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An Oral History Of Blade Runner's 2019 Los Angeles, Because The Future Has Arrived

The Blade Runner future that we haven't quite reached. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)
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From Blade Runner's opening titles. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

Los Angeles -- November, 2019.

Early in the 21st century, LAist has put together an L.A.-centric oral history of the 1982 seminal science fiction film Blade Runner.

Thirty-seven years after it came out, we are now in the month that the movie took place. At the end of the month, Blade Runner's Los Angeles of the future will officially take place in the past. Hold on tight for this trip through time and space.

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We've spent months speaking with some of the minds that helped bring you the film.

Below is an account of how they created Blade Runner's fictional November 2019 -- and what they think about how the real one turned out.


As the movie was developed, the plan wasn't always for it to be set in L.A.

Screenwriter Hampton Fancher: There were a lot of elsewheres. There were some great places to overlay our deal on, citywise -- Hong Kong, Mexico City. In the beginning, we were talking about about London.

Visual Futurist Syd Mead: Originally, the theoretical city in which Blade Runner was taking place was called "San Angeles," on the imagination that it would be constant city from San Francisco all the way down to the border to Mexico.

Los Angeles was just convenient for cost purposes for shooting -- you didn't have to move out of the city.

Harrison Ford, Katy Haber, and Ridley Scott. (Courtesy Katy Haber)

Production Executive Katy Haber: I went with [Blade Runner director] Ridley [Scott] looking for locations in Chicago and New York, because he was looking for the most appropriate city where he could find the best locations, and we couldn't find any locations that represented his vision of what Blade Runner would be. And so we decided to stick to Los Angeles, and shoot the whole film on the Warner Brothers lot.

Fancher: But in the writing, before that, Ridley's got a rich imagination, and I'm crazy -- so I kept writing for different climates and different circumstances, mechanically and weatherwise. So it did change around a lot, before it finally got simple, into L.A.

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Art Director David L. Snyder: The whole idea was, OK, we would shoot in L.A. wherever we could -- the Bradbury Building, Union Station.


Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

One of Hampton Fancher's friends gave him money to option an existing property, with the hope of Fancher legitimizing himself in Hollywood.

Fancher: It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, "OK, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas" -- some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Naked Lunch, and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it -- I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something "commercial," and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn't find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn't even know where he was. And so I gave up.

And then I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury -- he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled "hi" -- and I'd forgot who he was.

So at [my girlfriend Barbara Hershey's] urging -- I was with her at that moment -- she said, "Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you," and I said "No, f--- him," and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, "Wait, he's in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick." I said, "You know a guy named--" "Yeah, sure -- you want his phone number?"

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn't get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well [if you can't get a writer,] then you write.

So then, as soon as I started, I got totally involved. I was really immersed, and I worked hard at it, and the rest is Blade Runner. It was mercenary. But when I started writing it, then I became sincere, and it became significant to me.


A Blade Runner cityscape, as seen in The Movie Art of Syd Mead. (Syd Mead/Titan Press)

Syd Mead hadn't worked in Hollywood before, so when Ridley Scott wanted to bring him on board to design the future, Haber came up with the idea of crediting him as a "visual futurist."

Snyder: Ridley was the executive production designer, due to the fact that he had been a BBC art director and had art directed and directed in films, shot camerawork, many commercials.

Syd Mead was the futurist. If I were doing a film on, say, the second World War, I'd go back to the archives and do the research, and there's plenty of it -- stills, magazines, print, film archives.

And in this case, because the film took place 40 years in the future, we depended on Syd, who was an industrial designer -- he's not an art director, or a production designer, he's a real-life designer.

We all decided, let's do something great.

A Blade Runner facade, as seen in The Movie Art of Syd Mead. (Syd Mead/Titan Press)

Mead: [My primary influence was] from Chicago and New York, because they're grid cities. And New York already had buildings over 1,000 feet -- well, the Empire State Building. And so I thought, well let's add another thousand feet or so -- why not?

So I had this vision of these incredible tall buildings, and that triggered the idea of how do you get in and out of a building that's 3,000 feet tall? Well, you need access on the ground plane. And that's why they had these pyramids at the bottom, for greater access around the perimeter to get into the building in the first place.

