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Ridley Scott Talks Blade Runner

With last week's highly anticipated 25th anniversary release of BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT from Warner Home Video on DVD, Blu-ray and HD DVD, it's a very opportune time to publish some of director Ridley Scott's comments at a press roundtable, which VFXWORLD participated in.

Prior to embarking on the FINAL CUT, Scott decided to screen a print for the first time in about 12 years to make notes. However, he was so surprised and elated at how well the film holds up, that he wound up not taking any notes.

"It's one of those films that I think was so special to me that I didn't want to revisit it, just in case..."

Scott and his team headed by DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika ended up making "corrective changes -- things at the time we couldn't do: we couldn't afford it or the technology wouldn't allow us. Today you can do it in a heartbeat. But there were also a lot of outtakes and out cuts to go through. At the time, there was an attempt to keep the magic of filmmaking away from the audience, but now everyone knows everything about the camera and how special effects work, so now you might as well join the club, so there's a fifth disc which contains everything."

John Scheele supervised the new seamless digital vfx, in consultation with original Special Photographic Effects Supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer. Sony Pictures Imageworks did the Zhora head replacement (for actress Joanna Cassidy) during her fight scene, other work was done by Illusion Arts, Lola Visual Effects and The Orphanage. Most of the work consisted of wire removal and stabilization and better matching of elements, such as in the opening or in the dove scene. Scott stressed that it was important that the vfx wasn't overdone to maintain the integrity of the look.

Out of the tumultuous experience of making BLADE RUNNER, in which "there were too many cooks in the kitchen," came a movie that Scott believes stands the test of time and ages well like fine wine.

"It is a film that functions almost like a book because there is not a lot of action, but there's a lot of interplay with this really great cast [Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah, William Sanderson, Brion James, Joe Turkel, Cassidy]. I think it's the cast that keeps everything really alive...and the unusual blow-by-blow and organic engagement of one character [Deckard] throughout each scene...Everything makes sense: If you want to read at the end of the film that there are parallels to where we are today, it's all there."

Meanwhile, the director finds interest in BLADE RUNNER after 25 years flattering. "And particularly now that these things can be really protected and kept. And what we've just recently found is that digital doesn't hold as well as photo chem, so digital is already fading fast after 10 years." And he lauded the old Technicolor system of making yellow, cyan and magenta protection film masters as still the best way to preserve movies.

"When I make movies, I'm good at creating universes," Scott added, " I think it's very important for an audience to be pulled into that universe -- that's the difference between the best films and the less good films.

Finally, in terms of the controversial Deckard as replicant issue, Scott responded: "I thought it made sense to me...the irony of a human going off with a replicant. And there's a very nice scene between Deckard and Rachel in his Frank Lloyd Wright living room, where he's telling her that [her memories do not belong to her]. So she goes off in denial. That's a very, very human level, not a science fiction level. Can you insert a memory into brain cells? Right now we're talking about it as a possibility. Then we were talking about replication. Fifteen years on, I was reading about permission to replicate sheep in farm animals. So the idea of science that we were dreaming up, was always distilled by logic...I think that when scientists get stymied, they look to the possibility of God for just sheer imagination."

BLADE RUNNER: THE FINAL CUT can be purchased in three DVD editions: a Two-Disc Special Edition ($20.97), a Four-disc Collector's Edition ($34.99) and the Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition ($78.92) in Collectible Deckard Briefcase packaging.

Simultaneous Blu-ray and HD DVD versions ($66.95) of the Deckard Briefcase were also released in numbered, limited quantities. Blu-ray and HD DVD 5-Disc Digi Packs with collectible slipcase ($39.99) include all of the UCE content.

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Bill Desowitz, former editor of VFXWorld, is currently the Crafts Editor of IndieWire.