Ridley Scott on Blade Runner: The Final Cut: The RT Interview

The director talks about the differences in the new version.

It's been 25 years since Ridley Scott's Blade Runner helped usher in a new era of science fiction filmmaking. With the DVD release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Scott has once again revisited his masterpiece, subtly reframing one of the most hotly-discussed films of all time.

In his book Blockbuster, critic Tom Shone summarizes the phenomenon of Blade Runner as "one of those rare, radioactive masterpieces that cinema seems impelled to throw up every now and again: toxic to all who touch it at the time... but exerting a mesmeric, winking glow that only increases with the years." Starring Harrison Ford as bounty hunter Rick Deckard searching for androids disguised as humans, Blade Runner confused critics and audiences upon its initial release in 1982 with its meditative plot and languid pace. But Scott's film earned an enthusiastic cult audience, one that drank up its futuristic noir visuals and mysterious characters, and rumors of various cuts of the movie that framed its action in subtle but significant ways.

In this roundtable interview, Scott talks about the different versions of Blade Runner, the lack of quality in recent sci-fi writing, and how the fanboys helped to champion the film.

With the final cut, how does this compare to the other versions of Blade Runner? Is this your true favorite definitive version?

Ridley Scott: It's a refinement of taking me a step toward what it was as a release print. We've removed a few things. Namely, the biggest thing is the removal of the voiceover and the ending in the mountains. The film should have ended with the elevator doors closing. We'll be satisfied with that. The voiceover was always toyed with way back when, even before I started making the movie. I had been very impressed with the voiceover of Apocalypse Now, with Martin Sheen's voice. That was a great voiceover; it really internalized the Martin Sheen character, who was essentially fairly low key and didn't say a lot during the whole movie. But he thought a lot, so I always thought that was really great.

Why go back and do a new version of Blade Runner?

RS: I think because the film was damaged, in the sense of when it was released 25 years ago, I figured I'd really got it right. I'd already done Alien, I'd already done 2,000 commercials. I figured I'd apply what I knew about Heavy Metal comics to Blade Runner. It didn't strike a chord because people didn't know what Heavy Metal comics were then. They hadn't a clue.

The people who really resurrected Blade Runner was MTV. I kept thinking [when watching music videos] on MTV, "Oh, somebody's borrowed some footage from Blade Runner, they've got to pay for that." I gradually realized that Blade Runner was a big influence on everything -- wardrobe, rain, blue nights, smoke in the streets. All of this stuff I poured on that I'd learned from commercials. So the generation watching this on MTV suddenly realized, "Oh, that's cool." Then in 1992, the wrong print was given to a projectionist at a festival in Santa Monica where it was meant to run one night and ended up running for a week, and journalists happened to be there and said, "Hey, what's this?"

If you were approaching this today, would you approach it differently?

RS: Blade Runner was the godfather of all these movies that occur today. What's frustrating is that we're short of really great writing and great ideas.  Blade Runner was full of them. Now, everything's evolved into superheroes and it's boring. If I see one more superhero movie I'm going to shoot myself.

Is the lack of good writing and all of the silly films that have been done the reason you haven't revisited sci-fi?

RS: Yes, absolutely. There's nothing really original. Alien was a B-movie. Five directors passed on it before me. Because I was into Heavy Metal, I read it, and thought, "Wow, I want to do this." I was on a plane to Hollywood in 22 hours. It was a B-movie and was elevated to an A-plus movie by sheer good taste. [Laughs.]

When you went into the scoring, did you have an idea in mind, or did you let Vangelis just bring something to you and surprise you?

RS: It was one of the best experiences I've had with a musician, maybe the best. I'd finish editing at night and he would be in the studio with his assistant. He would have been at this all day and put something up. He's in his infancy of what we'd call new age music. Enya came shortly after that, and she's brilliant. He understood the process of movies brilliantly. He'd literally watch sequence after sequence and start to play with it, and it was a completely organic process.

