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Mindhole Blowers: 20 Facts About Blade Runner That Might Leave You Questioning Ridley Scott's Humanity

By Cindy Davis | Lists | November 8, 2011 |

By Cindy Davis | Lists | November 8, 2011 |

Toward the beginning of his Blade Runner commentary, Ridley Scott says, “It is a director’s job to dictate what you want,” and by gum, does Scott ever know how to wield authority. He also states that a director “needs to be as user-friendly as possible, knowing how to lead people down a path to understand the world you’re going into.” This is clearly where he fails his own edict, evidenced by the documentary Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner. Does the end justify the means? Most fans would answer a resounding, “Yes,” but it is clear that even 25 years after the film was made, many of the cast and crew harbor deep resentment. Still, the film is stunningly beautiful — a tremendous feat when one sees the bare bones of what Scott had to work with — and in moments that teeter near the brink of reality, its moral implications remain relevant.

(For the record, I watched The Final Cut, the director’s preferred version. Most of this information came from the documentary, as Scott’s commentary was nearly entirely self-masturbatory egoism and pointless.)

1. Blade Runner is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The title came from the William S. Burroughs novella, Blade Runner (a movie), which was a proposed film adaptation of another novel, Alan E. Nourse’s The Bladerunner.

The first script was written by Hampton Fancher, primarily a television actor (“Gunsmoke, The Fugitive, Bonanza”). A friend of his told Fancher, “I think science fiction is going to happen,” and suggested Dick’s novel. Fancher said he didn’t like it much, but he came up with the idea of a detective who chases androids; they just wanted to make money.

2. Producer Michael Deeley (The Deer Hunter, The Italian Job [1969]), read both the book and Fancher’s script ideas and didn’t like either very much. Deeley said he thought the script “dumbed down” the book. Fancher found a comic book he liked called “Mechanismo,” in fact, he wanted to give the film that same name. He wrote another script that Deeley thought was much better, but Deeley didn’t think the name worked. To try to get financing, they decided to call the film, Dangerous Days.

Ridley Scott was beginning work on Dune when he got the Dangerous Days script, he turned it down. Then, Scott’s brother Frank died and the director pulled out of Dune, saying it was partially because of a poor script and the time that was going to be necessary to put into the film.

3. Some time later, Associate Producer, Ivor Powell (Alien) was working on a commercial with Ridley; Powell read the DD script, thought it was powerful and convinced Scott to re-read it. This director finally decided to take on the project and called Michael Deeley. They were originally financed by Filmways Pictures, but the company was small and having financial difficulties, so though they were already building sets and doing pre-production, the group sought out new financing. The film was eventually financed partially by Warner Brothers and other investment groups.

4. Unsatisfied with the script as it was and unable to get quick and accurate revisions done by Hampton Fancher (who also resisted the changes), Scott brought in a second script writer, David Peoples (12 Monkeys, Unforgiven). Overworked and emotional, Fancher said he cried after reading the new script. Peoples said he understood Fancher’s exhaustion after having revised the script at least ten times already.

5. Scott began doing drawings; his creativity was inspired by the look of a French Comic, Métal Hurlant (Screaming Metal).

Scott drawings.png

6. The character of Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) was changed a lot. One script opened with Batty crawling out from under a pile of “dead” replicants. Another had Batty killed at the beginning of the film. Production Executive, Katherine Haber showed Ridley Scott several of Rutger Hauer’s films and Scott hired the actor without having met him. When Hauer first came in, he wore a zippered nylon jumpsuit, a sweater with a fox on the front; he had cut his hair the way he thought Batty should look and wore green “Elton John sunglasses.” Haber said she loved the look on Scott’s face. Over their first lunch meeting, Scott bonded with Hauer over Métal Hurlant, with which Hauer was already familiar. The actor gave his own ideas about the character and felt Scott was receptive to them. It was Hauer’s idea to hold the dove when he was dying, at the moment of his death the dove would be released and fly away. Because there was so much rain, the bird was too wet to fly and just hopped around the roof. Hauer also came up with his character’s often quoted ending words: “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”


7. Hampton Fancher wrote his script with Robert Mitchum in mind for Rick Deckard. Other actors listed on his script as possibilities were: Dustin Hoffman, Peter Falk, Al Pacino, Nick Nolte and Burt Reynolds. Hoffman was interviewed by Scott for “hours and hours” and “months” were spent trying to make it work, but Hoffman had his own ideas which kept getting further and further from the story they wanted to do. Actress, Barbara Hershey suggested Harrison Ford to Deeley (and possibly Scott). Ford was doing Raiders of the Lost Ark at the time, so Deeley and Scott flew to London to watch dailies; they loved him. Ford was unhappy that he was not (as he had been used to with previous directors) a part of the whole filmmaking process and that Scott did not tell him what to do. He was said to have only come out of his trailer when he was shooting scenes.

