BLADE RUNNER 2049
About The Production
I had your job once...
"What defines a human being?" That is the question posed by director Denis
Villeneuve. And the surprising answers suggested in his new film, "Blade Runner
2049," challenge people's notions of who we are...and where we are headed.
It's not the first time the value-and values-of humanity have been
Thirty-five years ago, the groundbreaking science fiction film "Blade Runner"
hit theatre screens for the first time. Directed by the legendary Ridley Scott
and based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the
movie thrust audiences into a dystopian future unlike anything they had ever
Back then, no one could have imagined how "Blade Runner" would go on to
reverberate through modern culture, pioneering what became an entirely new
genre: neo-noir cyberpunk. Today, Scott's visionary masterpiece is heralded as
one of the best and most important motion pictures of all time, but its impact
has gone beyond filmdom, to television, music, art, fashion, and even university
Now, after more than three decades, "Blade Runner 2049" returns us to the
world that has enthralled generations of fans in a film that is, at once, a
long-awaited follow-up and a muchanticipated stand-alone moviegoing experience.
Villeneuve, who counts himself among the first film's devotees, says, "I
vividly remember seeing 'Blade Runner' for the first time and being stunned by
what I think is amongst the most powerful openings in the history of
cinema-flying over the Los Angeles of 2019, and seeing that landscape of oil
factories. Ridley Scott presented such a strong image of what could be our
future that was at the same time so seductive and so frightening.
"Aesthetically, 'Blade Runner' was a revolution," he continues, "blending two
genres that, at first glance, don't go together-science fiction and film noir.
It was something never seen before, and it deeply influenced me. It was part of
my film education even before I knew I would become a filmmaker."
Scott says that, even with all of its difficulties, he could never have
predicted how iconic one of his earliest major features would come to be. "You
don't think about that when you're in the midst of it, but I knew for sure we
had made something really special."
As much a detective story as a sci-fi thriller, "Blade Runner" starred
Harrison Ford as a former blade runner named Rick Deckard. Deckard is summoned
out of retirement to track down and terminate four fugitive replicants who have
escaped from the off-world colony to which all replicants have been banned. He
reluctantly takes the job, but over the course of completing his mission, he
meets and unexpectedly falls in love with Rachael, a beautiful, young woman who
turns out to be a replicant. Their relationship forces him to question his
beliefs about replicants while confronting his own humanity.
Ryan Gosling, who, in the new film, plays the role of an LAPD blade runner
called K, remarks, "The original film is haunting; it's hard to shake. It asks
you to look at your idea of what it means to be human, and it makes you weigh
your ability to recognize the hero from the villain. It's a nightmarish vision
of the future that's somehow grounded and feels possible, and yet it's presented
in this romantic, dreamlike way that sticks with you. Time has proven its
In "Blade Runner 2049," K is sent on an assignment that, for very different
reasons, could have more far-reaching consequences-calling into doubt the divide
between people and replicants, between humanity and technology, which could lead
to anarchy or even war.
But "Blade Runner" did more than blur the lines between humans and
technology. It also broached a range of societal concerns that have grown
ever-more prevalent. And with our planet now on the cusp of when that film was
set, it seems more revelatory, and more relevant, than ever-foreshadowing issues
of urban decay, climate change, genetic engineering, overpopulation, the divides
of social and economic strata and more.
"It certainly was prescient in many ways," says Ford, who turned Rick Deckard
into one of his most indelible onscreen portraits and reprises the role in the
sequel. "I think as technology developed and people began to see some of the
issues the film talked about play out in real life, there was even more reason
to accept the themes that 'Blade Runner' dealt with."
"'Blade Runner' was ahead of its time in so many ways," producer Andrew A.
Kosove agrees. With its thought-provoking narrative and signature visual
design-which Ridley Scott brilliantly conceived-the movie permeated our culture
and changed our perceptions about the relationship between humanity and
technology, which, in turn, caused us to question what makes us human. I think
that's why it is so revered."
That reverence understandably gave Kosove and his Alcon partner, producer
Broderick Johnson, pause when they were approached about the possibility of a
"Blade Runner" sequel. Johnson confirms, "We definitely had to think about
taking on such an ambitious project, but we both loved the original so we
decided we had to go for it."
