Producers of new 'Blade Runner' movie: Here's what we can do with our film (oh, and we'd love to bring back Ridley Scott)
As Ridley Scott shoots "Prometheus," the don't-call-it-an-Alien-prequel, another Scott classic could be making its way to the big screen. The producers behind "The Book of Eli" and "Insomnia" announced this afternoon they were putting the finishing touches on a deal to acquire the rights to Scott's dystopian classic "Blade Runner."
The company, Alcon Entertainment, is acquiring rights that will allow them to make a movie with elements from both Scott's 1982 movie and the Phillip K. Dick novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" on which it's based.
The company isn't buying remake rights — in fact, co-founder Broderick Johnson says "we never would want to remake it — but they do think there's a rich vein of material for a prequel or sequel, which they will be entitled to make. (They'd also be allowed to build off scenes from the original.)
"The 'Blade Runner' lore is kind of irresistible," Alcon co-founder Andrew Kosove told 24 Frames from Atlanta, where he and Johnson are on the set of their Queen Latifah comedy "Joyful Noise." "And the extraordinary pace of technological advancement since the movie came out means that there are a lot of opportunities to do something fresh."
A story of "replicants" (robots that are indistinguishable from humans) who return illegally to a dystopian Los Angeles, the Harrison Ford-Sean Young original mines neo-noir conventions and also explores religious themes, while Ford's Rick Deckard chases down said replicants.
Although the movie was not a commercial success upon release, it became an enduring hit on television and home video, and fans are likely to find themselves both intensely curious about a new film while taking very seriously any attempt to tinker with it.
Kosove and Johnson say they're aware of that affection and don't treat it lightly. "The risk is not just getting a movie made but coming up with a story that really justifies coming back one to one of the great science-fiction stories," Kosove, who with Johnason is producing the movie with original co-executive producer Bud Yorkin, said.
There may be more immediate issues, though.
The original was set in 2019, a year that seemed very far away in 1982 but that seems pretty close now. A prequel wouldn't allow for a setting too many years beyond our own. (The producers say they're not concerned because technology changes quickly and anyway, Johnson says, this would be set in an alternative universe.)
Still, filling in parts of the back story of a tale we already know isn't easy, as George Lucas could tell you.
As for a sequel, the trick, the pair say, would be to find new elements that are neither too close to or too far from the story laid out in the original.
There's also the question of whether the first film has become too influential for its own good.
"A lot of filmmakers have borrowed from 'Blade Runner' in the intervening years, and we want to make sure we don't look like we're borrowing from the movies that borrowed from it," Kosove said. "Coming up with something original on our part is a real threshold issue." He added: "We know there are tremendous challenges here."
Although Alcon has financing for their films and a deal to distribute its pictures through Warner Bros, the process is still early and tenative; there is, at this point, no screenwriter or director. And as for the elephant — or director — in the room? "We haven't met Ridley," Kosove said. "but the thought of re-engaging with his artistic vision is very exciting, and [him directing] is something we think would be wonderful."
It's hard to avoid thoughts of "Tron," another techno-themed 1982 movie that also wasn't a hit in its time. For all their differences, both movies anticipated social and technological changes, but only came to be appreciated for it later.
Of course, from a commercial standpoint a sequel to that one worked out pretty well.
— Steven Zeitchik
Photo: A scene from "Blade Runner: The Final Cut." Credit: Warner Bros.