Now 25 years old, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner has more critical credibility now than when it was released. Initially lambasted, Scott’s sci-fi morality play has survived through its many incarnations—various cuts have appeared over the years, superceding the original, which the director and his star, Harrison Ford, were unhappy with.
Now that Scott’s “final cut” has been restored and released–it’s currently playing in New York and Los Angeles and is scheduled to be out on DVD December 18–it’s time to give the movie its due as one of the most strikingly original science-fiction films ever made, influencing not only filmmaking but also fashion, design, architecture, music and other arts.
Blade Runner DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika–who has worked with Scott for over a decade on the many DVD versions of his films–discussed Blade Runner as a movie, cultural artifact and “holy grail” of DVD releases on a recent visit to New York for the movie’s showing at the New York Film Festival.
KF: When did you begin exploring the possibility of bringing Blade Runner back to life?
Charles de Lauzirika: I’ve been working with Ridley for 13 years now, and we started our first discussions in 2000, beginning initial restoration explorations to see what was available. The first “director’s cut” (first shown in 1992) wasn’t a true director’s cut: it got some issues taken care of but Ridley didn’t have hands-on involvement.
Over the past seven years, I did what I could based on what Ridley told me he was looking for, and whenever he could, he came in to tweak and supervise. But in this past year, he came in a lot to oversee what we were doing. Before that, it was heavy lifting and pulling things out of the vault for him to look at. For Ridley, he never had an issue about not making this available on DVD–other directors don’t want to do that–because he knows that there’s a vast fan base: some people like the original version with Harrison Ford’s voiceover, others like the first “final cut,” so we wanted to make sure all the fans were happy. Also, we can see the history of the film, from the initial work print to the final version, and how we got there. So in addition to all of the documentaries and the interviews that we are putting on the DVD set, there is all that material from the past 25 years that’s part of the film.
KF: Was it easy getting the green light to put together the definite DVD version from Warner Brothers? (The film will be released on DVD in two-, four- and five-disc versions, the last in special “briefcase” packaging.)
CL: We asked Warners and they said, “Yes.” I don’t think I’ve ever worked on such an ambitious project with this much enthusiasm–I rarely heard the word “no.” Originally it was going to be a four-disc set without the work print, and I said that if we want this to be the real Holy Grail of DVDs, we need to include the work print, and within two days it was there. There was no fight–they said, “Sure!” Each version plays to a different audience: the two-disc set plays to a different crowd, the four-disc set is for fanatics, and the five-disc set is for the real fanatics.
KF: How much restoration went into the various versions?
CL: There was a massive restoration of all the prints. If you had seen the negative when we started, it looked like we dragged it behind the truck through a gravel pit. We worked on it frame by frame, and the work print looked terrible. In fact, in Ridley’s introduction to the work print–there’s an intro by Ridley about each version–we show a little “before” and “after” the restoration, and you’d be astounded by how much better it looks now. The work print is the last known print of that cut of the film, it’s deteriorating and will be gone at some point. So it’s good that we did this.
The original negative is so beautiful–Jordan Cronenweth is such a master cinematographer. One of the true privileges of redoing the negative was seeing how it was originally done, how Jordan exposed it, how it was truly meant to be. When you see that and you see where Ridley tweaked it and color-timed it, it was so beautiful that it didn’t need much. It is a very dark film visually, but they nailed it in that original exposure, and the detail is amazing. We scanned the 35mm print in 4K resolution, which is better than it’s ever been, and we scanned the effects in 8K resolution, which is really sick! It looks like it’s 3-D, since the details are just popping out of it. Now that you’re seeing things in this resolution of the picture that you’ve never seen before, we had to go back and clean up some flaws that nobody really saw before.
KF: The long documentary made for the DVD release, Dangerous Days: Making ‘Blade Runner’, includes an interview with Harrison Ford. Was it difficult to get him onboard, since he has gone on record as saying he wasn’t pleased with the shoot or the original release version?
CL: We interviewed 80 people for the documentary, and Harrison was number two–right off the bat he said he’d love to talk. He’s made his peace with Blade Runner and he’s got some really great stories, which is amazing since it’s been 25 years and he’s done a lot of movies since then. He was a great interview: he said great things about the film and about Ridley. He hasn’t said much over the years because he wasn’t happy with the shoot and wasn’t happy with the original version–he was always against the voiceover that was put into the film originally–and he says in the documentary that once the voiceover was taken out, he started to like the film again.
KF: Do you speak to anyone about the film’s great influence on pop culture and the arts of the past quarter-century?
CL: We interviewed directors like Frank Darabont, Guillermo del Toro and Mark Romanek, and we talked with sci-fi authors like Brian Aldiss just to get their take on the impact, not just on sci-fi filmmaking but on pop culture, design, architecture and fashion. It’s really had a powerful impact on all fronts. We also have a featurette about fans and filmmakers and how it affected them. We interviewed Jovanka Vuckovic, the editor of “Rue Morgue,” a gothic horror magazine, and her entire left arm is a tattoo of Blade Runner, which shows severe devotion, I would say. These are great stories about how much influence this film has had on so many different people. The documentary is 3-1/2 hours long–and I feel it just scratches the surface.
KF: What’s unique about the deleted scenes on this release?
CL: The deleted and alternate scenes are really amazing–there are about 25 of them, and they run about 47 minutes long, and we did it really differently this time. Usually we just have a gallery of one scene after another; this time, because I found alternate narration by Harrison Ford that nobody’s heard before and is actually better than what’s in the original cut, we used that as a way to stitch together a mini-version of the film, since his narration gives us the story’s arc. There’s a completely different opening title sequence and a different opening shot of Los Angeles in 2019. It’s really another alternate version of the film–the fifth and a half version.
originally posted on timessquare.com