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Story Notes for Blade Runner

Monday through Thursday during prime time on AMC, you can catch Story Notes — real time trivia and facts about your favorite movies! Below is the online version of the Story Notes for Blade Runner.

Award Note
Blade Runner‘s groundbreaking look earned it two Oscar nods: Best Art Direction and Visual Effects.

Beauty Note
The make-up for Blade Runner was supervised by Marvin G. Westmore. His family has been a Hollywood makeup dynasty since 1917.

Biographical Notes
Director Ridley Scott started in the business as an art director. Scott: “…the background can be as important as the actor. The design of a film is the script.”

Blade Runner got Sean Young noticed, but it was 1987’s No Way Out that would make her a star.

Syd Mead was the “visual futurist” of Blade Runner, designing the cars and machinery. He also designed the huge alien “V’Ger” ship of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

Daryl Hannah (Pris) had been a gymnast in school. In her audition, she performed a back-walk.

Rutger Hauer would later play a man cursed to be a wolf during the day in 1985’s Ladyhawke.

After this, Edward James Olmos (Gaff) went on to star in Stand and Deliver (1988) and of course, Battlestar Galactica, a scifi series greatly influenced by Blade Runner.

Casting Notes
Brion James (Leon) played General Munro in another classic scifi movie, The Fifth Element (1997).

Actor Morgan Paull also played Captain Richard Jenson in Patton (1970).

Harrison Ford was cast after Ridley Scott flew to London to view dailies of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Despite being in Star Wars, he wasn’t yet seen as a leading man.

M. Emmet Walsh (Bryant) played a private eye in the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple (1984).

Edward James Olmos (Gaff) would pilot another spaceship years later on Battlestar Galactica.

Sean Young was a relative unknown when she was cast. Ridley Scott: “She reminded me of Vivien Leigh… that acerbic toughness that Vivien Leigh had.”

Joe Turkel (Dr. Tyrell) was the ghostly bartender in The Shining (1980).

Rutger Hauer (Roy Batty) was already a big star in his home country of The Netherlands… but he’d only been in one Hollywood movie, playing the terrorist in Nighthawks (1981).

Actor James Hong is also known for playing the evil Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China (1986).

This was a breakout role for Daryl Hannah (Pris). She hadn’t yet starred as Madison, the mermaid Tom Hanks falls in love with in Splash (1984).

William Sanderson (J.F. Sebastian) played the bumbling Larry on Newhart (1982-1990).

Hy Pyke came in to read for the bartender, but he decided to read for Taffey instead. When producer Michael Deeley told him it wasn’t good, he copped an attitude. That got him the part.

Joanna Cassidy (Zhora) was perfect for this role: She already had a pet snake of her own.

Fashion Note
The fashion in this movie is a blend of 1920s and 1940s hair and clothing styles.

History Notes
This movie came out long before webcams and video chat. They called this a “VidPhon.”

This game is based on “The Immortal Game” between Anderssen and Kieseritzky in 1851.

Location Notes
The interior of the Bradbury Building can also been seen in (500) Days of Summer and The Artist.

Director Ridley Scott originally wanted to shoot the climactic scene on real rooftops in downtown L.A. When that proved impractical, they built moveable sets 30′ high on the Warner Brothers backlot.

Music Note
Blade Runner‘s composer, Vangelis, had just won an Oscar for his score for Chariots of Fire (1981). He received nominations for a BAFTA and Golden Globe for Blade Runner.

Plot Notes
The Voigt-Kampff Test measures empathy, which a replicant would not have.

Blade Runner‘s big mystery is whether Deckard is actually human or a replicant? Harrison Ford likes to think he isn’t, while director Ridley Scott says he is.

Music has a connection to memories, both with Rachael and with Deckard.

The replicants have shown they can love as strongly, or even more strongly, than humans.

Pop-Culture Notes
Blade Runner (1982) is based on cult scifi writer Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Scientists voted it “Best Sci-Fi Film of All Time,” beating 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars.

Blade Runner is a future noir. This voice over is one of many nods to the detective movies of the ’40s.

Blade Runner was the first movie adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story. Later ones include Total Recall (1990), Minority Report (2002), and The Adjustment Bureau (2011).

Blade Runner is one of the first movies in the cyberpunk genre, a term coined by scifi writer Bruce Bethke in 1980 and defined as “low life, high tech.”

Daryl Hannah (Pris) came up with her makeup, inspired by Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979).

“I think, therefore I am” was a phrase coined by French philosopher René Descartes.

Blade Runner ranks #1 on Wired Magazine‘s “Top 20 Sci-Fi Movies” list.

Prop Notes
Deckard’s gun was originally supposed to be a “black hole” gun that sucked matter inward.

Quotation Notes
Cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth said the film’s photography was influenced by Citizen Kane. “This included…high contrast, unusual camera angles, and the use of shafts of light.”

Director Ridley Scott: “Deckard clearly is cynical from the very moment that we join him in the film. He’s becoming part of the company. He’s becoming part of that Orwellian nightmare.”

Ford: “It’s an oddly human story…about what it is to have human consciousness.”

