10 Fascinating Facts About Blade Runner

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

All of Roy Batty’s precious moments may be lost in time, like tears in rain, but these Blade Runner facts aren’t going anywhere. Though Ridley Scott's original 1982 film may be getting a modern update with Blade Runner 2049, we're taking a look behind the scenes of one of the most iconic sci-fi movies of all time.

1. RIDLEY SCOTT SAYS RICK DECKARD IS DEFINITELY A REPLICANT.

It may be a major point of contention with sci-fi fans, but to director Ridley Scott the answer is clear: Yes, Blade Runner Rick Deckard is a replicant. In the director’s cut (not the original theatrical version), there’s a short scene where Deckard daydreams about a unicorn; later, near the end of the film, Gaff (Edward James Olmos) leaves an origami unicorn for Deckard to find.

“The unicorn that’s used in Deckard’s daydream tells me that Deckard wouldn’t normally talk about such a thing to anyone,” Scott explained to WIRED in 2007. “If Gaff knew about that, [the origami unicorn] is Gaff’s message to say, ‘I’ve basically read your file, mate.’” He knows about Deckard’s private daydreams because those daydreams were implanted in his (bionic) brain.

2. … BUT HARRISON FORD ISN’T SO SURE.

While Scott’s long been clear on his interpretation of Deckard as a replicant, Ford takes the opposite viewpoint, preferring to think of his character as human. “I thought it was important that the audience be able to have a human representative on screen, somebody that they could have an emotional understanding of,” Ford said in 2013. “Ridley didn’t think that was all that important.” Still, Scott has worn his leading man down over the years: “[Ford’s] given up now. He’s said, ‘OK, mate. You win. Anything, anything, just put it to rest.’”

3. DUSTIN HOFFMAN ALMOST PLAYED DECKARD.

At various times during development, Blade Runner’s original screenwriter, Hampton Fancher, pictured Robert Mitchum, Christopher Walken, and Tommy Lee Jones as Rick Deckard. Ridley Scott wanted to go in a completely different direction by casting Dustin Hoffman, whom he later acknowledged didn’t really fit the type. “I figured, unlikely though he may be in terms of his physical size as a sci-fi hero, as an actor Hoffman could do anything,” explained Scott. “Therefore, it really didn’t matter.”

Hoffman, Scott, Fancher, producer Michael Deeley, and production executive Katherine Haber worked on the film for months, workshopping Deckard’s character and shifting the script in a more “socially conscious” (Scott’s words) direction until Hoffman abruptly dropped out in October of 1980. “Frankly,” Scott later said, “I think it might have been something as simple as money.”

4. RIDLEY SCOTT DIDN’T READ THE BOOK ON WHICH IT’S BASED.

Ridley Scott
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW

Blade Runner is (loosely) based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by legendary sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. (It’s one of over a dozen movies based on his works.) But Scott didn’t read the book before making the movie: “I actually couldn’t get into it. I met Philip K. Dick later, and he said, ‘I understand you couldn’t read the book.’ And I said, ‘You know you’re so dense, mate, by page 32, there’s about 17 storylines.’”

5. PHILIP K. DICK HATED THE SCRIPT (AT FIRST).

Dick passed away before the film was completed, but he kept up with the script as it went through various permutations. He loathed Hampton Fancher’s original draft, saying he was “angry and disgusted” at the way it “cleaned my book up of all the subtleties and of the meaning … It had become a fight between androids and a bounty hunter.” A revised screenplay by David Webb Peoples brought Dick around: “I couldn’t believe what I was reading! ... The whole thing had simply been rejuvenated in a very fundamental way ... [The screenplay and the novel] reinforce each other, so that someone who started with the novel would enjoy the movie and someone who started with the movie would enjoy the novel. I was amazed that Peoples could get some of those scenes to work. It taught me things about writing that I didn’t know.”

