It’s hard enough for a director to make one piece of landmark cinema in a specific genre, let alone two. But that’s what Ridley Scott did with Alien and Blade Runner, both of which are now considered bona fide classics. Scott finally got to make a sequel (of sorts) to the former with Prometheus a few years ago, and around the same time the filmmaker also announced that he had a desire to make a Blade Runner sequel as well, with screenwriter Hampton Fancher returning to pen the screenplay.
Development on the sci-fi follow-up continued in the background for a few years, until it was announced that Scott was no longer planning on directing the film—though he found an incredibly talented filmmaker to sign on in his stead: Denis Villeneuve. Between Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy, and now the impeccable thriller Sicario, Villeneuve has proven to be an exciting, unique talent working in the film world today, and the prospect of the notoriously bleak filmmaker taking on the world of Blade Runner—with cinematographer Roger Deakins in tow no less—was incredibly enticing.
So when Steve sat down with Villeneuve recently at the Toronto International Film Festival to talk about Sicario, he also took the time to ask the filmmaker about Blade Runner 2. Villeneuve reiterated that Harrison Ford is starring in the project, and revealed that Ford was set before Villeneuve became involved.
Here’s the video followed by some quotes:
“To be very honest with you, Harrison was part of the project before I arrived. He was attached to the project right from the start with Ridley. I met him and he’s honestly one of the nicest human beings I’ve met and is one of my favorite actors of all time, so for me it’s a lot of pleasure.”
Speaking of pressure, Villeneuve admitted that he was initially hesitant to take on such an iconic property:
“It’s more than nervous, it’s a deep fear. I mean when I heard that Ridley Scott wanted to do another movie in the Blade Runner universe, at first my reaction was that it’s a fantastic idea, but it may be a very bad idea. I’m among the hardcore fans of Blade Runner. Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a movie that is linked with my love and passion for cinema. I’m coming from a small town in Quebec where, at that time, there was no internet and the way to be in contact with movies were those American fan magazines like Fantastic Films and Starlog and I still remember the shock, the impact of seeing the first frames, the first pictures coming out of Blade Runner. Me and my friends were in awe, so excited and the movie was such a strong cinematic experience. A new way of seeing sci-fi.
For me it’s like a monument. So when I realized one day that they put in front of me the Blade Runner project screen play, for me I was very moved to have this honor to read the screenplay, but I accepted to do it because I felt that Hampton Fancher, Ridely Scott and Michael Green did a fantastic job on the screenplay. It’s a very powerful screenplay. And I felt that it made sense to me and I had the Ridley Scott blessing. But you ask if I hesitated. I hesitated massively. It took me a lot of time to say yes. Not because I didn’t believe in it, because I was like ‘Who am I to dare to touch that?’ And at the same there’s a part of me that said, ‘I’m a hardcore fan, I don’t want to fuck that up.’”
Ultimately Villeneuve says he signed on, “because I feel that I can do it,” and expanded a bit on how he’ll be approaching the sequel:
“It’s a huge challenge, because you don’t want to cut and paste, otherwise why [do it]? And at the same time you have to respect what was done, so you have to find the right equilibrium between being faithful to the first one and bringing something new at the same time that will make sense to the Blade Runner universe.”
With Scott having toyed with the edit of Blade Runner over the years, Steve asked Villeneuve which version would be considered “canon” going into the sequel. Villeneuve replied by possibly insinuating the follow-up may not be as much of a straightforward sequel as we thought:
“The movie will be autonomous and at the same time there will be some link, but I cannot talk too much about it. The only thing I can say is I was raised with the original cut, the original version that Ridley doesn’t like. That’s the Blade Runner that I was introduced to at the beginning and that I loved for years, and then I must say that I’m someone that appreciated the very last cut, the [Final Cut] version. So between all the different cuts, for me it’s the first and the very last that I’m more inspired by.”
Villeneuve also noted that he’s fully aware of the immense pressure he’s under, and how hardcore fans of the original view the prospect of a new film:
“I’m totally aware of the huge challenge. It’s a risk I know that every single fan who walks into the theater will walk in with a baseball bat. I’m aware of that and I respect that, and it’s okay with me because it’s art. Art is risk, and I have to take risks. It’s gonna be the biggest risk of my life but I’m okay with that. For me it’s very exciting… It’s just so inspiring, I’m so inspired. I’ve been dreaming to do sci-fi since I was 10 years old, and I said ‘no’ to a lot of sequels—I couldn’t say ‘no’ to Blade Runner. I love it to much, so I said, ‘Alright fuck it, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.’”
But ultimately, don’t expect Villeneuve to be sharing photos from the set or anything once production rolls around. The filmmaker expanded on his desire to keep a tight lid on his films before they’re released:
“The less you guys will know, the more it’s gonna be interesting… I understand enthusiasm, but a thing I love as a film lover is to sit in the theater not knowing a lot of things. If you were talking to me about the last movie I just shot or the other projects, I would have the same attitude. I’m someone who always tried to protect the surprises, so it’s gonna be the same with that project. I will be very boring when it’s time to give answers.”
Villeneuve did confirm that filming begins next summer, though added they haven’t locked down the locations just yet.
I can say to you that it’s going to be next summer, so it’s going to be next summer, but where, is still in talks.
Finally, the Blade Runner follow-up marks the first time Roger Deakins will be shooting a sci-fi film since 1984’s 1984, and Villeneuve revealed that the cinematographer was more than eager to make a return:
“Roger was dreaming to go back to sci-fi since it’s a long time, and to convince him to do Blade Runner it took me maybe 2.5 seconds.”
So prepare yourselves, folks—Villeneuve, Ford, and Deakins are bringing a new Blade Runner to you very soon. Look for Steve’s full interview with Villeneuve on Collider in the coming days, and click here for all of our TIFF 2015 coverage.