Snyder: What Ridley said was, he would draw, and Syd Mead would draw, and everyone would draw, and then "the poor bastard art departments" had to build everything.

On the first day of shooting, Ridley would look through the lens, and everything would change. My job became the reconstructor art director, turning everything upside-down and sideways, to better effect -- because Ridley's brilliant.


Fancher: The reason I was able to write the movie, and not be distracted as I always am by a million other things, is because I was very serious about the demise of the planet. You know, this is '75. This is acid [rain]. Until 1980, it was like, Whole Earth Catalog, CoEvolution. It was important to me.

Snyder: It was an idea that the environment is crumbling, and the idea was that the rain in the film was like acid rain. That's why people were moving off-world -- to get off this planet before it disintegrated.

I think we were making a statement about the government, and the future, and the climate, and the disparaging rift between rich and poor.

Fancher: I mean, I was devastated that animals were disappearing at the rate they were disappearing -- the rainforest was going bye-bye. It was like, "this is f---ed up," and I was angry and sad.

And so that idea kept me rolling, because I had something to write for. I got the cue from the book, but I was in that mindset anyway.

Fancher was replaced on the film by writer David Peoples, who executed Ridley Scott's vision for what needed to happen with the screenplay.

Fancher: I was devastated. I hated it. I didn't understand that it might be a good idea. If David Peoples hadn't have come, there would be no Blade Runner -- that's for sure.

Because where I was going was not right -- I mean, it would have been a different movie. If he hadn't have come, if I would've stayed, Blade Runner would have been one of those little movies -- Soylent Green, or something -- that maybe you could rent once in a while or something, but we wouldn't know about it.


Fancher: [Ridley] was location hunting when I was writing, and I remember him coming back from a scout, telling me that he'd seen a building that he liked. And I remember screaming, "What?! You can't use the Bradbury Building!"

And he said, "Why Not?" I said, "Because you're a Brit -- you don't understand, that's been in every f---ing TV show, every other day, for 50 years."

He was walking out the door, and I said, "I'm telling you, you're making a big f---ing mistake." And he said, "No, I'm not." And I said something about the way that it had been done -- it had been done in every detective show, and every hot show -- it's been seen.

And then he laughed, and he looked at me -- "Not the way I'll do it." And I thought, "You arrogant idiot."

Snyder: That was a working building at the time, and when I built the marquee outside, the canopy, we couldn't touch their building at all. So what we had to do, old-school, was take a calipers and measure the building, and then cut everything to it, and then gently push the building into place -- without even touching their building.

So if you look close at those scenes, with Pris -- Darryl Hannah -- if you look close, you can see that there's a tiny little space between my set, and the Bradbury Building.

Haber: We shot the entire end of the film, and J.F.'s apartment, in the Bradbury Building. But the Bradbury Building is a fully functioning and existing office block.

Snyder: The interior, we started shooting at 6 o'clock at night, and we had to be out by 6 o'clock in the morning, and we had rain inside the building.

What we did was, we got barrels of crumbled cork, which looks like dirt. So we spread the cork all over the floors, as opposed to dirt, because it looks like dirt. And in the morning, we would just sweep up the cork, which had absorbed the majority of the water, and mop the floors down, and we had to do it every night.

It was really treacherous and difficult. And with Ridley, there was no "I can't do it, I don't know how" -- it just had to be done.

Fancher: Boy, was [Ridley] right. There's reasons for his confidence. He f---ing nailed it.


The movie features a climactic chase, with Rutger Hauer's Roy Batty hunting down Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard.

Snyder: So we went to a building downtown -- it's called the Rosslyn Hotel, the Million Dollar Hotel. Many films have been shot there, music videos, and it has a heart-shaped neon sign on the rooftop.

He has to jump from one rooftop to the other. Well, of course, it's quite dangerous. I consulted an engineer, and he said the building was built in 1912. It was derelict when I was there -- I mean, it was really in bad shape.

So he said that we would have to build another platform on top of the rooftop to take the weight of all the equipment and the crew, and it was going to be maybe 50,000, 100,000 dollars.