The idea of filming a new chapter of the "Blade Runner" story had come to
Alcon through producer Bud Yorkin, who had been on the producing team of the
earlier film, and his wife, producer Cynthia Sikes Yorkin. She relates, "It was
a dream of Bud's for many years to continue the story and I was so happy to
support him in that pursuit. Unfortunately, he passed away before he could see
the completion of the film, but it was a wonderful gift for him to know it was
going to be done. And Andrew and Broderick were so respectful of Bud and
involved us in every aspect of the production from the beginning. They poured
their hearts into this project, and I couldn't have asked for better partners to
realize this dream of ours."
The initial step forward was to go back to the source. Kosove explains, "The
most important thing was for me and Broderick to go to London to meet with
"Ridley was really excited about the prospect of a sequel," Johnson adds,
"and said he had ideas that he had been gestating for years...thinking about how
they could be developed within the original mythology."
Scott, who came on board as an executive producer, affirms, "'Blade Runner'
was always meant to be a stand-alone feature, but we knew even then there was
more story to tell than the two hours would allow."
Scott reached out to screenwriter Hampton Fancher, who had co-written the
"Blade Runner" screenplay. Fancher recounts, "It was serendipity because I had
literally just finished a
short story set in the 'Blade Runner' universe. I read Ridley just the first
paragraph and it was obvious what it was. All he said was, 'Can you come to
London?' So that's how it started."
Picking up the story, Scott notes, "Hampton didn't end up writing a
conventional script; he wrote a novella, still with his beautiful style of
dialogue. Then we brought in Michael Green to turn it into a screenplay, and it
evolved from there."
When the opportunity to work on a new "Blade Runner" film came to
screenwriter Michael Green, "I couldn't say 'yes' loud enough or fast enough,"
says the self-described avid fan of the first. "Hampton and Ridley had formed
the story DNA of what a 'Blade Runner' sequel might be, and then I had the
incredible opportunity to grow out those elements. There are so many fascinating
themes that run through the first film; one of them is about quantity of life.
Among the themes we wanted to explore in 'Blade Runner 2049' was quality of a
life. In both films, there are humans and there are replicants, and though in
many respects they behave similarly, they have very different origins, as one is
born and one is made. Society places a greater inherent value on humans over
replicants because someone born is believed to have a soul. But what is the
nature of a soul...and is it uniquely human?"
Denis Villeneuve recalls that when he was presented with the completed
screenplay, "I was so moved. The amount of trust Alcon had in me, to put this
film in my hands...it was one of the greatest compliments of my career."
Having worked with Villeneuve on the hit drama "Prisoners," the producers
were fully aware of the skills he could bring to the table. "Denis is an amazing
filmmaker with a total command of everything he wants to accomplish," Johnson
states. "We knew he would be perfect for this film, not only because of his
ability to guide the performances, but also to generate tension and atmosphere,
which is strong in all his films. That was essential to making 'Blade Runner
2049' because the real magic of the film is its tension, its narrative, and its
character-based drama. Denis is one of the best at capturing all of that."
Villeneuve reveals he had one caveat before agreeing to helm the film. "I
needed Ridley Scott's blessing. That was my only condition." He needn't have
worried; Scott did more than give his blessing. "He said to me exactly what I
needed to hear," notes the director, "which was that I had total freedom, but if
I ever needed him, I could call; he would be available any time. And, in fact,
every time I needed him, he was there. I will always be grateful to him."
In conceiving the overall look of the film, Villeneuve wanted to remain
faithful to the spirit of the original. He remarks, "My goal was to honor the
film noir aesthetic of the first movie while giving the new film its own
To that end, the filmmakers emphasize that, while "Blade Runner 2049" can be
considered a sequel, it can also very much stand on its own as a singular motion
picture. "Even if you've never seen the first film, you will have no problem
understanding the story," Sikes Yorkin attests. "The way it's written and
presented, you can absolutely be very entertained and absorbed in the drama
without necessarily knowing everything that came before."
In designing the new movie, the filmmakers had to imagine conditions on the
planet three decades hence. Villeneuve clarifies, "'Blade Runner' was set in
2019, and it was prophetic in some ways, but we already know our 2019 will be
quite different from that. So we made the decision to create our own 2049-to
propel the movie into its foreseeable future. The world of 'Blade Runner 2049'
is an extension of 'Blade Runner'; it is not an extension of reality."
Out of that understanding "came a lot of decisions about design," he
continues. "We saw in 'Blade Runner' that nature was collapsing, so in 30 years'
time, the Earth will be even more brutal. We are finding the same kind of
oppressive atmosphere that we saw in the first film, but even thicker. The
environment will be more toxic; the oceans will be out of control; the weather
will be harsher, colder... We are dealing with even more severe climate conditions
and that translates to everything from architecture to vehicles to clothing."