6. TEST AUDIENCES HATED IT SO MUCH THAT A(N INFAMOUS) VOICEOVER WAS ADDED.

Who knows what Dick would have thought about the film version that actually played in theaters, though. After disastrous preview screenings, producers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio hired a third writer, Roland Kibbee (The Bob Newhart Show) to write a noir-ish voiceover for Deckard so that the movie would be easier to follow. Urban legend has it that Ford intentionally delivered a lackluster performance so that Yorkin and Perenchio would ditch the voiceover entirely. Whether or not that’s true, Ford was not a fan of the experience, calling it a “f*cking nightmare. I thought that the film had worked without the narration. But now I was stuck recreating that narration. And I was obliged to do the voiceovers for people that did not represent the director’s interests.” In Blade Runner’s 1992 “Director’s Cut” release and 2007’s “The Final Cut,” the voiceover was removed.

7. RIDLEY SCOTT USED SOME OF STANLEY KUBRICK’S THE SHINING FOOTAGE FOR THE ORIGINAL ENDING.

Another major change between the theatrical and director’s cut versions of Blade Runner is the ending, which was originally a happy one: Rachael and Deckard drive through the countryside, and we hear in the voiceover that Rachael is a new kind of replicant who can live as long as humans do. For the backdrop of that scene, Scott used outtakes from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

8. PHILIP K. DICK REFUSED TO DO A NOVELIZATION.

Harrison Ford in 'Blade Runner'
Warner Home Video

Dick was approached about penning a Blade Runner novelization, for which he would get a cut of the film’s merchandising rights. “But they required a suppression of the original novel,” Dick explained, “in favor of the commercialized novelization based on the screenplay,” so he refused.

Blade Runner’s people were putting tremendous pressure on us to do the novelization—or to allow someone else to come in and do it, like Alan Dean Foster. But we felt that the original was a good novel. And also, I did not want to write what I call the ‘El Cheapo’ novelization.”

At one point, Blade Runner’s team threatened to refuse Dick and his publishers access to the film’s logo or stills (essentially, subsequent printings would not be able to cite the book as the inspiration for Blade Runner), but they eventually backed down.

9. THE TITLE COMES FROM A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY.

Blade Runner’s title comes from William S. Burroughs’ Blade Runner (a movie), a film treatment based on Alan E. Nourse’s 1974 novel The Bladerunner (alternatively published as The Blade Runner). That book has nothing to do, content-wise, with Dick’s book or Scott’s movie; its plot involves a black market for medical services. Scott just liked the term as a description for Deckard’s replicant-hunting cop. The film was originally titled Dangerous Days.

10. IT’S CURSED.

It might not be quite as hardcore-cursed as Poltergeist or The Omen, but Blade Runner has a curse of its own … on the businesses whose logos appear in the film. Atari, Pan Am, RCA, Cuisinart, and Bell Phones all suffered severe business problems in the years shortly after Blade Runner’s release, as did Coca-Cola, whose 1985 “New Coke” experiment was less than successful. Members of the Blade Runner production team refer to this as the “product-placement Blade Runner curse.”

Additional Sources:
Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, by Paul M. Sammon

When Mississippi Once Banned Sesame Street

Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images
Children's Television Workshop/Courtesy of Getty Images

Since it began airing in the fall of 1969, Sesame Street has become an indelible part of millions of children's formative years. Using a cast of colorful characters like Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, and Oscar the Grouch, along with a curriculum vetted by Sesame Workshop's child psychologists and other experts, the series is able to impart life lessons and illustrate educational tools that a viewer can use throughout their adolescence. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone—even Oscar—who would take issue with the show’s approach or its mission statement.

Yet that’s exactly what happened in early 1970, when a board of educational consultants in Mississippi gathered, polled one another, and decided that Sesame Street was too controversial for television.

The series had only been on the air for a few months when the newly formed Mississippi Authority for Educational Television (also known as the State Commission for Educational Television) held a regularly scheduled meeting in January 1970. The board had been created by the state legislature with appointees named by Governor John Bell Williams to evaluate shows that were set to air on the state’s Educational Television, or ETV, station. The five-member panel consisted of educators and private citizens, including a teacher and a principal, and was headed up by James McKay, a banker in Jackson, Mississippi.