I said to Ridley, look, you know what: I can build a building on the backlot that's 20 feet high, 20 feet wide, and 20 feet deep, and I'll put it on wheels, and we'll be able to move it around. Which we did, frequently.

So it's a landmark building -- it's the one landmark building that I reproduced, meticulously. I mean, it's a dead match to the building. And that cornice on the roof is made of steel -- well mine is made of fiberglass, but who knows, except me.

And Harrison Ford was able to climb up to the rooftop because I had him get on a lift, and he would put his hands where he would reach, and I would mark the chalk, and we'd cut out a hole and put rubber tubing so he could grab it. So when he's ascending the rooftop there, he looks like he's pretty good at it, but I gave him a little help.

[Ridley] would say "Do this," and I would do that, and he would say "OK, I want something moving in the frame" at 3 o'clock in the morning, and I would come up with things like the landmark piece in the film.

All those fans turning and strobe-lights -- they weren't there the day we got there. They were made up of paper plates and cardboard, and put on C-stands, and there were no motors, and so the prop guys would have to spin the fans and then run out of the shot. [laughing]

It was a DIY situation for me, where he would say "Make something happen," and I would say "What do you want me to make happen?" And he said, "Well you're the art director, you figure it out."


Fancher: [Ridley Scott and I] definitely had disagreements. And it was my fault. I was naive and stupid. I didn't know -- I thought that the project was mine, you know?

He was extremely inspiring. But I also had trouble. By the way, the things I disagreed with -- it turns out he was right and I was wrong, for sure. I was naive about heroes.

Haber: I spent many weeks at the Chateau Marmont with David [Peoples] rewriting Hampton Fancher's original screenplay.

The problem was that Hampton was around when David was at the Chateau Marmont, and at first he didn't know it was happening.

Fancher: [Ridley's] good. He knows the business of making a movie, and what has to happen, and I never have. I'm not realistic that way. And he's very realistic.

So we had two falling outs. I left the picture, but I came back at the end, and we continue to know each other. I adore him.

For a while, I didn't want anything to do with the picture -- I tried to get my name off it. So that's how stupid I am.


Fancher: I didn't like that Rachel, I thought, was weakened. I wanted her to be more powerful than everybody -- mentally, emotionally. [In mocking voice] "Oh, god, what am I going to do?" I didn't want that, and I fought that -- and I was wrong.

And I wanted Deckard to be even more vulnerable, and I was wrong there too. When Batty's going to drop him off the roof, Ridley wanted me to have Deckard be defiant. I said, "He'll suck his d---! He'll do anything -- he's not defiant!"

The chess game -- I thought that was ridiculous. He gets into the Tyrell Corporation playing chess? The most surveilled place on the planet? He goes up an elevator with Roy Batty -- the most sought after renegade in the world? Noooo. I had another way to do it.

Then I think, they're whispering behind my back, "Well, Hampton doesn't seem to understand movies, Saturday matinees, whatever." You can get away with things, the audience will love it -- whatever that is. And I was being, in some stupid artistic way, conservative. So there were a lot of things I resisted -- in fact, I didn't cooperate.


Mead: Once we got going, the whole Warner Brothers backlot became Blade Runner Land.

Snyder: That was when the decision was made that we only shot at nighttime. Because at nighttime, like in Tokyo or whatever -- the distance from the camera across the backlot, you don't know what's beyond that -- it could be Hong Kong.

Mead: I knew Ridley wanted to have a very dense, packed set look to the whole thing. So once I got pictures of the backlot, I started to overlay them with a lot of stuff -- wiring, and tubing, and so forth.

The idea of the city as a machine took on a whole new idea -- we called the look "trash chic," or "retro deco." I mashed together every single architectural style I could think of, indiscriminately, just to make it look packed up and eclectic.

Snyder: This is the first film that Ridley did in Hollywood, L.A. So he had this idea, the most brilliant idea of all: we would go night-scouting in downtown L.A., which was really treacherous, really tough.

And so, Ridley said, "Look -- there's 1920 on this building, and then they put a layer of 1940 on the building, and then they put a layer of 1960 on the building," and it was a stratification thing.

So when it was decided that we were going to shoot on the Warner Brothers backlot -- the buildings that were built on the backlot started in 1924. And then went through all those periods, from 1924 to 1980.

