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Blade Runner 2 : The Screenwriter Wrote Eight Drafts--and Then Was Replaced. On His First Day, The Director Turned The Set Upside Down. Harrison Ford Was Never So Miserable. Years Later, Someone Stumbled Over The Long-lost Original. Nothing About This Cult Classic Was Ever Simple.

September 13, 1992|KENNETH TURAN | Kenneth Turan is The Times' film critic and former book-review editor

Though excited by the opportunity, Peoples remembers being "totally bummed out" when he read Fancher's last draft, telling Ridley Scott, "This is brilliant; there is nothing I can do to make it better." But Scott, not for the last time, persevered. "He's very demanding," says Peoples. "He has something in mind and he goes after it."

Scott had Peoples, in the writer's words, "move away from Deckard in a lot of jeopardy to a plot involving clues, like 'Chinatown.' " Peoples also worked on the humanity of Deckard's adversaries, and, in fact, helped by his daughter, who told him about the biological term replicate , he came up with the androids' new name: replicants. The change was necessary because Scott thought the sturdy science-fiction term android was a cliche and half seriously decreed that anybody who used it on the set would get his head broken with a baseball bat.

Just as Peoples was starting to work, he was informed that "a bit of a hiccup" had developed. After having invested more than $2 million in the project, Filmways abruptly pulled out. This set off a frantic scramble to secure financing and distribution for the project, then slated to cost in the neighborhood of $20 million.

"For two weeks, Larry Paull and I did presentations to every studio in town," remembers art director Snyder. "Ridley and Michael Deeley kept making the point that they weren't trying to do 'Star Wars,' they were trying something else, and the distributors kept saying, 'You should be so lucky as to do "Star Wars." ' "

Finally a complex, three-cornered deal was announced early in 1981. Though the Ladd Co. would release the film (through Warner Bros.), their financial stake would be fixed. According to Deeley, the Ladd Co. put in $8.5 million while foreign rights were sold to Hong Kong film mogul Run Run Shaw for another $8.5 million. To cover the rest, Deeley sent the script over to the three partners at Tandem Productions--Norman Lear, Jerry Perenchio and Bud Yorkin--to see if they were interested in the video and other ancillary rights.

"Jerry was a player; he'd been an agent and a boxing promoter, and he had excellent timing in buying and selling," remembers Deeley. Yorkin had directed such features as "Divorce, American Style" and "Come Blow Your Horn." Lear passed on the project, but Perenchio and Yorkin were interested. The pair decided, in Yorkin's words, "Let's take a flyer."

Though they differ on the amount of money initially involved (Yorkin says it was $1.5 million, Deeley $4 million) both men agree on two points. First, without those dollars, however many there were, "Blade Runner" would never have been made. And Perenchio and Yorkin, in industry parlance, took the place of a completion bond company: If "Blade Runner" went over budget, they agreed to pay whatever it took to finish the picture. And that agreement gave them, not the Ladd Co. or Warner Bros. or even Ridley Scott, effective final cut of the movie.

Next, the casting fell into place. Harrison Ford, star of "Star Wars" and the as-yet-unreleased "Raiders of the Lost Ark," was signed as Deckard. Sean Young, a 20-year-old actress with what cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth described as "wonderful, light, creamy, highly reflective skin," had exactly the look Scott wanted; she was signed as Rachal. International star Rutger Hauer became Roy Batty, the leader of the replicant band Deckard was to track down.

Shooting was scheduled to begin on March 9, 1981, and last for 15 weeks, and in the beginning, all was sweetness and light. That first day, Yorkin sent Deeley a note: "I know that we are embarking upon a project that you have worked a long time on and that is going to be everything you have dreamed of."

THAT RIDLEY SCOTT DID NOT WORK IN A WAY ANYONE ON THE CREW HAD EVER experienced became obvious the very first day of shooting. The elaborate set for the Tyrell Corp. office, complete with nearly 6,000 square feet of polished black marble and six enormous columns, was to be used first. "It was a very pristine set. Everyone was standing around in their socks," production designer Paull remembers, "and Ridley walked in, took a look at the middle columns and said, 'Let's turn them upside down,' " a decision that meant a major delay.

"Ridley literally changed everything. I can't think of one set we went into and shot the way we found it," Snyder says. "It was brutal." Adds Paull: "Working with him was the first time in my career as a designer that the paint was still wet as the cameras were rolling."

Trained at London's prestigious Royal College of Art, with extensive experience as a set designer, Scott directed thousands of commercials (including Chanel's haunting "Share the Fantasy" spots). Even then, he had a reputation for possessing what production executive Katherine Haber describes as "an eye that was totally and utterly brilliant."

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