The original 1982 Blade Runner -- with a mélange of essential ingredients, including a cyberpunk aesthetic, film noir story structure, sci-fi conceits and epic visual landscape -- was born of multiple minds.
Most notably, the concept began with noted sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, whose 1968 novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? laid down the template. Actor-turned-screenwriter Hampton Fancher came next, as he built out the screen story by adding its noir elements; filmmaker Ridley Scott (Alien) contributed his staggering cinematic vision for a dystopian near-future and ever deeper layers of meaning, aided by late-coming screenwriter David Webb Peoples.
The result was Blade Runner, which, while initially not a box office sensation, went on to become a widely admired and profoundly influential film that continues to grow in regard.
So when it came to concocting a plan for Blade Runner 2049, a sequel more than three decades after the original’s daring, haunting view of the future, another top-flight team of creators was called upon. First aboard were two of the originators: It was Scott’s decision to try to create a worthy follow-up that put the project in motion, and it was Fancher’s story structure -- something he’d been noodling with over time, until Scott’s invitation came -- that provided the architecture of the film.
Next to the table was screenwriter Michael Green, an early collaborator on what became Scott's Alien: Covenant, who would be nearing a triumphant career moment with the 2017 releases of Logan and American Gods. First in collaboration with Scott and then with Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villenueve, Green constructed a tale that revived all the essential elements of the original while also heading into new, uncharted directions.
Disappointing opening weekend box office aside, glowing reviews have shown that Blade Runner 2049 fits neatly alongside its successor in the pantheon of great, weighty sci-fi films. Fancher and Green, who never actually worked directly together, joined CBR to explore how each contributed to the greater whole.
CBR: One of the things that I really enjoyed about this film is how true to its film noir roots it was. It felt that if you take away the sci-fi trappings, like the original, there’s still a very solid film noir story there. Tell me what you love about layering that aspect of it into the sci-fi environment.
Hampton Fancher: For me, it was just that I didn't know anything about sci-fi to start with, or even to end with. The source material didn't interest me that much because I wasn't ever involved in sci-fi, but there was a place to stand in the noir and the Raymond Chandler. I was reading Raymond Chandler a lot right then with film in mind because he was so terse and everything was kind of flat and feckless – although he's kind of rich too.
I thought, "Ah, that's the key to this thing, and the hero, etc." It was still from the beginning. That was the ingredient that allowed me to go on with it. It was the voice in more ways -- metaphorically as well of the principle, if it were, was the noir. It was a thrill, because it was Raymond Chandler, and it was easy then. It had the voice, the character -- and the character of the film as well.