Warner Bros. rolled to this year's San Diego Comic-Con with the expected DCEU films, as it does every July. But this time, the studio also brought along BLADE RUNNER 2049 to show off to audiences and press alike. At a special press event, director Denis Villeneuve sat down for a roundtable to talk about the ambitious film and the daunting task of tackling the sequel to Ridley Scott's groundbreaking original.
Naturally, you'd expect a guy like Villeneuve, whose biggest film to date is ARRIVAL (which had a Hollywood modest budget of $47 million), to have been a bit hesitant to take on such a challenge. And indeed, the French-Canadian director had initially been leery of it.
He decided he'd do the film—on three important conditions. The first? Getting the stamp of approval from the man himself, Ridley Scott. Villeneuve explained that he also had to pass the bar of star Harrison Ford, who had agreed to reprise his role of Decker before Villeneuve himself had been brought on board. But ultimately, it was Scott himself whose shoes Villeneuve was filling, and whose approval he wanted, personally, before agreeing:
”First of all, I [needed] the Ridley Scott blessing. That was the first thing I asked when once I said yes. The first one was to have a conversation, to be looking him in the eyes and hearing him say, 'Yeah, you can do it.'“
But the approval of a previous director and star mean nothing if the story itself doesn't work. Denis Villeneuve, whose previous films have all had the shared quality of excellent scripts and strong writing, knew the only way to make a BLADE RUNNER sequel succeed was if the story was solid. Writers Hampton Fancher and Michael Green had delivered a story strong enough to intrigue Villeneuve:
“The second thing is the screenplay I felt had strong ideas. I’m not saying it was a perfect screenplay; I’m just saying I understood why Ridley felt there was the potential to do a strong movie there.”
The last condition to be met was the most personal for Villeneuve. As a director who had grown up loving the original BLADE RUNNER film, he wanted to do justice to the original. We've all seen what happens when a director who has had success doing smaller films suddenly takes the helm of a major tentpole of questionable quality—the results are never pretty:
“The third thing is that I’ve seen a lot of sci-fi films in my life, but I’d say to myself it’s always dangerous to do those types of movies because they are things that are—there is a lot of pressure when you’re making those sort of movies. And I told myself that if I do it one day it will be for something that is really worth it, for something that is meaningful. The first movie is one of my favorite movies.”
It was ultimately that love of Ridley Scott's dystopian tale of replicants and blade runners that finally drive Villeneuve to say yes. The thought of it being in the hands of another director who wouldn't love it as much or be as reverential to the source material got under his skin, and he resolved to be the director to do it:
“I said to myself, okay, they will do it. No matter what, this movie will move forward. So I said, okay, I don’t know if I will succeed, but I know that I will give it all my love and all my skill, and I will work so hard. I said at least I will be passionate about it and I will give my blood to make sure it respects the spirit of the first movie. I said at least if I do it then I have some control over it. At least if it fails I can blame only myself.”
It's always a nervous time for fans when they learn of a sequel to or remake of a favorite film being made. Will the director love it as much as they do? Understand it as well? It's clear that Blade Runner fans can rest easy with Villeneuve steering the ship.
We'll see that love and dedication pay off on October 6, when BLADE RUNNER 2049 hits theaters.