To achieve his vision, Villeneuve teamed behind the camera with
cinematographer Roger A. Deakins, production designer Dennis Gassner, and
costume designer Renee April. "We shared a strong artistic bond because we were
all committed to the same idea of honoring what came before," Villeneuve
That commitment extended to the cast. "The actors were also very passionate
about the project," the director adds, "and I would say the movie owes a lot to
all of them.
Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford especially contributed many great ideas and
both were my muses on set." Gosling and Ford have equal praise for their
director. "I had seen Denis' films; I'd admired his films," Ford offers. "There
were interesting meetings...I didn't know what his take on 'Blade Runner' was,
and it was a while before I began to really understand the depth of his ambition
for the film. He's a very quiet and thoughtful and extremely intelligent guy who
takes the time necessary to come up with answers for himself. And I found him a
great intellectual partner to stumble through the hard questions on the film
"From my first conversation with Denis, I immediately felt confident,"
says Gosling. "All of his instincts were about grounding the film...making it feel
truthful. He had a great respect for the original, but he never seemed to allow
it to intimidate him. He used his admiration and turned it into inspiration, and
I think, in turn, he inspired all of us to do the same."
Filming on "Blade Runner 2049" took place entirely in Hungary, spanning Origo
Studios in Budapest; Korda Studios in Etyek; and several other locations around
The filmmaking team made the decision to eschew CGI and green screens as much
as possible, in favor of capturing the action in-camera on practical sets.
Villeneuve expounds, "I love to work with real sets, with real objects. It was
very important to me to build a world that is tangible around me and the actors
so they are living in the setting we've created instead of just trying to
For the cast, stepping into the physical environment had the desired result.
Gosling affirms, "It was incredible to have those sets because, as actors, you
can really focus on the internal world of your character since the external
world has been so fully realized."
"It's like you have this fantastic world around you, but you are always at a
human level," Villeneuve states. "'Blade Runner 2049' is a very intimate story
told with a lot of scope."
HUMANS AND REPLICANTS
Two of the lead roles in "Blade Runner 2049" were essentially cast even
before there was a script. It goes without saying that no one other than
Harrison Ford could be Rick Deckard, but it turns out that the filmmakers also
had only one name in mind to play the new blade runner, K: Ryan Gosling.
Fancher tells, "I was flying to London on my way to meet with Ridley and
thinking about a protagonist and thought, 'Ryan Gosling; that's the guy.' And I
just put that in my back pocket. But then, prescient Ridley-almost the first
question he asked was, 'Who do you see?' I hadn't even told him my idea yet, but
I knew what he meant. I said, 'Ryan Gosling,' and he said, 'You got it.' We
didn't even know what the story was, but I already had an image of the central
character and Ryan fit that in every way."
Gosling says his interest in the project was piqued upon learning something
was in the works. "When I heard that Ridley was considering continuing the
narrative, I was already invested; I already wanted to know what happened next.
And then, given the chance to enter that world and help tell that story...it just
felt like an amazing opportunity."
The actor goes on to relate that the world in which we find his character
"has become a much tougher and more isolated place than the one we left 30 years
ago. As a result, the blade runner profession has become more complicated. When
we first meet K, he is deep in the throes of that isolation and those
"In the beginning of the film," Gosling continues, "it's a day like any
other: K has been sent to 'retire' an old-model replicant. But in the process,
he unintentionally unearths a mystery that ultimately makes him question
everything he thought he knew."
Villeneuve observes, "K has a very hard life and is a very lonely character.
He has the worst job on Earth, but, unexpectedly, out of his latest assignment,
comes a dream...a desire so strong that it will blind him. And I thought that was
quite a beautiful arc.
"When I read the screenplay," the director adds, "Ryan Gosling had already
been suggested for the role of K, and I said yes immediately. There could be no
one else. He is an actor who can express a world of emotion just moving an
eyebrow. I needed an actor of extreme intelligence and the kind of strength to
go through the darkness. Ryan's passion and his relentless efforts in making
sure we nailed every scene deeply moved me because I felt it was as important to
him as it was to me to make a great movie together."
The chorus of voices suggesting Gosling for K also included the actor who
starred in "Blade Runner": Harrison Ford. "I thought K would be a good part for
Ryan and was very enthusiastic about proposing that to the producers. And they
said, 'Oh yeah, that's what we were thinking, too,' so I was very happy about
that. I very much enjoyed working with Ryan in the film. He brings an
originality to everything he does and an intelligence, but you don't see the
wheels turning. He inhabits a character rather than struggles to create it."
