Paradise Lost") penned one on spec, entitled "Blade Runner Down," in the late 1990s, and "Eagle Eye" writer Travis Wright and former partner John Glenn, worked on a potential sequel for producer Bud Yorkin in the 00s, which was said to explore questions like, in the writer's own words "Is or isn’t Deckard a replicant? What happens to Rachel? What are the off world colonies like? What happens to replicants once Tyrell is killed by one of his creations?" More recently, Scott, his brother Tony and son Luke were said to be developing a web series called "Purefold," inspired by the same themes as the film, but it never seemed to come to pass. Let's hope the sequel is more successful.

This article is related to: 5 Things You Might Not Know About..., Blade Runner, On This Day In Movie History, Ridley Scott, Features, Harrison Ford, Hampton Fancher


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