From director Denis Villeneuve, the sci-fi thriller Blade Runner 2049, the much-anticipated sequel to the 1982 masterpiece from Ridley Scott, follows LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), who unearths a long-buried and very dangerous secret that has the potential to turn everything into chaos. That discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner that may be the only one left with the answers everyone seems to be seeking.
At the ultra secretive film’s press junket, co-stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, along with filmmaker Denis Villeneuve, spoke in very general terms about their experience, so as not to ruin the story’s surprises. During the interview, they spoke about the pressures of making this film and living up to the standard set with the original, the themes they were most interested in exploring, getting Ridley Scott’s blessing, developing such non-traditional characters, and the importance of collaborating with cinematographer Roger Deakins.
Denis, the first Blade Runner set a standard in the genre, and it’s even preserved in the National Library of Congress. What kind of pressure did you feel, in doing this film?
DENIS VILLENEUVE: The good news is that I’m Canadian. The movie is a national treasure for the United States. It’s a movie that had a huge impact on me, for several reasons, when I saw it in the theater. I was a young teenager and I was hungry for strong science fiction. When I saw Blade Runner, it was certainly a movie that really impressed me, for a lot of reasons. One of them is that, at the time, I was starting to dream about the idea of directing movies. We can all agree that Blade Runner is a very strong example of what a movie can do when it’s in the hands of an auteur. It’s a director’s movie. The imprint of Ridley was very powerful. It inspired so many movies after. So, how can you revisit a universe that has inspired so many movies after? That was a big challenge, making sure that we go back there with fresh eyes. There was a necessary space for a director to bring his own imprint. The screenplay was a huge help, and I revisited all of the drafts, from Michael [Green] and from Hampton [Fancher] . It became my bible.
What are some of the things that you were most interested in exploring, thematically, with this?
VILLENEUVE: The idea that, as human beings, we are programmed by our genetic background and our education is inherent in the project. Also, I wanted to bring back that beautiful melancholia from the first movie and explore it with my own sensibility.
Why was it so important for you to have the blessing of Ridley Scott, who directed the first film and is an executive producer on this. How did you get that blessing from him?
HARRISON FORD: You usually know when Ridley is not happy with you.
VILLENEUVE: When (Producer) Broderick [Johnson] organized the meeting, right from the start, I said, “Okay, I’ll do it, but one my conditions is that I need to be in the same room with Ridley Scott and have him say that it is okay for me to take the baton, or to get behind the wheel.” At the time, Ridley was too busy to do it. Basically, while in the room, I told him, “It’s simple, give me your blessing. If you don’t, I’ll walk out and I’m not doing the movie. For me, there’s no in between. If it’s okay with you or if it’s not, I’ll be at peace with that.”
Ryan, you’ve never done a movie like this before, in this genre. What did the role of K allow you to do that you hadn’t done before?
RYAN GOSLING: It was a very unique opportunity. It’s such a wildly unique film. When I first saw it, I was 12. It had been out for 10 years. I thought I was just watching a science fiction movie, but what I experienced was something very different. What’s interesting about the film is not just the experience of watching it, but how it stays with you. I wasn’t asking myself, at 12, what it meant to be a human being. I was after that, maybe subconsciously, that those seeds were planted. I realized how much influence it had on the culture I grew up in. Then, to read a script that was a love letter, in certain ways, to the original, but was also very much its own thing. It was respectfully carrying out the narratives and themes of the original, but at the same time, introducing its own conceptual ideas. It was still massive in scale, but at the same time, it was intimate, personal and emotional. This is an experience that’s unique to Blade Runner. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to be a part of something very unique.