MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
How does a certified box office bomb become a classic? Long before director Ridley Scott made "Gladiator" or "American Gangster," he directed the dystopian fantasy, "Blade Runner." Though it starred Harrison Ford, it was a flop when it premiered back in 1982. Ford played Deckard, a cop in a futuristic Los Angeles hunting renegade, human-like androids called replicants. Then, he fell in love with one.
(Soundbite of movie "Blade Runner")
Mr. HARRISON FORD (Actor): (As Rick Deckard) Gaff had been there. And let her live. Four years, he figured. He was wrong. Tyrell had told me Rachel was special, no termination date. I didn't know how long we'd have together - who does?
NORRIS: Ten years after the film's release, in 1992, Ridley Scott released a director's cut. He dropped the happy ending forced on him by his financial backers. And now he's returned to the editing room again to brush up the visuals and the sound quality. His final cut hits stores tomorrow.
Scott says one reason "Blade Runner" has become a cult classic is its eerily prescient vision of the future.
Mr. RIDLEY SCOTT (Director, "Blade Runner"): At the time, I was thinking, how do I make this look futuristic without what I used to call the diagonal zip and silver hair syndrome, right? Bad wardrobe, bad, you know, futuristic-looking, you know, naughty sex.
NORRIS: Big shoulders.
Mr. SCOTT: Big shoulders and all that stuff. And I'd been traveling a lot. And not withstanding, I'd spent a bit of time in Hong Kong prior to skyscrapers. And the harbor was filled with - I don't know, 2000 junks with those beautiful sails. And it was incredibly impressive. That's where I tried to make the film initially. And that wouldn't stand the budget, so we didn't do that. To cut a long story short, I ended up on the back lot in Culver City, which is less exotic than Hong Kong.
And - but I remembered Hong Kong and I just kind of applied that to the logic of, you know, if you're going to look to 2019, the predominance of, you know, nationalities is going to be either Hispanic or it's going to be Asian, and I went for Asian. I don't know I'd be right or wrong. It's kind of a balance at the moment, isn't it?
NORRIS: You know, one of the actors who worked on this film said, looking at the film, it's almost like a crystal ball in terms of the look and some of the things that you presaged in this film - from technology to genetic engineering, I mean, even those crosswalks that, you know, bark at us, it's time to walk, in the film that was, walk now, we hear those now. Where did you get this idea? Because I understand that you really thought about every detail, what the signage would look like, what the tires on the car would like. Where did you go to in your imagination?
Mr. SCOTT: A bottle of red at about 11 o'clock when nobody - I'm not being disturbed.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. SCOTT: Preparing a film like this, you literally have to distill and embed yourself in the world, in that little universe that you're about to create, and ideas just start coming. And that's where I found, then, Syd Mead.
NORRIS: Syd Mead was your futurist.
Mr. SCOTT: Yeah. Well, I noticed his…
NORRIS: That was his actual title.
Mr. SCOTT: Yeah. I noticed his - a lot of his books - he'd had a few books already published at that moment, which were kind of futuristic designs ranging from car design to domestic kitchen equipment. And some were a shade too exotic for me, but I figured right in there was my man. So once I met with him, it's really great because he always comes from the point of logic. And the logic being - the logistics being, it's always driven sociologically.
NORRIS: Deckard is this gumshoe detective. He's living in the future, but he sort of looks like a gumshoe detective of the 1940s.
Mr. SCOTT: Yup.
NORRIS: And in the initial conception, he was supposed to wear some sort of hat, a fedora. Why did you dispense of that idea?
Mr. SCOTT: Because I knew he's going to wear a hat in "Indiana Jones." In fact, the very first time I met him in London, and he was shooting late. I think he was coming to the end of "Indiana Jones." And I honestly believe he turned up straight from the set, 'cause it was like 10:30 at night and was saying, I'm really sorry I'm late. And he turned up in a leather jacket and that kind of khaki trousers, boots and this kind of rather wide fedora hat. So I think he actually still had the gear on that he was wearing during the day. And I thought, can't do that hat, he's got it in "Indiana Jones."
