It’s been over 30 years since the original Blade Runner was released in theaters. At the time, it was completely overshadowed by E.T. at the box office and bombed. But over the years, it has shown lasting power as a classic of both cinema and science fiction.
Ridley Scott combined futuristic sci-fi action with the iconography and techniques of film noir, creating the neo-noir genre that would generations to come. This year, we’ve finally been blessed with a sequel, Blade Runner 2049, and guess what? That one bombed, too! But that doesn’t mean they’re not still phenomenal pieces of work.
They each faced tumultuous production processes involving studio interference with artistic vision, actors characterizing their own roles for a deeper work of art, and Ridley Scott’s original cut being four incomprehensible hours long. So, here are 15 things that you probably didn’t know about Blade Runner.
15. Harrison Ford and Sean Young didn’t get along on set
Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, the protagonist who goes around L.A. hunting down androids, while Sean Young plays Rachael, his replicant love interest. It’s hardly a love story for the ages as the focus is more on the human aspect, but still, it’s an important part of the plot.
However, Ford and Young did not get along at all on the set of the movie. This kind of thing happens all the time. Actors don’t always get along with one another when they work on movies. It happened with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams on the set of The Notebook. It happened with Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of Romeo + Juliet.
When asked years later about the love scene between Ford and Young, production executive Katherine Haber said, “That was not a love scene – that was a hate scene.” Having been on the set and seen those two together, Haber views that scene very differently than we do. She said, “When he pushes her up against those blinds? Ugh! He hated her.”
14. Blade Runner wasn’t the first choice for the title
When some movie producers decided to adapt Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for the screen, they didn’t want to use that long-winded, puzzling title. Movie titles need to be quick and snappy: Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Star Wars, Terminator, The Matrix. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? wouldn’t even fit on a marquee!
So, the screenwriters gave it the name Android. Then they changed it to Mechanismo. Then they changed it to Dangerous Days, which was almost the final title. It was used for most drafts of the script and for most of the production – it was even later used for a documentary about the making of Blade Runner.
At one point, Ridley Scott considered calling the movie Gotham City until he realized that’s where Batman’s from. The title Blade Runner was eventually suggested by Hampton Fancher after a William S. Burroughs novella. The producers gave Burroughs a few thousand bucks for the title and Bob’s your uncle, their movie finally had a cool-sounding title.
13. The movie looks so great because of an actor’s strike
Blade Runner is famous for its unique aesthetic, as it presents the future not as some clean, pristine world full of chrome, but rather as a dirty, crime-ridden, polluted cesspool filled with neon lights. It changed science fiction forever in the way that futuristic environments are presented. It totally created the neo-noir genre from scratch.
It’s a movie that exists entirely on its own with its own unique look and feel and artistic style, and that’s because the art department had far longer to make it than they usually get for movies. See, Blade Runner’s production coincided with an actor’s strike that meant that pre-production lasted nine months.
According to the producer, Ridley Scott “micromanaged” the art department, examining every single drawing and illustration by the artists behind the movie’s look, Syd Mead, Sherman Labby, Mentor Huebner, and Tom Southwell.
Scott had 27 vehicles made with 50 people working in three shops (with 18 people allocated to just fiberglass work), all of them working 18-hour days, seven days a week, for five and a half months. It’s a good thing the movie turned out to be a masterpiece after all that.
12. Daryl Hannah actually grabbed Harrison Ford’s head through his nostrils
Daryl Hannah wasn’t a huge name back when Blade Runner was made, and she auditioned for her role as Pris in a gymnasium, where she showed off all the flips she was able to do.
Her interpretation of the character for her screen test – the blonde wig and the black eye makeup – was inspired by the look of Klaus Kinski in the movie Nosferatu the Vampyre. This level of commitment won her the role, and when it came time to shoot her fight scene with Harrison Ford, and the script called for Hannah to stick her fingers up Ford’s nostrils and grab his head, Ford told her to “really do it.”
She felt bad for him because his nose was bleeding and it really hurt the poor guy. What can you say? The guy suffers for his art.
11. The term ‘replicant’ isn’t in the original novel
The term ‘replicant’ is never actually used in Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which formed the basis for Blade Runner. In the novel, the humanoid machines who Deckard is hunting down are referred to as “androids,” or “andies” for short.
But the producers were worried that, when spoken by actors, “andies” would sound stupid and make audiences laugh, and they’re not wrong, so they requested the writers to change it.
It was David Peoples, the co-screenwriter of the movie, who came up with “replicant,” since at the time, his daughter Risa was studying replication, which is the process of duplicating cells for the purpose of cloning, so he thought, ‘Hey, that’s close enough,’ and the replicant as we know it today was born.
