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“Replicants Are Like Any Other Machine, They’re Either A Benefit Or A Hazard. If They’re A Benefit It’s Not My Problem”
Philip K. Dick’s influential 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep may have been the inspiration behind Hampton Fancher’s screenplay for Blade Runner, but the man behind the adaptation didn’t particularly care for the source material.
Fancher got the name from William S. Burroughs’ book Blade Runner: A Movie, who in turn got the name from Alan Nourse’s 1974 novel The Bladerunner, neither of which have anything to do with androids. Ridley Scott instantly loved the title Blade Runner when his screenwriter suggested it, and he got permission from Burroughs to use the name. Some reissues of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep have actually used the title Blade Runner as well.
At one time, Martin Scorsese hoped to direct it. It would take 14 years before Dick would see a screenplay that didn’t make him want to punch the screenwriter in the face. Although Dick died two months short of the film’s release due to complications from a stroke, he got a chance to see 20 minutes of the film before it hit theaters.
Fancher pictured Robert Mitchum in the part of Detective Rick Deckard. The writer later suggested Tommy Lee Jones and Christopher Walker as potential candidates, but it was Dustin Hoffman who was Scott’s preference. Other actors on the shortlist were Sean Connery, Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The final decision to cast Harrison Ford would ultimately be made thanks to Steven Spielberg, who strongly recommended the actor following his work on Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
The late, great Dutch actor Rutger Hauer was unknown in the U.S. prior to being cast as the rogue leader of the Nexus-6 replicants. During the casting process, it was production executive Katherine Haber who recommended Hauer to Scott. Scott caught a glimpse of Hauer in the movie Turkish Delight and he cast him immediately without having met him.
Daryl Hannah wasn’t the first choice to play “basic pleasure model” replicant Pris either, as musician Debbie Harry was offered the role before her.
The Blondie singer revealed in an interview –
“My biggest regret of all is turning down the role of the blonde robot Pris in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. My record company didn’t want me to take time out to do a movie. I shouldn’t have listened to them.”
“My Mother…Let Me Tell You About My Mother!”
As a Brit, filming his first film in the States proved to be a hassle for Scott. Due to strict union practices in the U.S., he wasn’t allowed to operate a camera himself, a fact which created a rift between him and Ford.
To make things more prickly, Scott was adamant about capturing each scene perfectly, quite often shooting the same part multiple times before being satisfied.
According to film executive Katy Haber, who experienced the Scott and Ford feud firsthand, it was the distant persona of the director which rubbed Ford up the wrong way. The actor would often find himself performing in front of cameras without an audience as Scott watched from a 30-foot high crane.
Scott admitted that his working relationship with Ford wasn’t good, especially as filming continued. He acknowledged that much of his time was spent concerned with the small details that helped him build such a convincing world that he didn’t give enough time to his lead. But while Scott says the rift was draining, he still praises Ford as an –
“intelligent, incisive and articulate man.”
The long hours and demanding schedule didn’t help much either and Ford found himself going back to his trailer after shoots to calm down.
Morale on the set was low, shooting under brutal situations which required the crew to film at night for fifty days straight under the man-made rain contained within a Warner Bros. backlot, the movie became extremely expensive to make, going over schedule and over budget. The production’s final scene was shot just hours before the studio intervened to take creative control away from Scott.
Shortly after wrapping, Scott and producer Michael Deeley were temporarily fired from the project with Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin of Tandem Pictures stepping in as their replacements.
Although Scott and Deeley would later be rehired, they never regained control over the picture. After multiple test screenings, Perenchio and Yorkin recorded Deckard’s now infamously bad voiceover narration for the theatrical cut.
Ford thought the voiceover dialogue, meant to evoke the classic film noir movies that had been inspirations for Blade Runner, dumbed the movie down, and called recording the narration a –
“All Those Moments Will Be Lost In Time, Like Tears In The Rain. Time To Die.”
When Scott was working on Blade Runner: The Final Cut in 2007, he brought back Joanna Cassidy, the actress who plays snake-charming replicant Zhora, to reshoot her scene where she smashes through several panes of glass while Deckard chases after her.
Cassidy wasn’t allowed to film this scene in 1982, so a stuntwoman was used and in several shots, her likeness to Cassidy isn’t convincing. Scott got Cassidy to put on her original costume (complete with snake tattoo on her face) and recreate the stuntwoman’s movements on a green-screen stage.
A special effects team then digitally superimposed Cassidy’s face and body movements over those of the stuntwoman so it now looks as though it’s Cassidy performing the bloody stunt. Cassidy used her own pet snake in her scenes, a Burmese python named Darling.
The scene in the bathroom where Deckard finds the snake scale that leads him to Zhora doesn’t actually feature Ford. Scott shot it as a “pick-up” or “augmenting scene” after primary production had wrapped and Ford had become unavailable, so his double Vic Armstrong appears instead.
The “tears in rain monologue” delivered by Batty at the end of the film was heavily improvised. Thinking the soliloquy in the original script was nonsense, Hauer cut out several lines and added in the most famous one of all himself –
“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
The term “replicants” is never used in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. “Replicants” was coined by co-screenwriter David Peoples, whose daughter was studying replication – the process of duplicating cells for cloning, as part of her microbiology and biochemistry course.
In a 2001 online chat with fans, Hauer called Blade Runner his favourite among his own films. He said –
“Blade Runner needs no explanation. It just is. All of the best. There is nothing like it. To be part of a real masterpiece which changed the world’s thinking. It’s awesome.”
The Domestic Cut and Director’s Cut left it up to the viewer to decide whether Deckard was himself a replicant or a natural-born human. Ford himself believed Deckard to be human, but in 2007, Scott said he’d always considered Deckard to be a replicant.
Now considered a sci-fi classic, Blade Runner scraped together a dismal $33.8 million, which is a shocking revelation considering the movie’s $28 million budget. Blade Runner is one of the films selected by the National Film Registry for preservation due to its status as a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film.
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