As you mentioned, there are scores of films and television shows that have imitated Blade Runner. How do you feel about that?

RS: Amused and irritated. Where's the originality?

Some directors would have put away a movie they did 25 years ago.

RS: Well, they kept coming back to me. I didn't go whining on the telephone. I get on with life and move on, but the thing kept resurfacing and coming up and bopping me in the head.

Where was the demand coming from?

RS: From the fan base. I just keep doing things too early, which is really annoying because they don't make money.

Why did you want to have all the versions of Blade Runner available?

RS: I actually asked that question to the person at the studio. He said, "You would be amazed. Trust me, they're going to go through the three frames that were removed." That's great that people do that. Because I'm in the business, the last thing I want to do is see how somebody makes a movie. But if I wasn't in the business, I can absolutely understand how someone would be fascinated by the tricks. We made it accessible on the set, and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Now that we know all the tricks, it makes our job more difficult. It's more difficult to make people laugh. It's even more difficult to scare people. Scaring someone's the hardest thing to do, and that's why most of these scary movies are not scary. They're sick, but not scary. There's a lot of sickness out there, of people who then sit there and watch it, which I think is absolutely dismaying.

Do you view this final cut as the final vindication for you about this movie?

RS: There's no vindication. I'm perfectly happy where I am.

Comments

Hamboner

Brian Lorenzen

Wow... no shortage of esteem for his own genius. Not here.

Dec 18 - 05:29 PM

witherwings

Jamie Lynn

He's taking credit for the story. PKD wrote it, and his version was pretty freaking genius and much better than the movie version of the story. So... I find all of this praise for Blade Runner quaint; multiply it times 100, and that's what "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" deserves.

Dec 18 - 06:04 PM

Racer Z

Shannon Potratz

Witherwings, Ridley Scott never took credit for the story. He commented on the great writing, but never took credit for it. And Blade Runner is chock full of ethical undertones. That's part of the point to the story. I understand that the film isn't your cup of tea, and that's fine, but the simple fact is that BR has had a HUGE influence on science fiction in the last 25 years. For good of bad, there's no denying the impact this film had.

Dec 19 - 11:10 AM

Mr.Enigma

ric zoellner

Well, the interview was based on Blade Runner, so I think it's safe to asume that when he talked about a great story, he was talking about Blade Runner, not Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. And it's not like the guy makes super original stuff. Look at Kingdom Of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, and American Gangster. All based on real events. Not incredibly original. I'm not saying Blade Runner is a bad film, in fact, it's an excellent film. I just think the guy has a huge ego.

Dec 19 - 03:45 PM

Chromatose

Scott S

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" genius?!

I read the book a couple years before i saw the movie and the film was refreshing. The book was one of the slowest, most tedious i've ever read. I was bored rigid.

Jan 19 - 05:58 PM

witherwings

Jamie Lynn

And before anyone lectures me about how books and movies are different mediums, I know. I just didn't like the movie because I felt it was SUB-PAR for sci-fi, not genius at all. The story was stripped of all the ethical undertones that makes sci-fi the uniquely poignant genre it is.

Dec 18 - 06:09 PM

maidenman

ryan murphy

Gotta be honest the poster above me has some good points but really falls short in terms of saying that the film fell short of the novel's ethical overtones. Blade Runner is one of the best films ever made not simply visually but for the sole fact that so many films that have come after it try so hard to do what Blade Runner did so easy which is ask the question: what makes us human? This is simply one of the most controversal and most polarizing questions of our time and Blade Runner the film is able to deliver in the fastest and best way possible. Blade Runner's success though isnt just asking the question but letting the audience have all the years to find the answer that in it of itself is great art.