McKay’s presence was notable for the fact that his father-in-law, Allen Thompson, had just retired after spending 20 years as mayor of Jackson. Highly resistant to integration in the city during his tenure in office, Thompson was also the founder of Freedom of Choice in the United States, or FOCUS, an activist group that promoted what they dubbed “freedom of choice” in public schools—a thinly veiled reference to segregation. Mississippi, long the most incendiary state in the nation when it came to civil rights, was still struggling with the racial tension of the 1960s. Systemic racism was an issue.

Entering this climate was Sesame Street, the show pioneered by Joan Ganz Cooney, a former journalist and television producer who became the executive director of the Children’s Television Workshop. On the series, the human cast was integrated, with black performers Matt Robinson and Loretta Long as Gordon and Susan, respectively, appearing alongside white actors Jada Rowland and Bob McGrath. The children of Sesame Street were also ethnically diverse.

Zoe (L) and Cookie Monster (R) are pictured in New York City in November 2009
Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images

This appeared to be too much for the Authority, which discussed how lawmakers with control over ETV’s budget—which had just been set at $5,367,441—might find the mixed-race assembly offensive. The panel's participants were all white.

The board pushed the discussion aside until April 17, 1970, when they took an informal poll and decided, by a margin of three votes against two, to prohibit ETV from airing Sesame Street—a show that came free of charge to all public television stations. (The decision affected mainly viewers in and around Jackson, as the station had not yet expanded across the state and was not expected to do so until the fall of 1970.)

The members who were outvoted were plainly unhappy with the outcome and leaked the decision to The New York Times, which published a notice of the prohibition days later along with a quote from one of the board members.

“Some of the members of the commission were very much opposed to showing the series because it uses a highly integrated cast of children,” the person, who did not wish to be named, said. “Mainly the commission members felt that Mississippi was not yet ready for it.”

The reaction to such a transparent concession to racism was swift and predictably negative, both in and out of Mississippi. Board members who spoke with press, usually anonymously, claimed the decision was a simple “postponing” of the show, not an outright ban. The fear, they said, was that legislators who viewed ETV as having progressive values might shut down the project before it had a chance to get off the ground. It was still possible for opponents to suffocate it before it became part of the fabric of the state’s television offerings.

The concern was not entirely without merit. State representative Tullius Brady of Brookhaven said that ETV exerted “a subtle influence” on the minds of children and that the Ford Foundation, which funded educational programming, could use its influence for “evil purposes.” Other lawmakers had previously argued against shows that promoted integration.

Grover is pictured at AOL Studios in New York City in May 2015
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images

Regardless of how the decision was justified, many took issue with it. In an anonymous editorial for the Delta Democrat-Times, a critic wrote:

“But Mississippi’s ETV commission won’t be showing it for the time being because of one fatal defect, as measured by Mississippi’s political leadership. Sesame Street is integrated. Some of its leading cast members are black, including the man who does much of the overt ‘teaching.’ The neighborhood of the ‘street’ is a mixed one. And all that, of course, goes against the Mississippi grain.”

Joan Ganz Cooney called the decision a “tragedy” for young people.

Fortunately, it was a tragedy with a short shelf life. The following month, the board reconvened and reversed its own informal poll result, approving of Sesame Street and agreeing that ETV could air it as soon as they received tapes of the program. Thanks to feeds from Memphis, New Orleans, and Alabama, Sesame Street could already be seen in parts of Mississippi. And thanks to the deluge of negative responses, it seemed pointless to try to placate politicians who still favored segregation.

In the fall of 1970, the Sesame Street cast appeared in person in Jackson and was met by representatives from the board, which helped to sponsor the live performance, though it’s not clear any apology was forthcoming.

Sesame Street would go on to win numerous awards and accolades over the proceeding 50 years, though it would not be the only children’s show to experience censorship on public television. In May 2019, ETV networks in Alabama and Arkansas refused to air an episode of the PBS animated series Arthur in which a rat and aardvark are depicted as a same-sex couple getting married.

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now

Cinephile/Amazon
Cinephile/Amazon

If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can get your copy from Amazon now for $20.

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