When we were in pre-production, Ridley took us into the screening room and we ran the film Logan's Run. And at the end of the film, he said, "Do you see that? We don't want to do any of that, at all. This is exactly what we don't want to do -- the Earth is leveled, and you start over again."

Mead: The first thing Ridley said out of his mouth was, "This is not going to be Logan's Run." I thought, "Well, that gives me a clue."

Snyder: We started with 1920, and 1940 -- the backlot, various structures over time -- and then we added 2019 to it. The layers, and layers, and layers of stuff is what really makes that film look like it does.

Fancher: I didn't understand money at all. I remember a scene, and they told me, "We don't have the money for the street." I said, "What do you mean, money for the street?" "We can't lengthen the f---ing street in the backlot of Warner Brothers to accommodate that." And I said, "Well, just do it -- it's movies."


Snyder: We all, filmmakers, prefer the Final Cut, because [Ridley] was in charge of the Final Cut. As far as the "director's cut," he wasn't that involved in it.

Haber: We shot the last two weeks in one week, so as not to lose Ridley, god forbid -- and then the directors strike never happened. So we shot two weeks in one week, and the overtime for the crew meant they shot 24/7, [which cost] 5 million.

That put the movie over-budget, leading to Scott and the other producers being removed from the film, with financiers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio taking over post-production. Haber was the one member of the producing staff kept on under the new administration.

Haber: When Ridley wanted to do his next two cuts on DVD, he had to get permission from them, because they owned the film.

[When the movie came out,] I felt like I was giving birth in public. And it was really difficult, because it was Bud Yorkin's version of the film, which is why it was not so successful.

The narration, which Bud Yorkin and I dubbed with Harrison Ford, with Harrison doing it very badly in the hope that it wasn't going to be used -- it was not written by Hampton Fancher or David Peoples. It was written by Bud Yorkin's writer [Roland Kibbee].

And unfortunately, it was used, to Bud Yorkin's and Ridley Scott's demise. Ridley originally called it "Irving the explainer." [Yorkin] used it to tell the story, so Irving the Explainer was the perfect term to describe how irrelevant it was and unnecessary it was, and expecting the audience not to understand the film, so you needed Deckard to explain it.

Mead: They did a test screening, I think in Houston and Salt Lake City -- why they picked those two cities, I have no idea. But people didn't understand what it was supposed to be.

Fancher: The one we all hated is the one now that seems sort of nifty now, because nostalgia -- the f---ing first release, with the voiceover. Not the bad ending, that's bad, no matter what. That was embarrassing, at all times.

Mead: They thought it was depressing, so they spliced in on the first release that ridiculous flying out over the pristine pine forest. Well, if it was so nice out there, why would you live in this stupid city? So that was to save the film, apparently, for public acceptance.

Fancher: But the voiceover used to be quite embarrassing too, but now, it's not as horrible. But I hated the lines. I mean, the dialogue was terrible, and Harrison was purposefully doing it kind of stiff so they wouldn't use it.

Snyder: It took at least 20 years for people to recognize what [the movie] was. And one of the ways that happened was when Warner Brothers ran the preview print at the Nuart Theatre, there was some interest in it.

And I had a call from Kenneth Turan from the L.A. Times, and he came over to my house, and I showed him a lot of the drawings and things that I had kept. And he did a front-page Los Angeles Times Magazine article, and all of the sudden in 1992, the whole thing exploded.

Fancher: When the Director's Cut came out 10 years later, everybody liked that.

Snyder: As far as I'm concerned, the only version of the film that makes any sense is the Final Cut, because all of the things that we couldn't do -- we didn't have the toolbox for it in 1980.

[The visual effects artists] managed to do things that had never been done before, [but] there's so many things in my mind that we were supposed to do but we ran out of time, and ran out of money.


We guess the world of Blade Runner doesn't have Lyft. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

Snyder: The idea was that, quite similar to America today, it's in terrible shape. The idea was that there was the 1 percent, or you were a policeman, or you were a nobody.

It was exactly what it is now.

Fancher: I'm so f---ing dumb, it didn't even occur to me [that we're in the month from the movie].

