BLADE RUN­NER 2049

The sec­ond movie this year, after Fast & Fu­ri­ous 8, to fea­ture a char­ac­ter called Deckard. Which one will be bet­ter? It’s a head­scratcher.

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At De­nis Vil­leneuve’s com­mand, rain be­gins to fall. Waves crash against a vast sea wall that shields Los An­ge­les from an en­raged ocean. It’s deep into the night, and only the spo­radic search­lights that dance across the wa­ter pro­vide any il­lu­mi­na­tion. An ef­fect one could hap­pily de­scribe as Blade Run­ner-y.

“Ac­tion!” Out in the half-light, Ryan Gosling, wrapped in a hefty over­coat, fin­ishes his push-ups and Sylvia Hoeks, head-to-toe in skin-tight ar­ti­fi­cial leather, con­cludes her lunges. At an un­seen sig­nal, they set to. No quar­ter is given: Gosling’s Of­fi­cer K and Hoeks’ Luv come to ex­pertly chore­ographed blows. Fi­nally, with an un­gentle­manly swivel of his hips, K launches Luv into the surf.

Fic­tion­ally speak­ing, it is 2049 in a noir-soaked LA, 30 years after

Blade Run­ner’s cop hero Rick Deckard (Har­ri­son Ford) fled the city with Rachael, his repli­cant (read: an­droid) lover, his own hu­man­ity de­pen­dent on who you ask. But in real-world terms it’s Oc­to­ber 2016, on the out­skirts

of Hun­gary, where the Blade Run­ner 2049 shoot has taken over a gi­ant wa­ter tank. The long-awaited se­quel is two-thirds of the way to­wards com­ple­tion and noth­ing seems amiss, though Ford him­self is en­sconsed in his trailer, re­placed by a stunt dou­ble snared in cuffs in a nearby Spinner craft. As the scene is re­com­posed for an­other take, Vil­leneuve heads in

Em­pire’s di­rec­tion. “I feel for my ac­tors, but it is im­por­tant to be in con­tact with the el­e­ments, no?” he tells us with a laugh. “I am on day 65 of shoot­ing, I think, and I have seen three green­screens so far. We are try­ing to do this in the spirit of the orig­i­nal. In or­der to step for­wards, you have to step back­wards.”

Vil­leneuve had ini­tially thought to shoot in down­town LA, but it had be­come too mod­ern to play his fu­ture, and he liked the idea of adding some Eastern Euro­pean in­te­ri­ors. In­stead, the body of pro­duc­tion, which will run from July though to Novem­ber, is tak­ing place on the nine sound­stages and back­lot of Origo Stu­dio, a few miles from here.

“I am hav­ing the time of my life,” says the Cana­dian di­rec­tor, who is rid­ing high on the icy prom­ise of thrillers like In­cendies, Prison­ers and

Si­cario, not to men­tion last year’s cere­bral sci-fi hit Ar­rival. “No mat­ter what we achieve, we will al­ways be com­pared with a mas­ter­piece. But what we are do­ing is so in­sane, it gives you free­dom.”

He spins on his heel to take it all in: Gosling back at his push-ups; the crew in waders; Roger Deakins, his cin­e­matog­ra­pher, con­tem­plat­ing the cam­era from un­der the hood of his cagoule.

“We are all,” he muses, “chil­dren of Blade Run­ner.”

idea of a Blade Run­ner se­quel had been no more than a twin­kle in a uni­corn’s eye. A dreamy Philip K. Dick-in­spired noir con­founded by ques­tions of what it is to be hu­man, the orig­i­nal has be­come a cult phe­nom­e­non, fans treating it like a holy relic. Yet on its ar­rival in 1982, it was de­rided by crit­ics and ig­nored by au­di­ences, who wanted Han Solo, not this glum gumshoe with a buzz cut. Its clot­heared voice-over and happy end­ing were the lame in­ter­ven­tions of des­per­ate pro­duc­ers. Re­la­tions be­tween Scott and his pay­mas­ters, who held the rights, had be­come so con­tentious that re­vis­it­ing this world was un­ten­able.

