NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Blade Runner debuted more than 35 years ago to mixed reviews and unexceptional ticket sales, much of the world unmoved by what its creator, Ridley Scott, believed was an audacious step forward in science-fiction filmmaking.
"I knew I'd done something special," he said recently. "But I never really expected it to get into a sequel situation."
And yet, here we are. Time and a crucial 1992 "director's cut," which removed the film's tacked-on voice-over and happy ending, brought the culture around to Scott's way of thinking. His dystopian but visually electric neo-noir about android replicants and the existentially troubled "blade runner" who hunted them, played by Harrison Ford, has become an influential masterpiece. (Scott's preferred "Final Cut" was released in 2007.)
On Oct 6, a sequel, Blade Runner 2049, arrives, starring Ryan Gosling as K, who pursues a new generation of replicants and untangles a mystery involving murderous androids and a new Tyrell-like megalomaniac with a god complex, played by Jared Leto.
Ford returns as Rick Deckard and Scott is back as an executive producer, having developed the new story with one of the original screenwriters, Hampton Fancher, before handing off directing duties to Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario).
In separate phone interviews, Ford, Scott, Gosling and Villeneuve discussed the legacy of the original Blade Runner, the reasons they're reviving it and the enduring argument over whether or not Deckard is a replicant. These are edited excerpts from the conversations.
When you were working on the original "Blade Runner," did you have any sense that it could be a milestone?
Harrison Ford: Yes, if it didn't kill us first. It was clearly very ambitious, and it was clearly new and inspired. But it wasn't easy to get it on paper.
What was the most challenging aspect?
Ford: The nights. The endless 50 nights of work. And as much as the audience, perhaps, was shocked or a little bit confused by the newness of it, I suppose I was a bit as well. There were a lot of things that I wasn't sure would work.
Ridley Scott: The stories about Harrison and I not getting on, (they were) not absolutely true. I was very much in my own head about what I was doing, and it's very difficult hour by hour, minute by minute, to explain why it's (expletive) raining and why it's (expletive) dark. And eventually, I used to say, "'Cause that's what I want. Back the (expletive) off." And that was it, because I got fed up of explaining myself.
The initial reviews weren't great but eventually it became beloved. When did you get a sense the film was resonating with people?
Scott: I used to watch a lot of MTV, and I suddenly realized that, "Hang on. There's a shot in there from Blade Runner." It had sneaked out and was influencing filmmakers and rock 'n' roll artists. I got a call from Bob Dylan - he had a lawyer contact me, and I went in and I spent the whole evening with Bob Dylan because he adored Blade Runner so much. So I knew it had made its dent.
What did Blade Runner mean to you, as fans?
Ryan Gosling: I think I was two when it came out, but I saw it when I was maybe 12 or 14. It was one of the first films I had seen where it wasn't clear how I was supposed to feel when it was over. It really makes you question your idea of the hero and the villain, the idea of what it means to be human.
Denis Villeneuve: It's linked with the birth of my love for cinema. I think we hadn't seen before, the combination of film noir and science fiction, and it's the first time that someone was taking the time to really create the future. They tried to project the '80s into the future and to think about it from a sociological point of view, from a demographic point of view, technological. Visions of the future in the cinema at that time were more fantasy-like, you know? Not that serious.
Why was now the time to do a sequel?
Scott: I always thought it was time to do it, any time in the last 30 years. I got a call from Alcon (the producing studio) saying, "We're gonna buy this. Do you think there's a story?" I said, "There's a big story," which is about artificial intelligence. I called up Hampton and we sat there and worked it out. The fundamental basis of the story (is about) that idea of AIs being turned into AIs with emotion, which becomes very dangerous. Because he'll get out of control in a heartbeat as soon as he realizes he's superior to his master.