It never even occurred to me that we'd catch up to it. It seemed too far. I mean, even though I wasn't young at that point, I was young at mind. I still couldn't see that it would unfold that fast. I don't think any of us thought that.

I mean, that was 1982 it came out -- turn of the next century came pretty fast, but I didn't even expect that anybody'd be around in 2000.

Mead: I'm surprised -- now we're getting into edgy subjects -- but I'm surprised that we've lost the rationality that I thought would be sustained. And I don't know what's responsible for that, what the factors are, but we no longer live in a rational social structure. And that impacts literally everything.

People have their own worlds -- essentially, a digital world. Social media, you can create your own community. We've re-created the tribal, or the group mystique, by social media links and so forth -- limited to subjects that we all agree on.

Fancher: There's a sea swell towards correcting [our environmental problems] now. It was [political], like everything is, but not to the extent that it is now. Because it wasn't as dangerous then.

Haber: We have [wildfires] now.

Fancher: And one knew then that it was going to get that way, and watch out -- the alarms were ringing. It's worse, and it's better, strangely enough -- in terms of awareness.

The smokestack opening to Blade Runner. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

Ridley Scott spent his younger years living in the English community of Teesside, which helped to inspire the opening of the film.

Haber: Ridley's image of the place where he came from and where he was born far more reflects the image of what Los Angeles would be. Because I don't look out my window and see the smokestacks, not even downtown.

But the multinational aspect of Los Angeles is absolutely [true] -- but I think Los Angeles in 1982 was already multiethnic. That was Eddie Olmos's idea to be a Hungarian-speaking Latino with blue eyes.

Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, enjoying the omnipresent noodles of Blade Runner. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

Snyder: The Asian population in Los Angeles is what we predicted. Isn't it great? With all these people coming and making a diverse city that we envisioned.

And as far as it being a police state, with replicant detect team and detectives and all -- I don't know, I think this country is sort of becoming that way. The police have been militarized.

So if not in material points of view, I think in the social point of view, I think we've come to that point. And I believe that Philip Dick may have predicted this in his writings.

Snyder also designed the more utopian vision of future Los Angeles of Demolition Man, set in 2032.

Snyder: One of the reasons I wanted to design Demolition Man is because Blade Runner is a dystopian environment of Los Angeles in the future, and Demolition Man is a utopian future.

And my notion is Los Angeles has come a long way since that time -- Hollywood was dumpy at the time, and [now] there's a Netflix building, there's the Emerson College building. I go down Sunset Boulevard and I'm amazed at what's happened.

So I think that Los Angeles today is much better than the Blade Runner version of Los Angeles -- better for people. And it's slightly less than the utopian future than I envisioned for Demolition Man, so it's somewhat in between.

But I'm very happy for Los Angeles, and all the museums downtown -- I never saw that coming when we scouted downtown, because it was really derelict -- it was terrible, it was dangerous.

When Demolition Man shot in 1993, the film had to get permission from the L.A. City Council for one of the locations they wanted to use.

Snyder: And they said, why? Why should we allow you to shoot in this brand sparkling building that wasn't even open yet?

And I said, because it's my apology for Los Angeles, that I turned it into a dystopian future -- and now my apology will be Demolition Man, where I will entertain you with a perfect, utopian future. And they gave me the go-ahead.


Mead: The evolution of the social-economic infrastructure, which we all live inside of, or alongside of, depends on available capital resources. And as you bleed off more and more capital resources into what are generally labeled "social services," you have less and less and less available to put into mechanical infrastructure.

Because it all comes down to return on investment, ROI in the financial field. And the government being the largest capital expenditure entity in any society has to allocate funds based on what's available. And that's the limiting factor.

Having the finances available to create the future ended up being more limited than Mead expected.

Mead: Other than that, the only other solution is just to leave a huge portion of society behind and go on, and Blade Runner addressed that - because a lot of the elite people were going off-world.


A Spinner flying car from Blade Runner. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

Mead: You have to think about the complexity of what we're capable of managing. Imagine if everybody had a flying car -- well, not everybody, but the same relative density of private car ownership now, and cut that in half even -- but imagine all these vehicles flying through the air.

