IGN / SCOTT COLLURA
This coming Monday will mark 35 years since the sci-fi classic Blade Runner was released. The date was June 25, 1982, and of course the genre was changed forever from then on, as director Ridley Scott and star Harrison Ford took us on a journey to the beautiful yet terrifying world of Los Angeles, 2019 — a world of Replicants and futuristic private dicks and cold fish (though in the latter case, only in the theatrical cut!).
And now we’ll soon be returning to that world when Blade Runner 2049 is released this fall. To celebrate the anniversary of the original film as well as the upcoming sequel, I recently spoke to Ridley Scott about the legacy of Blade Runner and where he hopes to take the series in 2049 — including his confirmation that there could be more sequels beyond that film. Ford returns in the film as former Blade Runner Rick Deckard, with Ryan Gosling also starring as Officer K, and Scott executive-producing while Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) directs.
IGN: I was hoping we could start by talking a bit about your influences when making the original Blade Runner 35 years ago. Everyone knows how influential the film has been since its release, but can you talk about what influenced you?
Ridley Scott: Yeah, I mean — you know, by the time I would start making movies, I was 40. I was a very, very successful commercial maker. So, you know, we were already pretty ingrained into it, New York, London, and the Far East. And so I traveled a lot, shooting everywhere, and I spent a bit of time shooting in Hong Kong before the first skyscraper ever was going up, the Bank of Hong Kong. So when I was in Hong Kong shooting, it was — Christ, it was medieval, right? It was medieval meets technology. And medieval meets electronics. And they were making everything from cameras to sound stuff and selling it in their boxes and God knows what else. The junks in the harbor, when I was there, there had got to be 200 junks in the harbor.
And so it was an amazing environment, and that stuck in my mind. It kind of influenced me in that direction, in terms of what will the populace be in the time that Blade Runner’s [set] in. It’s not quite accurate, because 2017, we’re nearly there. Well, we are there. And it’s not Chinese at all. But there’s a lot of mixed cultures … But I think that’s one of the big things about it, was also I was spending a lot of time going to New York. That particular moment in the ’60s and ’70s, I did a lot of commercials.
New York was always the city of overload. I thought it was smelly, dirty, and grungy. And therefore I didn’t love it, but I figured it represented what we called retro-architecture. So mate, how the f#@k are you gonna clean these buildings? How do you clean the windows? It’s impossible. So that became the backdrop of how the exterior, the world of Blade Runner, evolved, because originally the script that Hampton Fancher wrote was very, very good, [but] very much written as a lower budget film. Very much internalized and interiorized. It told [the story] in apartments where the one party would go out and return, and I said, “You know, what you’re proposing in the story, you’ve got to go outside and see the world. See what that is.” So from that point on, I’ve never worked so much in all my life with a writer, the writer Hampton. And actually, it’s probably one of the best experiences I’ve had with a writer. We worked for five bloody months on it, almost every day going through it, going through what we went through yesterday, and gradually he evolved it. So, in a funny kind of way, it was a very nice marriage of a very clever writer and a very visual director. So it was nice. It was one of my better experiences, I would say.
IGN: Is that why, as a producer on the sequel, you brought Fancher back?
RS: Immediately, I talked to him on the phone and he went, “Oh, s#!t, not again.” He still walks the walk, talks the talk. And from our first meeting, which was about a week and a bit, we formed a very nice, almost a 100-page novella, which tells the whole story of where we will be today. It’s good. Very nice.
IGN: Can we talk about the sort of blending of genres in the original? You know, obviously it’s a sci-fi movie, but then you have that film noir aspect to it, which I’m assuming was part of the script before you came onboard. You also leaned into that visually.
RS: Yeah, the hunter falls in love with his quarry. And from that, this quarry is in a world of, you know, Philip K. Dick where they have very expensive things like very expensive jewelry, like with a digital, mechanized, beautiful jeweled snake that works. You can have a sheep in your house. Very weird choices. But interesting. So it’s about a world of extremes, and I said if we’ve got this, we’ve got to go outside and see what the hell it’s like outside, so that’s how it evolved.
IGN: In planning the sequel, how much did you want to call back to the original film in terms of visuals? How did you find that line between sticking to the look of the original but also not just rehashing it?
RS: Well, that’s always the challenge. So I knew what the sequel could be because, having made the first one, I used to sit and think [how] there’s a very obvious choice. And that choice always sat there, and at one stage I’d gone to somebody else saying, “We should actually do this.” And they said, “Well, we think the first one should be left alone because it worked.” I said, “Well, I think you’ve got another way to go with this thing.” And eventually our contract got bought. But in buying it, they asked me first, “Is there a story?” So I was able to say, “Of course there is.”
IGN: At what point while making the original film did you decide that Deckard would be a Replicant?
RS: Oh, it was always my thesis theory. It was one or two people who were relevant were… I can’t remember if Hampton agreed with me or not. But I remember someone had said, “Well, isn’t it corny?” I said, “Listen, I’ll be the best f#@king judge of that. I’m the director, okay?” So, and that, you learn — you know, by then I’m 44, so I’m no f#@king chicken. I’m a very experienced director from commercials and The Duellists and Alien. So, I’m able to, you know, answer that with confidence at the time, and say, “You know, back off, it’s what it’s gonna be.” Harrison, he was never — I don’t remember, actually. I think Harrison was going, “Uh, I don’t know about that.” I said, “But you have to be, because Gaff, who leaves a trail of origami everywhere, will leave you a little piece of origami at the end of the movie to say, ‘I’ve been here, I left her alive, and I can’t resist letting you know what’s in your most private thoughts when you get drunk is a f#@king unicorn!’” Right? So, I love Beavis and Butthead, so what should follow that is “Duh.” So now it will be revealed [in the sequel], one way or the other.