Director Ridley Scott on Joanna Cassidy (Zhora): “If you’re gonna cast an Amazon, there she is.” Cassidy: “I’ve taken karate in the past, and I don’t hold back — when I fight, I fight.”

Ridley Scott’s future was inspired by Hong Kong and New York in the ’80s, “[cities] on overload.” Coincidentally, author Philip K. Dick had a fear of big crowds.

Director Ridley Scott says of all his films, Blade Runner is his most “personal and complete.”

Dir. Ridley Scott on William Sanderson (Sebastian): “[He has a] beautiful…ingenuous innocence. [He is] almost playing himself here.”

Rutger Hauer: “I played Roy as though his sexuality was totally unimportant.”

Dir. Ridley Scott on Roy: “He’s not a monster at all. [He] feels he’s being really manipulated.”

Daryl Hannah (Pris): “The replicants [are] supposed to have heightened senses. [I hear] Deckard coming and [am] reacting to the sound of him getting close.”

Rutger Hauer says, “I think [Deckard] is the villain… Definitely. My idea of a villain is somebody who wants to do… bad things.”

Ford was attracted to Deckard’s desperation, “the dramatic circumstances he found himself in.”

Director Ridley Scott: “I think at the end… [Deckard] rediscovers his humanity.”

Script Notes
The script for Blade Runner went through many revisions with multiple screenwriters. Other working titles included: Dangerous Days, Android, and Mechanismo.

Screenwriter Hampton Fancher said he was just winging it when he wrote some of the dialogue, but the science behind some sections actually checks out.

Set Notes
Blade Runner had a tight budget, so the filmmakers saved money wherever they could. This roof is actually a model of the mother ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

Design for the Tyrell Corporation building was influenced by Mayan pyramids.What you see in the film stands only about four feet high and has only two sides.

The first day of shooting, Ridley Scott noticed these Neo-Egyptian columns were upside-down. Ever the perfectionist, he made the crew flip them over, which took several hours to do.

One building in the movie is made from a model of the Millennium Falcon (Star Wars).

Scott’s original concepts for Deckard’s apartment were influenced by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.

Hannah slipped and cut her elbow during the production. She still has a scar from the stitches.

Much of Blade Runner‘s dark sets are lit solely through windows. Sources included searchlights, signs, and lightning.

They tested this hair dryer on Production Exec. Katherine Haber, “in case it sucked her head off.” Cassidy (Zhora) wanted to see it work on someone else first. (It was perfectly safe.)

Over 300 extras were hired for some of the street scenes.

At the time (1982), Blade Runner featured the largest panes of breakaway glass ever made for a film.

After Brion James (Leon) said he’d do his own stunts, Harrison Ford said he’d do his, too.

Tyrell’s bed was modeled after Pope John Paul II’s.

Hauer once said: “By pushing Pris’ tongue into her mouth, Batty buries her.”

Master makeup artist Michael Westmore built prosthetics for effects like the nail through the hand.

Source Notes

The term “Blade Runner” doesn’t come from Philip K. Dick. It’s from novelist Alan Nourse.

The term “Replicant” comes from the scientific process of “replicating,” or cloning. It was coined by screenwriter David Peoples’ daughter, who was studying microbiology.

Symbolism Notes
Gaff uses origami to make statements. He just called Deckard a “chicken.”

Did you notice that Pris, a “pleasure model,” was built on Valentine’s Day?

If the eyes are the window to the soul, what does that mean for a replicant?

Technology Notes
Blade Runner is the last “analog” scifi movie; not a single image in it is computer-generated.

To get that “glow” in a replicant’s eyes they’d project light into a two-way mirror at a 45° angle in front of the camera lens.

Some searchlights were made by crew members waving xenon lights around.

Trivia Notes
Ridley Scott had just directed Alien (1979) and didn’t want to make another scifi movie. Blade Runner‘s script changed his mind.

Batty misquotes “America: A Prophecy,” a poem by William Blake.

The talking dolls are meant to be a miniature Kaiser Wilhelm and Napoleon Bear.

The Esper machine can analyze a 2-D photo in its original 3-D space.

Tsingtao is a real Chinese beer. It’s been brewed since 1903.

According to the Bible, Methuselah was a man who lived to be almost 1,000 years old. There’s no such thing as Methuselah Syndrome. What J.F. Sebastian is describing is Progeria.

Rutger Hauer played Roy like a four-year-old because that’s about how old his character is.

Rutger Hauer says he improvised Roy’s final words, which have become classic lines.

Blade Runner actually includes unused footage from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980).

Wardrobe Notes
If Deckard’s the classic hard-boiled detective, Rachael is the femme fatale. Her hair, lipstick, and shoulders evoke the style of women of ’40s film noir like Barbara Stanwyck.

The filmmakers custom-made clothes for Ford to wear. Director Ridley Scott kept one of his ties.

The wardrobe department scoured second-hand stores to create a multicultural society.

Notice the cops all wear fedoras like classic film noir detectives. Harrison Ford had just done Raiders of the Lost Ark, so he didn’t want to wear another hat.

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