You'd still have to have some sort of dedicated flyways. Because you have commercial aircraft taking off and landing from major airports, you have the paramilitary helicopters, you have news helicopters -- so you have a lot of aerial activity already, in any major metropolitan area.

Then you start overloading that with thousands of private vehicles flying around -- it would be a nightmare, and it would take enormous, enormous computer sorting to keep this all from crashing into each other. So I think the problem is more organizational, or regulation, than it is technical.


A Syd Mead vision of the Blade Runner future, as seen in The Movie Art of Syd Mead. (Syd Mead/Titan Press)

Mead: The technology of creating artificial humans, that's not as far off -- they can already 3-D print live tissue, layer by layer, which of course is eventually going to lead to making artificial organs for replacement.

We have androids which are very, very articulate. DARPA, which is the government's research group, has an Atlas generation -- these robots don't exactly look anthropomorphic, but they can jump over a 1-meter high barrier in motion, land, and actually do a backflip.

When you consider what that's taking in processing power, because you've got to lock down your center of balance rotation and come down with your feet in the right position -- much like a human athlete does -- that's a lot of computing power.

So the race will be whether we come up with a living, organic, artificial being -- which is an ethical problem -- or a mixture of the two, organic plus overlaying a mechanical underneath. In about 10 years, or sooner.


Fancher: I did think by 2020, we're colonizing -- we're on L4, between here and the Moon or whatever.

Mead: That's happening much faster than you think. It sounds like I have access to information I shouldn't have [laughing], but when you consider we went to the Moon back in the '60s -- now, you can't possibly accept the fact that we just stopped everything right there.

We kept on going, as black budgets, or whatever. So we've been to Mars and back -- manned missions -- already, two times.

And the technology to get somewhere fast is approaching, because once we get much beyond the moon or Mars, you've got to go very, very, very fast to make it even marginally worthwhile, for humans.

Note: We can't confirm Mead's comments about visitation and colonization of Mars. Here's a list of Mars missions, according to NASA, and these are the space agency's publicly available goals regarding human exploration.

Fancher: I never thought anything positive about the world. I mean, the great positivity would be that we do colonize, and we do get rid of our selves, and we are replaced by a different version -- but even that doesn't sound good to me, because I'm nostalgic. I don't want that new version, I don't want to live on a f---ing colony -- I'll stay here.


A still from Blade Runner 2049. (Courtesy Warner Bros.)

Hampton Fancher took a pass on the script for 2017's Blade Runner 2049, jumping 30 years forward from the script he'd written almost 40 years earlier.

Fancher: It was scary as hell, because the obligation was huge.

[Blade Runner 2049 Director Denis] Villeneuve -- he's everything. The power that it takes to go up against whatever forces are against the personal film, on the big screen, is almost impossible to accomplish.

I mean, there are people who do it, but usually it's very commercial -- these geniuses who are great and get it done -- Tarantino, whoever. But he's f---ing intimate. And subtle, and yet he does these big masterpieces.

Haber: I believe the special effects that we had in Blade Runner far exceeded the 2049 film. All we had were matte paintings, models, and a green screen. It was very limited -- but the visuals were, I think, amazing.

Fancher: I was off [Blade Runner 2049] too, before [screenwriter] Michael Green -- really, that's Michael Green's script. They say what I did is what that is, but I don't think so.

Because I have a lot of seminal differences in my script and that film. The beginning is the same, but the ending is definitely different. Ridley worked with Green before he went out, and Denis came in.

Mead: I worked with Denis Villeneuve on the Las Vegas part of the film, imagining what Las Vegas might look like at that timeframe, and keeping it familiar enough.

The trick in science fiction, to me, is that you must have a recognition trigger. Then you can overlay that -- you can get away with a lot of visual stuff, because you have the recognition trigger, and people can say, "Oh, I recognize that -- the rest of it must be real too."

Snyder: I've talked to Ryan Gosling about it -- he promised me that it would not be a digital version of Blade Runner, and he said they tried to do so many things in camera.

When I first saw Blade Runner 2049, I would laugh out loud, and the audience thought I was crazy. Because there were scenes that we never shot in Blade Runner 2019 that appeared in Blade Runner 2049 -- like the farm scene at the beginning. That was the opening of our film when Dustin Hoffman was going to play Rick Deckard.


