Ridley Scott on Blade Runner: The Final Cut: The RT Interview
The director talks about the differences in the new version.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.