Gosling was no less appreciative of Ford, noting, "Harrison is a great
filmmaker. There is a reason the majority of his films have become iconic and
why so many of them are revisited time after time. He is the constant in all of
those equations. There are many ways to play any given scene, but when you work
with Harrison, you realize there's only one great way. And he's already figured
it out before anyone else."
Ridley Scott recalls that when he initially contacted Ford about returning to
the role of Deckard, "I think he might have been a little skeptical. Then I sent
him the script and he said, 'Ridley, this is wonderful. Correction: this is the
best script I've ever read.'"
In addition to loving the script, Ford says, "It's kind of fun to play a
character 30 years later. In a way, I'm used to trying on old clothes," he
smiles, "and happily they still fit, so I didn't have any apprehensions about
playing Deckard again."
"It was not possible to make a 'Blade Runner' sequel without Harrison Ford,
of course," states Villeneuve. "For me, it was a huge privilege to work with him
because he is someone who is linked with the birth of my love for cinema; I was
raised on his movies. First, I had to get rid of the nerves of meeting one of my
childhood heroes, but he broke the ice very quickly by being one of the most
warm, charming, generous and humble artists I've ever met. And directing him,
for me, was like going back to film school because he has so much experience and
gives so much thought to the acting process in a way I very rarely encounter. We
had the most beautiful discussions about how to approach this character he
hasn't seen in so many years."
Within the story, no one has seen Deckard in 30 years. Ford says, "Deckard
has gone through tragic events since the last film. But he was also charged with
the protection of certain secrets he had and felt morally obligated to protect
those secrets, so he made himself absent. He knew he was being hunted, so he
went into hiding in a place no one would expect him to go. A dangerous place.
And he's been living a very lonely, singular life."
However, Gosling offers, "Deckard is a significant person of interest in the
case my character is trying to solve. K sets out to find him, seeking to get
answers to questions that have become very personal to him."
"K tracks Deckard down," says Ford. "What transpires between the two of them
is extremely compelling. It's a very brave storyline. What I like most is the
emotional context, which I think is very valuable."
The clue that puts K on Deckard's trail was uncovered in the archives of the
Wallace Corporation. Although most of the records were destroyed in the
catastrophic EMP of 2022- known as the Blackout-a few fragmented pieces were
salvaged, including one in which Deckard's voice can barely be heard.
The head of the Wallace Corporation is the enigmatic Niander Wallace, whose
soft-spoken manner thinly veils his ruthless ambition. His obsessive quest to
create the perfect replicant- totally compliant and unquestioning of human
authority-resulted in the creation of the latest model, the Nexus 9. Wallace see
replicants as necessary for the survival of humanity...but he can only make so
many. Years before, his breakthroughs in genetically modified foods had brought
the planet back from the brink of irrevocable global famine. Trading on that
debt, he was able to barter for the end of the replicant prohibition and, in the
process, gain incalculable wealth...and untold power.
Cast in the role of Wallace, Jared Leto remarks, "I maybe have a different
perspective on Niander Wallace than others would. He is the guy who saved the
world from starvation, so I don't think his ego is too far out of control for
someone who literally saved the planet. He is someone who willed himself to
power through really hard work and rigorous study. Wallace is a genius and he's
also a bit of a madman, which he'd have to be. He's so fascinating and complex.
It was a really seductive role."
Leto reveals that his connection to the "Blade Runner" universe goes back to
"when I was very young and saw it on VHS. There are films that come along and,
for one reason or another, strike a chord. They affect you in some way and
change how you see the world. 'Blade Runner' was a film that had a big impact on
me and has always stuck with me. There was something about it that spoke to me
as a kid that I couldn't let go of. So it's always had a special place in my
heart and it's something I've looked to for inspiration over the years."
"Niander Wallace is a tough part to play because you have to deal with a lot
of difficult dialogue. It required an actor who could embrace those speeches and
bring them to life with a strength and poetry. And what can I say? I chose a
rock star and he just blew us away," states Villeneuve, who adds that he
appreciated Leto's total immersion in every facet of the role. "I had heard how
Jared embodies his character and I wondered what he would do about Wallace, with
regard to him being blind. He came in and he was blind...he acted blind."