10. Philip K. Dick loved Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty
Philip K. Dick, the author of Blade Runner’s source material, was very pleased with Rutger Hauer’s portrayal of his villain, Roy Batty.
He said, “I was looking at the stills of him and I said, ‘Oh my God, this is the Nordic superman that Hitler said would come marching out of the laboratory. This is the blond beast that the Nazis were creating. And of course the origin of the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was my research into the Nazis for The Man in the High Castle.”
Ridley Scott knew Hauer was perfect just from three movies of his that he’d seen — Katie Tippel, Soldier of Orange, and Turkish Delight — and cast him right on the spot. And now, Blade Runner is Rutger Hauer’s favorite Rutger Hauer movie.
9. The character of Roy Batty changed a lot
Through various drafts of the script and even during production, the antagonist of Blade Runner, replicant Roy Batty, went through a lot of change. One version of the screenplay opened with Batty pulling himself out of the wreckage of a pile of fellow replicants.
Another version killed him off really early on. Rutger Hauer’s interpretation of how the character should look was that distinctive hairstyle, green “Elton John sunglasses,” a zippered nylon jumpsuit, and a sweater with a fox on it. Hauer contributed a number of ideas for the character and, unusually for a director with a lot of vision, Ridley Scott was open to them.
Hauer came up with the idea to have Batty hold a dove as he was dying, and the dove would fly away at the moment he died. However, there was too much rain, so the bird couldn’t fly and instead just flapped around. Still, it was a cool idea.
8. Rutger Hauer rewrote his “tears in rain” monologue
You know the one. It’s one of the most famous monologues in film history. Roy Batty, the cold, Aryan leader of the replicants, played by Rutger Hauer, delivers a long, deep, philosophical monologue at the end of the movie. But as it appears in the finished film is not how it was written by the screenwriters.
When Hauer read the original version, he felt that it was too long-winded and overblown, so he asked Ridley Scott if he could change it. Scott agreed. Hauer cut a few lines out that he felt were unnecessary and added one of his own, which would later go on to become the most famous of the bunch: “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
7. Blade Runner 2049 took a LONG time to get made
A sequel to Blade Runner has been in the works since 1999, when K.W. Jeter, a writer friend of Philip K. Dick’s, had been writing unauthorized sequels as novels. A British director called Stuart Hazeldine adapted the first sequel novel, Blade Runner 2: The Edge of Human, into a screenplay called Blade Runner Down.
However, there were issues with rights, so it was canned. Cut to 2007, when Ridley Scott started to work on a sequel to the movie under the title Metropolis. He got people excited by telling them about it at that year’s San Diego Comic Con.
Writer Travis Adam Wright and producers Bud Yorkin and John Glenn got involved, but Glenn jumped ship a year later. He told media outlets that the script he had seen was about the off-world colonies mentioned in the first movie and the fate of the Tyrell Corporation in the wake of its founder’s death.
Then in 2009, brothers Ridley and Tony Scott were working on Purefold, a prequel to Blade Runner that would be a series of 5-10 minute shorts set in the world of the movie but released through web outlets or on television. However, rights issues limited what they could do with the series and they struggled to sort out the funding.
By 2011, Yorkin was back in the picture and working on his own Blade Runner sequel, and he sought out Christopher Nolan as the director (oh my God, imagine!). Soon after, Sir Ridley was back in for the sequel and was planning to lead the way, but producer Andrew A. Kosove doubted the involvement of Harrison Ford.
In 2012, Scott was asked about the long-gestating sequel and he said, “It’s not a rumor – it’s happening. With Harrison Ford? I don’t know yet. Is he too old? Well, he was a Nexus-6, so we don’t know how long he can live. And that’s all I’m going to say at this stage.”
In 2014, Scott had ruled himself out as director, but was determined to get a sequel made in a producer role. Finally, in 2015, a sequel was confirmed with Denis Villeneuve in the director’s chair, Ford returning as Deckard, the original’s screenwriter Hampton Fancher writing the script, and filming schedule to begin in mid-2016. That movie turned out to be Blade Runner 2049.
6. Philip K. Dick hated the first draft of the script (but loved the second)
Philip K. Dick, author of the book that Blade Runner is based on, was appalled by the original draft of the screenplay, which was written by Hampton Fancher. He said that he was “angry and disgusted” to find that Fancher had “cleaned my book up of all the subtleties and of the meaning – it had become a fight between androids and a bounty hunter.”
