Blade Run­ner 2049 di­rec­tor De­nis Vil­leneuve talks us through his cre­ations, repli­cant by repli­cant

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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


Above: en­forcer Sylvia Luv. Left: Hoeks’ DP Roger Deakins with di­rec­tor De­nis Vil­leneuve on set. Be­low: Ryan Gosling as K — for Kafka?

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