Dec 18 - 09:24 PM

darklordwhite

dark lord

Ridley Scott is a wanker for trying to take credit for the story of Blade Runner. He talks about originality, but there's little originality in this script. The BOOK is cutting edge and very fresh, even if the writing is obvious and at times clunky. The movie, however, has to be one of the most overrated in history--even moreso than the grossly inflated Gladiator. Scott seems like a walking stereotype of Hollywood ego and self-importance. I read another interview with him in which he claims to never have even read the book, an attitude that reeks of arrogance and ignorance. While the book raises real, interesting, philosophical and metaphysical issues, the movie is a simple hunt with a couple of twists. There is nothing mind-bending about the movie.

Jan 9 - 09:33 AM

maidenman

ryan murphy

Gotta be honest the poster above me has some good points but really falls short in terms of saying that the film fell short of the novel's ethical overtones. Blade Runner is one of the best films ever made not simply visually but for the sole fact that so many films that have come after it try so hard to do what Blade Runner did so easy which is ask the question: what makes us human? This is simply one of the most controversal and most polarizing questions of our time and Blade Runner the film is able to deliver in the fastest and best way possible. Blade Runner's success though isnt just asking the question but letting the audience have all the years to find the answer that in it of itself is great art.

Dec 18 - 09:24 PM

harrismonkey

chris harris

I haven't read enough PKD to have a fair opinion, but I have read some and almost all of what I read seems pretty dated. (I have not read do androids dream however)

Bladerunner continues to get under my skin after all these years.

That's just me. But I'm certainly not the only one who regards this film as a masterpiece.

Dec 19 - 02:01 AM

harrismonkey

chris harris

As far as Scott's opinion of himself- it's always very funny. Listen to his commentary tracks and it is very clear he thinks he's brilliant.

On the other hand the man's managed to have a 30 year career with consistently high grossing well received films and a handful of bonafied classics scattered across that career. It would be nice if he was a little more humble about it- but he's certainly got something figured out.

He's not the best and brightest we have, but he's up there.

Dec 19 - 02:05 AM

citizenjames

James Ford

WITHERWINGS makes excellent points but i agree with something roger ebert said years ago which is movies aren't bad because they are bad adaptations of books, movies are bad because they are bad movies. i just listened to a podcast from KRCW THE TREATMENT (highly recommended) and tony gilroy (screenwriter for the BOURNE TRILOGY) admits that after the scene in the safe deposit vault in the first IDENTITY, the movies have NOTHING to do with the books. at least he admits it and people love those movies (i, not so much, but people love them).

scott is fairly consistent and that any director is relevant thirty years into a career is mindboggling; at best most are good for fifteen. the truth is no one is clamoring for an anniversary special edition of ANDROIDS or let's make a new movie because that version sucked like their doing with HULK, PUNISHER, TOTAL RECALL or DUNE.

Dec 19 - 05:58 AM

dahluzz

joe shmo

i saw the final cut in the theater a couple weeks ago. while some of the visuals had been nicely polished (not undermined by blatant cgi like the star wars special editions)and the sound mix was powerful, i still hated the score at certain points.

The movie is commended for being so far ahead of its time, but the blaring synthesizer in key moments (such as when that skin job chick in the plastic coat gets blasted and then falls through the glass panels) plants the film squarely in the 80's. While the appearance of the movie still holds up, the music is decidedly dated. That jarring synth is not only hard to listen to, it snaps you out of the future and back into the time of the film's creation.

Dec 19 - 06:47 AM

BrianInSD

Brian Gaul

"the music is decidedly dated. That jarring synth is not only hard to listen to, it snaps you out of the future and back into the time of the film's creation"

To me the score evokes a combination of new age music and film noir scores from the 1940's, mirroring Blade Runner's Future Noir concept. IMHO, Vangelis's music works perfectly for this movie and it's one of my all-time favorite film scores.