However, Dick very drastically changed his mind when David Peoples came in with another draft. He said, “I couldn’t believe what I was reading! The whole thing had simply been rejuvenated in a very fundamental way.”
He added that the screenplay and the novel complement one another, saying they “reinforce each other, so that someone who started with the novel would enjoy the movie and someone who started with the movie would enjoy the novel. I was amazed that Peoples could get some of those scenes to work. I
t taught me things about writing that I didn’t know.” That David Peoples guy must be pretty chuffed with himself – he taught Philip K. Dick a few things about writing!
5. Harrison Ford’s weird hairdo was on purpose
When you watch Blade Runner, you might find something a bit odd about Harrison Ford’s hair. You can excuse it because they didn’t know what the fashion of 2019 would be back then (we can make a pretty good guess of it now), but there were also other reasons behind it.
As Ford himself explains, “The haircut was my idea. Ridley had envisioned a big felt hat in his first visual concept of the character at a time prior to seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was important to me not to wear the same hat in one movie after another. I didn’t want to drag the baggage of one project to the next. You can’t do that. So the hat was out. Ridley still wanted something to distinguish the character and I wanted something easy-care. So I got that haircut, figuring it would give the character definition, a certain look.”
4. Blade Runner 2049 is full of Blade Runner Easter eggs
It’s not uncommon for sequels to beloved movies to contain little hidden Easter eggs and references and callbacks to the original, but they’re usually easy to find, as a sort of wink to the audience. The makers of Blade Runner 2049 took a different approach.
They made their Easter eggs so insignificant and obscure that they can barely be considered Easter eggs. For example, the sound emanating from Deckard’s room when Joi is having a peek around it is the exact same low frequency audio that’s in the original movie when Deckard is looking at pictures on the Esper.
It’s also the same sound used in Alien in the medical bay. And during the first meeting between Deckard and K, Deckard makes a reference to the novel Treasure Island, which calls back to a scene in the original Blade Runner that didn’t even make the cut, where Deckard goes to see Holden after being shot by Leon.
3. Many actors were considered for the role of Deckard
The role of Rick Deckard seems perfectly fit for Harrison Ford. It’s his third iconic role slotted snugly alongside the giants, the heavyweights, Han Solo and Indiana Jones. But the part wasn’t automatically Ford’s – there were many actors considered for the role before he got it.
Hampton Fancher, the writer of the movie, initially had Robert Mitchum in mind for the part, and he wrote the dialogue for the character tailored to Mitchum.
Other actors considered for the role range from ‘yeah, he would’ve been good for it’ – Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Al Pacino – to ‘hmm, that would’ve been different’ – Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Paul Newman – to ‘yikes, that would’ve been weird!’ – Tommy Lee Jones, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and (prepare yourself for this prospect) Dustin Hoffman.
2. Blade Runner and Alien exist in the same universe
It has long been speculated that Blade Runner and Alien exist within the same universe. The idea didn’t really have much to it other than the fact that the Nostromo and other technologies seen in the Alien franchise match the aesthetic of the technologies in Blade Runner and its futuristic LA skyline.
This theory was sparked up again when the trailer for Blade Runner 2049 was released, with one scene showing the body of an Engineer, and could very well be the guy who billions of years ago sacrificed himself to create life on Earth.
The events of Blade Runner take place in 2019, Neander Wallace introduced his new Replicant model in 2036 (the Replicants, by the way, could easily be the synthetic human-like android that led to the creation of androids like David and Bishop in the Alien movies), Blade Runner 2049 took place in 2049 (duh), Elizabeth Shaw had memories that led to Prometheus in 2064, Prometheus took place in 2093, Alien: Covenant took place in 2104, Alien took place in 2122, and so on and so forth.
If there’s a third Blade Runner film in thirty years, it’ll likely be set in 2079 and will therefore be able to show us a crossover with Prometheus. And if you think this is just a wild and thin theory, consider this: Ridley Scott himself, founding father of both franchises, has confirmed that they are set in the same universe.
1. Ridley Scott never read the book that Blade Runner is based on
Blade Runner is based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ridley Scott threw himself into the movie.
He was invested so deeply that he’s made about a million cuts of it and he spent so long obsessing over the production that the final scene was shot hours before the producers were due to take over creative control of the movie. Scott was seriously committed to telling that story – but he never actually read the book it came from.
Scott explained, “I actually couldn’t get into it. I met Philip K. Dick later, and he said, ‘I understand you couldn’t read the book.’ And I said, ‘You know you’re so dense, mate, by page 32, there’s about 17 storylines.’” So, there you have it.