BLADE RUNNER 2049
Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve talks us through his creations, replicant by replicant
Can we talk to Denis Villeneuve about his film’s synthetic characters? Yes, we repli-can!
AT LAST, DENIS Villeneuve is able to talk. “For months I could only answer questions like, ‘What was it like to work with Harrison Ford?’” the director sighs. Now, several months after the release of Blade Runner 2049, the veil of secrecy has finally lifted and he’s happy to share insights into the film’s replicants. Not that there aren’t still a few no-go areas. “Sometimes movies are like bombs,” he cautions, “and you have to be careful how you handle them. It’s important to keep some mystery around.” Tread softly.
(RYAN GOSLING) Brooding LAPD skin-job-killer, who happens to be a skin-job himself.
“I needed someone who could slowly self-implode like dark matter, then create a supernova at the end,” says Villeneuve of his leading man. “Together we tried to create the slow, hypnotic mood of a dream. For a long period of time the movie was actually called Androids Dream — I think that was Ryan’s idea.” With K, the film subverts cinema’s usual ‘Chosen One’ tropes: he’s led to believe he is the first replicant child, only to discover he’s not special after all. “The movie becomes about something else,” the director says. “The power of desires. The beauty of broken dreams. I remember reading the screenplay and saying, ‘Okay, where are we going with this?’”
(DAVE BAUTISTA) A Nexus-8 model dispatched by K in the film’s opening sequence.
Morton provides the film with something Blade Runner fans had never seen before: a doddery replicant. “This guy’s system is falling apart,” says Villeneuve. “His skin is dying. His eyes are tired. We had to set up the idea that a four-year lifespan for replicants is not the rule anymore: these models can live to be 60.” He set out to cast an actor of advanced years, only to become slowly convinced that his man was actually Dave Bautista, then in his mid-forties. “I had a nice conversation with Sam Mendes, who had worked with him on Spectre and praised him,” Villeneuve recalls. “And then on set Ryan and I were in awe of his skills. He establishes in a split second that although this is a replicant designed for war, he just wants peace.”
(SYLVIA HOEKS) A Nexus-9 who works as enforcer/pa for her creator, Niander Wallace.
“She is a 12-year-old brat in the body of a 30-year-old woman,” says Villeneuve of the tough Luv. “She wants to overperform, like a young, aggressive executive of a Wall Street firm. She is a narcissistic, competitive being; the product of an extreme form of capitalism.” Hoeks was cast partly because she is Dutch, like the original film’s anti-hero Rutger Hauer. “The characters are complementary,” Villeneuve confirms. “Roy Batty was the analogue version of a technology.
Luv is pure, cold, more efficient, more reliable, more precise, and sadly, more lonely and less romantic. Roy Batty was an idea coming out of the ’70s. Luv is coming out of the future.”
(HIAM ABBASS) A Nexus-8 fighting for the freedom of replicants.
Freysa only appears in a single scene, towards the end of the film, but she was intended to be a crucial character in the next Blade Runner, should one be made. (2049 underperformed at the box office, making just $258 million worldwide.) “My goal was to portray the birth of a movement,” says Villeneuve. “She has a cause that is bigger than her, the creation of a new world, and she’s ready to die for it.”
(MACKENZIE DAVIS) A Nexus-8 ‘pleasure model’-cum-resistance fighter.
While Villeneuve suggests that the fan theory about K’s name being a reference to Kafka is on the money, he is quick to shoot down the one about ‘Mariette’ being a play on the word marionette. “No, no, no, never, no,” he head-shakes. “We never talked about that. But she is effectively a puppet, so that does make some sense.” The film’s most talked-about scene is the trippy threesome between K, his hologram girlfriend Joi, and Mariette, who has Joi’s likeness synced onto her. “The scene for me is a love scene between Mariette and K,” Villeneuve says. “When you look at her eyes, the way she goes through the experience, she’s falling in love with him. Yet she’s just a placeholder.”
(HARRISON FORD) The original Blade Runner. But is he a replicant himself?
It’s the conundrum that has fuelled arguments for decades. Ridley Scott says Deckard is synthetic. Harrison Ford says he’s not. Villeneuve just smiles cryptically. “My take is the following,” he says. “When a doctor is in contact with sick patients, sometimes they start to be afraid they have the symptoms themselves. I really love the idea that even Deckard doesn’t know if he’s real or not. That existential doubt, that pain, that self-paranoia, I deeply love. I prefer being on the edge of the question.”
So, that’s that one cleared up. NICK DE SEMLYEN
BLADE RUNNER 2049 IS OUT NOW ON DOWNLOAD, DVD AND BLU-RAY
Above: enforcer Sylvia Luv. Left: Hoeks’ DP Roger Deakins with director Denis Villeneuve on set. Below: Ryan Gosling as K — for Kafka?