Snyder: I think it's an eternal film -- I don't think it'll ever go away. And I really believe that we inspired a lot of filmmaking in the future. I mean, in commercials, in music videos, in films.

Now there's an entire industry around Blade Runner. If you go to Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, there are so many fan sites -- the fan art is quite good.

Haber: One of the treasures that I own, and still have, is the reel-to-reel music tape for the final dub. I still have it. And I have all the call sheets, I have everything.

Which I'm waiting to die to present it to the Margaret Herrick Library for their files. It's going to be called, after I pass, the Katy Haber Collection, which people can look through after I'm long gone.



Snyder: I see Blade Runner from someone who sat behind the camera, so obviously, I cannot tell you what I think of the film, because in my mind, I see different things, more things than anyone else. I had always said to Ridley, I wish that someday I could erase my memory of doing the film and just see the film and enjoy it.

A scene that we ran out of time -- in the scene where Joanna Cassidy is pursued and killed by Rick Deckard -- Zhora, running through the glass windows. Well, we were going to shoot that scene, but Ridley didn't like the window dressing for two or three nights in a row.

So finally, he came up to me and said, "OK, come up with something." And I said, "Well tell me what you want," and he said, as before, "You're the art director, come up with something."

And I said, "OK -- there's four windows: winter, spring, summer, fall." He said, "There, was that so hard?" That's the way the windows were dressed, and I got my decorator ... and there were leaves in one window, and snow in another window, and we just had to keep going.

So at the end of that scene, where Joanna Cassidy has been killed -- retired -- she's lying in a frame of glass, which I composed out of neon signs and mirrored glass, because breakaway glass was not reflective enough for me. Everyone thinks that's a great scene -- the actual fact is that Joanna was supposed to run through all the windows, shot, and then smash into the side of a city bus.

And we had taken a bus and put, I think probably an 8 foot by 5 foot sheet of lead, thin sheet lead, and she was supposed to smash into the bus -- or the stuntwoman -- and leave her impression in the bus. Now just imagine what that would have looked like, instead of just falling down on the ground. Scenes like that that are in my mind, that when I watch the film, I see those things.

Katy Haber and Ridley Scott watching the video from the set of Blade Runner. (Courtesy Katy Haber)


Ridley Scott was used to operating the camera on his films, but the British filmmaker wasn't allowed to on Blade Runner due to differing U.S. union rules.

Haber: He was in a booth on the side of the set, watching the videos as if through the eye of the camera. And it drove Harrison insane, because he was so used to working with directors like Steven Spielberg or George Lucas, who were very hands on and someone he could relate to on the set.

When we were doing the big long-shot, he was sitting behind the operator on the crane -- so he was always at a distance. And it created a lot of anxiety between Harrison and Ridley.

Not Rutger [Hauer]. Rutger and Ridley got on wonderfully. In fact, that's why Rutger wrote the final scene. "I have seen things you people haven't seen... tears in the rain." That's such a beautiful thing, that Ridley said, yes, go for it.


A vintage set T-shirt from a Blade Runner feud. (Courtesy Katy Haber)

Haber: The Guardian asked Ridley, "How do you enjoy working on the film," and he said he was having a lot of difficulty working with American crew because they didn't understand his way of working. He compared it to working with British crews, and the British crews won out hands down, because all he had to do was talk in shorthand, and they would say "yes, guv'nor," and it was done.

And when the interview came out, Ridley left it in his trailer. His trailer driver found the article, printed it up, and left it by the catering truck. And the next day, everybody was wearing T-shirts saying "yes guv'nor my ass."

So the next morning, Ridley came to me and said, "What's this all about, and what am I going to do?" So I came up with the idea to have a T-shirt for [Ridley and the producers], it said, "Xenophobia sucks."

So the whole situation was tempered. It was the battle of the T-shirts.

The quotes in this story have been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Blade Runner director Ridley Scott declined to be interviewed due to his schedule; Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve declined to be interviewed due to currently being in post-production; Blade Runner co-screenwriter David Peoples declined to be interviewed due to not living in Los Angeles.

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