Even so, Blade Run­ner al­ways felt like un­fin­ished busi­ness. Scott still smarts that Pauline Kael spent three-and-a-half pages scoff­ing at him in

The New Yorker: “Scott seems to be trapped in his own al­ley­ways, with­out a map…” Blade Run­ner taught him never to read re­views, but he kept tin­ker­ing, search­ing for per­fec­tion. With seven dif­fer­ent ver­sions, it’s a film with its own ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis, treated by Scott as a kind of rolling art project. “It may be my most per­sonal film,” he re­flects.

When Al­con En­ter­tain­ment called him in 2012, then, to say that they had re­claimed the rights to all pre­quels, se­quels, TV, nov­els and games (but no re­makes), Scott was over­joyed. “I’ve been wait­ing for this call for 35 years,” he told them. Then he out­lined to them the idea that had been lurk­ing in his head since Roy Batty’s rooftop vale­dic­tory, a to­tal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for a se­quel. “And it is all there in the first film,” he teases.

With Al­con’s back­ing, he hauled Hamp­ton Fancher back in. The co-writer of the orig­i­nal film brought with him that spe­cific ca­dence — “that sense of pace and place”— which had such an in­flu­ence on the orig­i­nal. “Not again,” Fancher had groaned, re­sis­tance fu­tile. The two of them — plus Michael Green, who joined halfway through — got to work de­vel­op­ing a fu­ture-fu­ture noir, hooked on Scott’s se­cret premise. And fi­nally, out of this tri­part col­lab­o­ra­tion, emerged a script

that has mes­merised all who read it.

Even, it turned out, Har­ri­son Ford. He had con­vinced him­self it was never go­ing to hap­pen. Yet when he laid eyes on the screen­play he called Scott straight­away. “Ri­d­ley,” he said, “you know that this is the best script ever sent to me.”

room away from the el­e­men­tal furore of the set, the once and fu­ture Rick Deckard sets the record straight. “Ri­d­ley and I have long since made our peace with each other,” Ford says. “What­ever the cir­cum­stances were dur­ing the orig­i­nal film, I have great re­spect for Ri­d­ley and ad­mi­ra­tion for his work.”

It is well-doc­u­mented that Blade Run­ner was a gru­elling pro­duc­tion, in which lead­ing man and di­rec­tor did not see eye to eye. The star came to be­lieve he mat­tered less to the di­rec­tor than his di­lap­i­dated fan­ta­sia. The di­rec­tor felt his au­thor­ity was be­ing ques­tioned. “Of the 50-day sched­ule, 35 were nights,” re­calls a politic Ford. “Which is a bru­tal regimen. Any­way, De­nis is a very dif­fer­ent kind of di­rec­tor than...” He gives a hint of a smirk. “What was his name again? Ah yes, than Ri­d­ley.”

Loosely, Blade Run­ner 2049 is about the hunt for Deckard, with more than one party in­ter­ested in his where­abouts. But be­yond that, Ford is scrupu­lous at keep­ing the se­crets of the new film in­tact; when asked about Deckard and K, he re­sponds, “We re­ally don’t want to name the re­la­tion­ship at this point.”

Gosling, at least, pro­vides a spoiler-scanned pré­cis of events: “The world has be­come even more bru­tal. Peo­ple are try­ing to sur­vive. [K] dis­cov­ers a mys­tery that makes him question his own iden­tity, and Deckard is the only one who can an­swer those ques­tions.”

It was once Ford had com­mit­ted to the script that Scott had to face facts. “It was al­ways in­tended for me to do it,” he says. “I was work­ing on this script for two years, but there wasn’t the time.” Other busi­ness called him away: The Mar­tian and Alien: Covenant. “I felt I had to be rea­son­able and step out.”

Vil­leneuve took the reins in­stead. And hap­pily he and Ford found they got on just fine. “De­nis brings enor­mous crafts­man­ship, co­gent thoughts about sto­ry­telling,” says the star. “He is very direct and

Friends or foes? Deckard (Har­ri­son Ford) con­fronts Of­fi­cer K (Ryan Gosling).

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