In researching that aspect of his role, Leto spent time with people who were
visually impaired, observing things like how they navigate a specific space or
interact in conversation. "I could feel that Jared was someone who was deeply
passionate and very serious about what he was doing," says Villeneuve. "He was
100 percent committed."
Correspondingly, Leto had nothing but praise for Villeneuve, commenting,
"Denis is a rare artist. What I love about him is that he's eternally fascinated
and enthusiastic and curious by nature. He's completely in the moment with the
actors and there's a sense of discovery and excitement around him that's very
compelling. I found him to be just an incredible director and I'm truly thankful
that I had the chance to do this film with him."
Given his work, it stands to reason that Wallace's right hand would be an
elite Nexus 9 replicant. Sylvia Hoeks plays Luv, whose single-minded devotion to
Wallace goes far beyond duty. "He is much more than her boss," she observes.
"What's intriguing about Luv is she was created by Wallace, and if he made her,
it means he can break her at any time, so I think some of her drive is based on
that fear. The thing she focuses on is being the best, being everything he
expects her to be and more. She is willing to do whatever it takes to help him
conquer the world and achieve his dreams. It feels to her like the key to
happiness...even though she doesn't really know what happiness is."
As preparation for her role, Hoeks notes, "I wanted to focus on young,
powerful, successful women today, as they are in a race to be the best. And they
are often judged for what they do, the actions they take, where they live and
even what they consume. So in a very different sense, it's like they are
made-their image is manufactured in a way-and I thought that was a very
interesting approach for this character."
Villeneuve calls Hoeks "one of the best artists I have ever worked with in my
life. She is an actress with a lot of strength and who is not afraid to do some
pretty wild things for her role."
The woman at K's side is Joi, with whom he has more than a romantic
relationship. She is his friend, his confidante and his only real support
system. Ana de Armas, who plays the role, offers, "Joi is smart, funny and
intuitive, especially where K is concerned. She is also undeniably sexy but she
is much more than what you see on the surface. She is actually quite complex."
De Armas enjoyed developing the role with Villeneuve, noting, "It was
interesting to explore my character with him. Her existence in itself was a huge
starting point for me, and I had so many questions in my head: Who is she? What
is she feeling? What are the rules we have to follow to build on that from one
scene to the next? Denis gave me so much freedom to discover all of those things
and more as the movie progressed."
"I know Ana has done movies before, but it is rare as a director to have the
impression you are witnessing an actress becoming a star," says Villeneuve. "She
has all the qualities-the energy, the emotion, the power and the skills-to
capture the very difficult character that is Joi."
As the stunning developments in K's investigation take him down an
increasingly perilous path, Joi is the only one he knows he can trust
completely, and she, in turn, gently guides and encourages him, giving him a
perspective no one else could offer.
Not even K's superior is privy to all the details of what he's uncovered in
his pursuit of the truth. Robin Wright portrays LAPD Lieutenant Joshi, K's
no-nonsense boss, whose orders to the blade runner prove she will do whatever is
necessary to maintain order. Wright offers, "Joshi understands the stakes-she
knows that a discovery of this magnitude could, as she puts it, 'break the
world.' But she's also concerned about K. She is aware something is wrong and
senses that he might be holding something back. Nevertheless, she can't let her
concerns get in the way of her job."
Villeneuve states, "Robin Wright is a wonderful actress who established a
very commanding authority figure as Lt. Joshi. But it was also important to show
that Joshi has a compassionate side, especially in her dealings with K, and
Robin was able to convey that in a subtle way that fit the character."
Joshi has ordered K to dispatch an old-model replicant named Sapper Morton,
who is seemingly nothing more than an innocuous protein farmer when K shows up
in his sparse home. "He is just trying to exist, man, just trying to live," says
Dave Bautista, who was cast in the role. "When K shows up, Sapper's got a bad
feeling right off the bat because, for one, he doesn't get visitors, and, two,
he doesn't really like visitors. And he realizes this could be the end for him,
which is what he's been trying to avoid...why he's been sticking to himself out on
the farm, minding his own business."
In casting the part, the director relates, "Dave was one of the first names
that came to mind for Sapper because he's such a charismatic and strong
presence. I needed someone who would be like a giant, but a gentle giant...someone
who you have empathy for. That empathy is super important for this character.
And the kind of melancholic sadness behind the eyes and vulnerability that Dave
brought to Sapper was essential."
There was only one problem: Bautista was considerably younger than the role
was conceived. Makeup artist Donald Mowat, whom Villeneuve calls "a master," was
responsible for aging the actor. Villeneuve recalls, "A lot of people commented,
'Oh, I didn't know he was that old.' And I knew it was a success because they
were not seeing the makeup; it was just an older Dave Bautista."