Dec 19 - 09:52 AM

BrianInSD

Brian Gaul

"the music is decidedly dated. That jarring synth is not only hard to listen to, it snaps you out of the future and back into the time of the film's creation"

To me the score evokes a combination of new age music and film noir scores from the 1940's, mirroring Blade Runner's Future Noir concept. IMHO, Vangelis's music works perfectly for this movie and it's one of my all-time favorite film scores.

Dec 19 - 09:52 AM

Racer Z

Shannon Potratz

Witherwings, Ridley Scott never took credit for the story. He commented on the great writing, but never took credit for it. And Blade Runner is chock full of ethical undertones. That's part of the point to the story. I understand that the film isn't your cup of tea, and that's fine, but the simple fact is that BR has had a HUGE influence on science fiction in the last 25 years. For good of bad, there's no denying the impact this film had.

Dec 19 - 11:10 AM

Mr.Enigma

ric zoellner

Well, the interview was based on Blade Runner, so I think it's safe to asume that when he talked about a great story, he was talking about Blade Runner, not Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. And it's not like the guy makes super original stuff. Look at Kingdom Of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, and American Gangster. All based on real events. Not incredibly original. I'm not saying Blade Runner is a bad film, in fact, it's an excellent film. I just think the guy has a huge ego.

Dec 19 - 03:45 PM

DON OF THE D.E.D

Don Delahunt

I'm just curious on how many times one movie needs to be cut or have or supposedly hbe different?

Dec 19 - 12:42 PM

Mr.Enigma

ric zoellner

Well, the interview was based on Blade Runner, so I think it's safe to asume that when he talked about a great story, he was talking about Blade Runner, not Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. And it's not like the guy makes super original stuff. Look at Kingdom Of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, and American Gangster. All based on real events. Not incredibly original. I'm not saying Blade Runner is a bad film, in fact, it's an excellent film. I just think the guy has a huge ego.

Dec 19 - 03:45 PM

MC.

mc mc

Synth is not 80's...as it will likely return.

Dec 19 - 04:26 PM

SpencerBenedict

Spencer Benedict

REMOVE THE VOICEOVER?!? Is it just me or is this possibly going to bother anybody else? When Deckard and Rachael are flying off together toward the end of the movie, Rick Deckard in a voiceover says what i consider, for me, one of the moist poignant and moving lines of the film. Pondering and questioning how long Rachael may live, he says something to the affect, "I don't know how much time we'll have left together," and answers himself with a simple, "Who does?" Every time i watch this movie, this line never ceases to hit me hard, making me ever grateful for the Love of my life, my beautiful daughter and all the days i am blessed to share with them. I remember very vividly seeing the 1st release in a theatre back in '82. I was a sophmore in High School and a bit of Sci-Fi & Horror fanatic, the Special Effects and atmosphere just blew me away. The look and mood of this movie was light years ahead of its time and i really can't think of anything comparable up and through today. Looking forward to buying what i hope is finally the last 'version.' If any BR fanatics out there have seen this newest 'cut', please let me know if my favorite line has been removed so i can prepare myself. -S.B.

Dec 19 - 06:03 PM

sittingbison@codezed.com.

Adrian Grose

SpencerBenedict, I understand your view of the voice over, but unfortunately it was added at the behest of the studio who thought the story too difficult to understand for the average viewer. It completely negates the actual point of the film, namely is Rick the android (rather than Rachel). The vital unicorn dream and origami were also originally cut by execs, which didn't help matters.

cheers
bison

Dec 19 - 07:11 PM

rt_hire_me

Teague Bates

Sorry, I liked the voiceover too, and I've heard pundits rant about Ford's lazy and uninspired monotone. It helped me connect with the character. The detective was tired and overworked, so the voice was true to the character. I liked Sabrina too. I'm really losing credibility here.

