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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

Yorkin, a silver-haired man with an air of melancholy, sees it differently. "Jerry and I didn't go into this naively. We knew it would be a very difficult shoot, and we left ourselves a pad of $1.5 million to $2 million," he says. But as the amount of money the pair had to put into the picture rose to something like $5 million, the frustration level escalated.

"We're not a studio, but unfortunately we were placed in the position of the heavy that a studio would take," Yorkin says, still irritated. "We were two guys taking it out of our own pockets or going to the bank and borrowing it ourselves. Going on the set and watching someone take five hours longer to set up a shot, seeing a lot of money go out of your pocket, that kind of thing one doesn't need unless you have a very good heart."

THE TIME IS EARLY 1982, THE CITIES DENVER AND DALLAS, AND THE FEELING IS one of happiness and anticipation as movie fans open their newspapers and see advertisements announcing the sneak preview of a science-fiction epic starring Harrison Ford. The mood inside the theaters is cheerful and expectant, for both of Ford's previous films have conditioned audiences to expect a lighthearted, action-oriented romp. Instead, the lights go down and what appears is something entirely different.

According to one source, the preview cards filled out after both screenings told the same story: "This was a film that made demands on an audience that wasn't expecting a movie that made demands on them, an audience somewhat befuddled by the film and very disappointed by the ending." It wasn't so much that people actively disliked "Blade Runner," they were simply unprepared for it. Another crisis had arrived.

Though one participant emphasizes that overall "the cards were good, but not through the roof," Yorkin saw it differently. "After so much talk, so much anticipation about the film, the cards were very disappointing. We all were in a state of shock."

It was at this point that changes in the film's structure were decreed. And though Yorkin says the changes made to the film were a group decision involving the Ladd Co., Warner Bros., Perenchio and the filmmakers, writer Fancher is not alone when he says angrily, "Perenchio and Yorkin came in and shoved people around. They brought in the money that was missing at the end, but they took more than their pound of flesh."

First, an extensive voice-over was added to help people relate to Harrison Ford's character and make following the plot easier. According to Haber, after a draft by novelist-screenwriter Darryl Ponicsan was discarded, a TV veteran named Roland Kibbee got the job. As finally written, the voice-over met with universal scorn from the filmmakers, mostly for what Scott characterized as its "Irving the Explainer" quality.

"You're looking at a red door, and it's telling you it's a red door," says film editor Terry Rawlings. "It was ludicrous." It sounded so tinny and ersatz that, in a curious bit of film folklore, many members of the team believe to this day that Harrison Ford, consciously or not, did an uninspired reading of it in the hopes it wouldn't be used. And when co-writers Fancher and Peoples, now friends, saw it together, they were so afraid the other had written it that they refrained from any negative comments until months later.

The film's ending was equally troublesome. Scott had wanted the film to end on the nicely enigmatic line, "It's a shame she won't last forever; but then again, no one does," as an elevator door closed in front of a fleeing Deckard and Rachal. Scott had also decided he wanted to leave the viewer with a hint that Deckard himself was a replicant. So he had Deckard notice a small origami unicorn on the floor, a unicorn that would hark back to a unicorn dream that he had earlier in the film, making him realize that his very thoughts were programmed.

None of the Ladd Co. executives or Yorkin were impressed. "You try and explain to some executive what thoughts are," growls Rawlings. "They don't have any."

"Is he or isn't he a replicant? You can't cheat an audience that way. It's another confusing moment," Yorkin says. And so the unicorn dream was never used, and a new, more positive ending line--revealing that Rachal was a replicant without a termination date--was written. To indicate the joy the happy couple had in store for them, scenes of glorious nature were to be shot and added on, but attempts to get proper footage in Utah were foiled by bad weather. Instead, contact was made with Stanley Kubrick and, remembers Rawlings, they ended up with outtakes from "The Shining": "Helicopter shots of mountain roads, the pieces that are in all the 'Blade Runner' prints you see everywhere."

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