8. Elaborate screen tests were done for the Rachel (Sean Young) character. Scott preferred an unknown actress and said that Young reminded him of Vivien Leigh.


9. Young and Ford never clicked; Ridley Scott is said to have talked Young through her performance. During the sex scene, Scott told Ford to push Young against the window ledge and because she wasn’t expecting it, Young cried. She said that Ford turned around and dropped his pants, mooning her, to make her laugh.

10. Daryl Hannah (Pris) auditioned—the fight scene—in a gymnasium. Having been a gymnast her whole life, she asked Scott if she could incorporate some gymnastics; Scott didn’t know what she meant so she demonstrated her flips. However, when it came time to film a male stunt double was used to do the flips, after a female stunt woman was run through so many rehearsals that she became exhausted. For her screen test, Hannah found the blonde wig and inspired by Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu the Vampyre, gave herself the black eye make-up. Daryl said Harrison Ford insisted that when she stuck her fingers up his nose and grabbed his head, she “really do it.” She felt badly because his nose was bleeding and she was really hurting the actor.


11. Edward James Olmos (Gaff) was known and brought in by the casting director. Olmos came up with the idea of Esperanto/Cityspeak and went to the Berlitz Language School to learn different languages to put together.


12. Joanna Cassidy (Zhora) worked with her own pet snake, “Darling.” Scott originally envisioned Zhora doing an elaborate “mud dance,” where she and the snake transformed into each other and then into one being, but it would have been too expensive to do.


13. Visual Futurist/Illustrator Syd Mead was brought in; Scott said that Mead “nailed the future of cities like Tokyo; he knew where cities were going.” The artist was brought in for a few days, but ended up staying months (which added a large over-budget cost). He designed Sebastion’s car and the “killer” parking meter, everything in the future world.

14. The ongoing actor’s strike gave the art department a big advantage, they had nine months in pre-production. According to Michael Deeley, Ridley Scott “micromanaged” the art department, looking at every single drawing done by Mead and illustrators, Sherman Labby, Mentor Huebner and Tom Southwell. Auto fabricator, Gene Winfield said 27 vehicles were made from Syd Mead’s drawings; he had 50 people working in 3 shops (18 people working on fiberglass), 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. It took them 5 1/2 months to complete the cars. The taxis were built on VW van chassis and the sedans on VW chassis lengthened by 12 inches. The spinners had working gears (with all the inside gadgets functioning, as well) and were on rolling tables; the one flying spinner was on a lift and had no engine, but everything else worked.

15. The Hades landscape was all miniatures set up on a plywood table. Thousands of etched brass cutouts gave the illusion of a dimensional scene. They filled the darkened miniature room with smoke, then using fans and smoke detectors (the detectors would sense when the smoke level dropped and cause more smoke to puff) to maintain the same level of smoke at all times during filming. This was done because if the smoke level changed, it would cause flickering on film. Around 20,000 light tubes were used to light up the miniatures. The explosions were previously shot on 35 mm film. White cards were placed behind the towers, the explosions projected with the 35 mm camera and then the whole thing reshot with 65 mm camera.

Thumbnail image for hadeslandscape.jpg

16. The two locations Ridley Scott liked and wanted to use were LA’s Bradford Building and Union Station. Because the Bradford Building was occupied, shooting could only be completed from 6 pm to 6 am and it had to be clean every day. Cork substituted for dirt and it effectively soaked up the rain water, so every morning after filming, the cork could easily be swept up.


17. Shooting conditions on set were considered horrendous and miserable by most; to try to get the look on film that he wanted (while attempting to keep under budget), Scott filmed at night on the New York street set, in rain and smoke. There were about 33 days of night shooting. Cast and crew often had to wear masks because of the never-ending smoke being pumped in. Edward James Olmos marveled at how realistic it looked, adding that Scott brought in giant theater speakers and set them up on the building roofs. The score (by Academy Award-winning [Chariots of Fire] Greek composer, Vangelis) was then blasted during filming, causing the set to come alive.

18. In an interview, Ridley Scott said he’d rather work with English crews than American, because when he’d ask for something, they would just say “Yes, gov’nor, and go get it.” This so upset the crew that they got t-shirts made-up and wore them on set; the shirts read: “Yes, gov’nor, my ass.” In response, Scott wore a shirt that read “Xenophobia sucks.” Almost all the on-set accounts of the production were of constant tension between the director and just about every person involved with the film.

19. Toward the end of production, when the budget had been exceeded and the schedule overrun, studio executives came on set several times, threatening to shut down filming. Though the crew would always expect production to end, it was said that Scott always prevailed after contentious meetings and he would just keep going. At one point, notices that everyone was fired were sent out, but again, Scott refused to quit until the film was done.

20. Though he only saw a segment of the film’s special effects on the news, Philip Dick said, “It was my own interior world. They caught it perfectly.”

Cindy Davis doesn’t think she’s a replicant.