Dec 19 - 10:05 PM

features1

David Kithcart

I'm sure that Harrison Ford must make his trademark smirk to himself every time he reads about his voiceover in BR. Because the studio forced the issue and made Scott add that element, Ford admitted at the time that he purposefully read the lines with as much of a dry, laconic read as possible. He never thought (he claims) that the studio would go for it because of his terrible performance of the voiceover. FYI

Dec 21 - 07:23 AM

RainNIU

Justin Woo

LoL, that's awesome. It's funny when you try to do your worst and some idiot thinks your brilliant.

...kind of like emo music.

Jan 4 - 09:07 AM

features1

David Kithcart

I'm sure that Harrison Ford must make his trademark smirk to himself every time he reads about his voiceover in BR. Because the studio forced the issue and made Scott add that element, Ford admitted at the time that he purposefully read the lines with as much of a dry, laconic interpretation as possible. He never thought (he claims) that the studio would go for it because of his terrible performance of the voiceover. FYI--no judgment.

Dec 21 - 07:26 AM

sittingbison@codezed.com.

Adrian Grose

SpencerBenedict, I understand your view of the voice over, but unfortunately it was added at the behest of the studio who thought the story too difficult to understand for the average viewer. It completely negates the actual point of the film, namely is Rick the android (rather than Rachel). The vital unicorn dream and origami were also originally cut by execs, which didn't help matters.

cheers
bison

Dec 19 - 07:11 PM

rt_hire_me

Teague Bates

Sorry, I liked the voiceover too, and I've heard pundits rant about Ford's lazy and uninspired monotone. It helped me connect with the character. The detective was tired and overworked, so the voice was true to the character. I liked Sabrina too. I'm really losing credibility here.

Dec 19 - 10:05 PM

rt_hire_me

Teague Bates

Sorry, I liked the voiceover too, and I've heard pundits rant about Ford's lazy and uninspired monotone. It helped me connect with the character. The detective was tired and overworked, so the voice was true to the character. I liked Sabrina too. I'm really losing credibility here.

Dec 19 - 10:05 PM

overthehead

Kevin McKeon

He didn't really say how it was different from the Director's Cut that's been available for over a decade.

That took out the voice-over and the tacked-on happy ending.

So how is this version any different from the one I rented on VHS in 1997? Yes, I got that on DVD too. I don't see why I'd buy this version.

Dec 20 - 10:58 AM

w@velength

In Your Dreams

Philip Dick was a master storyteller, but not that great of a writer. "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" was one of the most boring books I've ever read. Clumsy pacing and ridiculous plot twists. As usual, the film adaptations of his work vastly improve on what he started. If he were alive today I'm sure he would identify and appreciate this fact.

I think this was a very honest interview.

Dec 20 - 01:53 PM

harrismonkey

chris harris

As far as the voice over, I honestly can't remember it any more. I'm kinda looking forward to watching the original theatrical cut again (this is the first it's been available in at least 15 years).

I don't miss the voiceover, but I have noticed that most of the film's hardcore fans actually first saw the film WITH the voice over. Yes they all say it's better without it, but the fact that people who first saw the film without the voice over don't seem to like it anywhere near as much makes me suspicious that at least someone's first viewing perhaps should be with the voice over.

I don't know much about the new cut (I'll see it soon), but I'm not hearing indications it's that different from the last cut. Honestly I'm far more excited about seeing the workprint (which is why I ordered the expensive version). It sounds like there's a lot of very cool stuff in there that appears no where else (unless maybe they're included as deleted scenes?).

Dec 20 - 10:26 PM

features1

David Kithcart

I'm sure that Harrison Ford must make his trademark smirk to himself every time he reads about his voiceover in BR. Because the studio forced the issue and made Scott add that element, Ford admitted at the time that he purposefully read the lines with as much of a dry, laconic read as possible. He never thought (he claims) that the studio would go for it because of his terrible performance of the voiceover. FYI

Dec 21 - 07:23 AM

RainNIU

Justin Woo

LoL, that's awesome. It's funny when you try to do your worst and some idiot thinks your brilliant.

...kind of like emo music.

Jan 4 - 09:07 AM

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