January 19, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

A determined man

By Dianne Bennett
Published: 2017-12-10

They use the term "surreal." Surreal? I have an imagination, but I've never cared for the Surrealists too much. I can admire their techniques, abilities. I do like "outré things." Maybe "phantasmagoric." I wouldn't use that term, but (William) Burroughs used it and he's had an influence on me.

You used the word "genesis," and a child is at the center of "Blade Runner 2049." The child distinguishes the plot from the 1982 film. I wasn't saying it as exactly Biblical, but the story has to do with a lineage, the unfolding of a lineage, of a line. The child was a breakthrough thought. I had it [the thought] on the plane to London and I knew that was it.

"Blade Runner"— both films — seem to me like good sci-fi in that they use science fiction to comment on contemporary issues. Climate change was inflated, strengthened, and improved on in Michael Green's [his co-writer] version. The salient thing for me in my draft is that the ocean ends at Westwood now. [Westwood is a western section of Los Angeles about five miles from the Pacific.] It's prophetic. That was the beginning of my vision of the "brave new world." Always, from the beginning, the hook the story hangs on is ecological —whether human life or animal life in general. That was the trigger.

Another contemporary theme seems to be race. There's a discourse in the film on what it means to be less than human, and whom we can enslave or kill. It was very touching to me that there was a man at one of the screenings who was wheelchair bound. He said, "This thing is about me." I was very moved.

You are commenting on another theme I see: empathy with the other. That's given importance in the film. It better be, that's what it is. But the equation is bigger than this. When I saw the film for the first time the other day, to me the belly of the film, the heart of the film is "she"/"Joi", a digital entity [Joi is K's virtual reality girlfriend in the film], her performance and what she represented and her fate was everything in this film. And also Gosling, the way he's standing off, watching everything, trying to add it up, to find something he lacks.

Harrison Ford, the original Blade Runner from the 1982 film, who also appears in "Blade Runner 2049," and Ryan Gosling, the Blade Runner for "2049," seem very different characters. How do you view the two actors and their roles? There is a mold for Harrison. He goes way back in literature to detective stories. We know Harrison, we want to be Harrison. But Gosling … I thought of him in the first place. He's a prototype. Period. Not a predecessor. He's a one-off. He can play many things. That's the reason I said, "I want Gosling." Because, I whispered to someone, "He's from Mars." Harrison is a more eclectic Gary Cooper. Gosling is not anybody. Harrison is a solitary existential figure, but in a tradition — William Holden, etcetera, but Gosling stands alone to be alone in perfect company. Harrison is a lion; Gosling is a panther. Do you get what I mean?

You seem to have a complex relationship with the people listed as your co-writers. David Peoples in the original film, who came in after you wrote something like 10 drafts, and Michael Green in the current film. They're not really co-writers but re-writers. This time, without Michael Green I don't know if there would be this film. I turned in a very small script, 79-80 pages; it needed more complexities. I don't know what it needed, but it needed more complexities. They said, "We want to put more action in." I said, "I can't think of anything." I would've loved to have gone on, but I was happy to be finished. I liked the script a lot; it was good; it's still good. But then Denis [Villeneuve, the director] was not involved yet; Ridley [Scott] was still going to do it. Ridley wrote me a letter about the screenplay, and he said, "Now we're going to go fishing." I said, "You want me to come up with some shit you'll like, but you want someone to do more," and that's what happened. I heard a couple months later this guy Michael Green had signed on. He did great things and is a great guy and I adore him. We write differently. This time I knew what was happening. In [the origina "Blade Runner" I wasn't cooperating.

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