In 1982, director Ridley Scott stunned audiences with his epic sci-fi, dystopian noir film Blade Runner. Hampton Fancher and David Peoples wrote the screenplay based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? prompting the heated debate that continues to this day: Is Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a replicant?
Coming this October, 35 years after Blade Runner’s release, the sequel Blade Runner 2049 will continue the story of an ultra-electrified, Asian-influenced, replicant-infested Los Angeles and the cops who protect the city. Even after all this time, the central question of the story is the same: what does it means to be human?
Blade Runner 2049 is perhaps the most anticipated movie sequel of all time – more than Star Wars: The Force Awakens – simply because of the large time gap between films and the unlikelihood it would ever get made.
At the IMAX West Coast headquarters on May 8, Blade Runner 2049 stars Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling and director Denis Villeneuve, did a live Q&A before premiering the trailer. It did not disappoint. Here is everything we’ve learned about BR 2049 so far.
King of the franchise: Harrison Ford
If you were around in the 70s and 80s, its likely you remember when and where you saw the films Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and, of course, Blade Runner. Three decades later, Ford will have reprised his role of Han Solo (in 2015), Indiana Jones (in 2020) and this year, Rick Deckard. What’s remarkable is not only that the movie star has agreed to return to these roles of yore, but that audiences can’t get enough of Ford as these characters – the hallmark of great acting and writing.
About returning to the world of BR, Ford said, “I think it’s interesting to evolve a character over a period of time. To revisit a character was a very interesting experience.” But more than that, the relationships in the story had to make sense to Ford. “There’s a very strong emotional context and relationship between Ryan’s character and Deckard,” he said, because if Deckard isn’t integral to the story, why return at all? It’s clear that even for a star as big as Ford, deciding to make a film comes down to one thing: the writing.
Hampton Fancher is back on screenplay duty
Fancher, perhaps best well-known as a TV actor from the 1960s (Gunsmoke, Rawhide), while lesser known as a flamenco dancer, co-wrote BR 2046 with Michael Green (Alien: Covenant), and surely felt a lot of pressure to get this sequel right. From tarnishing the reputation one of the best films ever made, (um, Godfather 3?) to risking box office blight, so much is at stake here for Fancher. Since these high stakes are usually why the original writer doesn’t return to a franchise, we must commend Fancher on his courage to do so after all this time. Fancher will also be the subject of a documentary called Escapes set to release on July 26, where apparently we’ll get to learn more about his flamenco dancing and marriage to actress Sue Lyon, who played Lolita in the 1962 Kubrick film.
Denis Villeneuve directs, not Ridley Scott
Scott intended to direct the Blade Runner sequel but had a scheduling conflict due to Alien: Covenant. In his place will be Villeneuve, director of 2016’s Arrival (check out our interview with Arrival‘s writer Eric Heisserer), who seems like a good choice for his ability to layer complex human emotions and juxtaposing them with harshness of futuristic technology. At the Q&A, he said, “We are still exploring the themes of memories and empathy. That is what the film is about: What it means to be human.”
The visual “music” of Roger Deakins
Blade Runner’s cinematographer, Jordan Cronenweth, won the BAFTA for Best Cinematography in 1983. Sadly, Cronenweth died in 1996. While his talents will be greatly missed, Deakins agreed to take over. Skyfall, A Beautiful Mind and 1984 are just a few of Deakins’ cinematic masterpieces, and watching the BR 2046 trailer gives us that dramatic peek into this shocking futuristic world. At the Q&A, Ford had this to say about Deakins’ work in the new film, “For me, seeing the way a scene was lit was like having a soundtrack – it was like music, in way. It was very exciting to be a part of.
Ryan Gosling is the new cop on the beat
It’s no surprise that a younger actor is being brought into the story, especially if there are going to be further installments in the franchise. At the Q&A, Gosling seemed to take the role of Los Angeles Police Officer K very seriously, despite only being two-years old when Blade Runner first came out. Viewing the film for the first time in the 1990s, it stirred up complicated feelings inside Gosling. “Because I was young, it was one of the first films I saw where I wasn’t clear how I was supposed to feel when it was over. It made me question what it means to be a human being; it made me question how to tell the hero from the villain. It’s this nightmarish vision of the future that was presented in a romantic, dream-like way. It was very haunting. It was one of the first films where I wondered what happened when it was over. To get to physically enter that world and find the answers to those questions was a wonderful opportunity.”
Goodbye Vangelis, hello Johann Johannsson
The world went crazy for Vangelis’ “Love Theme” from Blade Runner. That sexy saxophone melody enriched many people’s intimate lives dispite the fact that a nasty dispute between Scott and Vangelis kept the film’s soundtrack off store shelves for 12 years. It’s no surprise that Villeneuve tapped two-time Oscar-nominated composer Johann Johannsson to create the BR 2049 score after working with the Icelandic musician on his recent film, Arrival.
No Sean Young
Sean Young’s beauty as Rachel in Blade Runner is breathtaking: with skin like a porcelain doll, she holds a perfectly poised cigarette while her large, doe eyes blink with vulnerability and sadness. We all asked ourselves the question: How could a woman so beautiful, so human, be a machine?
Sadly, Young won’t be returning to the sequel, though she did to get her fans to “boycott” the film if she wasn’t cast again as Rachel. Cuban actress, Ana de Armas (War Dogs), plays the character Joi, most likely taking Rachel’s place as the central replicant in the story, but Young’s presence will certainly be missed.
The technology on screen vs. real life
The original Blade Runner takes place in 2019 – only two years from now. While technology has expanded exponentially since 1983, it doesn’t quite mirror that of film. Gosling seemed a bit nostalgic for the tech Blade Runner promised, “We haven’t worked out the flying car thing, so that’s disappointing. But I’m being nicer to my electronics, just in case.”
Blade Runner 2049 opens on October 6.