NORRIS: You know, the film, "Blade Runner," is considered a cult classic. There are entire Web sites devoted to this film, discussions, dissections. How is it that a film that is released to, shall we say, modest reviews back in the 1980s…
Mr. SCOTT: Sure.
NORRIS: …turns into such classic?
Mr. SCOTT: Well, confused reviews. I think they were confused. They missed the point. And - so, yeah, it was quite upsetting actually. I still figure I got it right, though. So it - the fall was harder when it didn't really play at all well. And was - and I was staring at these reviews thinking these people just don't get it. And I was actually destroyed during a couple of publications - viciously, actually. It was really, really strange. It stirred up a lot of very hot opinions. And I thought, listen, it's only a movie. You know, relax, guys. If you hate it that much, don't write about it or give me an inch.
NORRIS: Why didn't you fight harder for your original vision?
Mr. SCOTT: If I was a studio head and what I have to hand out to dig - to get a film made, and I'm giving you an excess of $100 million, I want to have a say as well. Particularly, if I'm going to have to not rely upon - that's the danger, they start to rely upon this testing, this audience testing. It's not the end in itself. You've got to know how to read and know how to use it. And also, you got to know how to reject it if you think it's wrong.
And, you know, once you get two audiences of, I think - I forget - in those days, they were quite big, like 600 people in each audience. You know, 400 are saying, I kind of don't get it, 100 are saying, well, it's kind of all right, and 100 are saying, I really like it, I start to pay attention. And little by little, you sell your soul to the devil.
NORRIS: But in this case, you get a chance to go back and rewrite history?
Mr. SCOTT: Quarter of a century, that is pretty good, yeah.
NORRIS: Mm-hmm. So there is this, this raging debate over this question as to whether Deckard, who hunts replicants, is actually a replicant himself. I understand that even the people who worked on the film were divided on this. There are people who are an earshot of our conversation who probably are not in agreement about this. Maybe we could settle this right now. It sounds like you believe that Deckard was a replicant. But Harrison Ford, who played the character for years, has been saying he's not.
Mr. SCOTT: Yeah, I know. That's the thing that Harry and I have always - we kind of - we never (unintelligible) about anything (unintelligible) actually. But he said, isn't that corny? I said, well, no. Why shouldn't it be, why does it not make sense? He said, it was - is it a bit too neatly tied off? I said, in this film? I think it would be really nice to have something neatly tied off because it's so, you know, unusual that to actually have some, you know, narrative that did the full circle and came up with that thesis, I think, is actually okay. And so he said, well, I don't think I am. And I said, well, okay, and I let it go. But I, you know, listen, I'm the one…
NORRIS: But you're the director.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. SCOTT: I'm the one cutting the movie. Sorry, Harry.
NORRIS: As I listen to you talk about this film made back in the early 1980s, I hear in your voice a real sense of pride.
Mr. SCOTT: Absolutely.
NORRIS: You've gone and you've released the director's cut. Now you've released what you're calling the final cut. Is it really final? Are you done?
Mr. SCOTT: Oh, yeah. I think please, God(ph).
NORRIS: You voice got kind of low there. Are you really done?
Mr. SCOTT: No, no. Absolutely done. Yeah, absolutely done. Yeah. No, I'm very happy with what I've got right now.
NORRIS: Well, congratulations to you on this final cut, if it really is indeed final.
Mr. SCOTT: Yeah.
NORRIS: Good to talk to you.
Mr. SCOTT: Good to talk to you.
NORRIS: Ridley Scott is the director of "Blade Runner." His final cut is out on DVD tomorrow. And if you want to see how the movie's ending has changed over the years, go to our Web site, npr.org.
BLOCK: You are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.