K's mission to retire Sapper should have been just another routine
assignment. He never imagined his investigation would open the door to a
staggering revelation-one that would challenge all of his beliefs.
Rounding out the main cast are: Mackenzie Davis as Mariette, a mysterious "doxie"
who takes a particular interest in K; Carla Juri as Dr. Ana Stelline, whose job
is integral to the creation and behavior of replicants; and Lennie James as
Mister Cotton, who watches over hundreds of abandoned children and who may have
answers for K.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
Prior to the start of principal photography on "Blade Runner 2049,"
Villeneuve spent several weeks with his longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins
drawing storyboards and shaping the visual look of the film. "So Roger was an
integral part of the cinematic language of the film from the start," says the
Andrew Kosove shares, "Roger, who is one of the greatest cinematographers of
all time, actually took a year off to prepare for this movie. He has said it
involved some of the most complex lighting designs and patterns he's ever done."
Nevertheless, Deakins states, "It was too exciting an opportunity to miss.
Denis and I were not constrained but rather informed by the original, which
offered one of the first and most stylized views of an apocalyptic future."
Villeneuve adds, "One of the biggest challenges was to tie both movies
together visually- to have the feeling of walking into a future inspired by the
Arguably, the most indelible visual imprint of the first "Blade Runner" was
its dark, wet, oppressive atmosphere, and conditions have not improved in the 30
years since. The director expounds, "I'm coming from Montreal, so the movie's
climate was more informed by bad days in Canada, where it can be bitter cold, so
instead of the constant rain, there's also snow and sludge."
Ridley Scott remarks, "The style is important, and Denis got that nicely with
respect to what we did in the first film. We're looking at a dystopian world
where your goose is cooked except for the very, very wealthy. Are we heading
that way now? I don't know...I hope not."
The majority of the population, who are not among the super-rich, eke out an
existence in cities of soaring buildings that pierce permanently gray skies.
Production designer Dennis Gassner recalls, "The first thing I asked Denis was
if he had to put the design into one word-the touchstone for the film-what would
it be? And Denis said 'Brutal. I want the architecture to be brutal.' And so, we
just dove into our research and found images that developed into what I call the
"The thing about 'Blade Runner 2049' is that everything is designed around
survival, from technology to architecture," Villeneuve adds. "The buildings were
designed to resist the weather, so many of them look like bunkers."
Brutal was also the watchword for the costumes, designed by Renee April.
"It's a harsh environment; it's rainy, sometimes it snows," she confirms. "That
was our starting point. For materials, I worked a lot with fake fur and plastic,
which was a first for me. I couldn't use leather or wool or any organic
materials that would not have existed anymore, so everything was synthetic and
manmade. And we also went oversized because it was cold.
"I was so lucky to work with such a great cast who were very into their
costumes," the designer continues. "Ryan Gosling, for example, is very aware of
what he can wear, what he likes and what he doesn't. And I must say, he had to
like it because K is wearing the same coat for the whole picture."
"We all wanted that coat," Sikes Yorkin says. "Even the women were going
crazy over Ryan's coat. Renee is brilliant and came up with such incredible
costumes that suited both the characters and the places they inhabit."
According to April, the costumes for Luv and Joi required two very different
approaches. She details, "For Luv, the silhouette of her clothing is slick and
pure. There are no frills, no ruffles and no real colors; everything is beige,
white or gray. Joi, on the other hand, is seen in a wide range of costumes in a
spectrum of saturated colors and her costumes are more overtly feminine and not
In designing the wardrobe for Niander Wallace, April says, "I was inspired by
Dennis Gassner's amazing set for Wallace's office, which was huge with very
clean lines and a Zen quality about it. So I went with similarly simple
lines-almost a uniform or pajamas for someone who doesn't go out and has nothing
Rick Deckard's clothing fits someone who has been off the grid for decades,
"so what he's wearing was made to look older and a bit threadbare."
Among the most memorable images in the first "Blade Runner" were the towering
electronic billboards with moving advertisements. For the sequel, Broderick
Johnson says, "We took it to the next level, given that its 30 years later.
There are 3D holographic ads that have a certain amount of intelligence to them,
so, for example, if you're walking down the street, an advertisement might
interact with you, which is a terrifying thought," he laughs.
Villeneuve expands, "Our thinking was that the air in Los Angeles in 2049 is
so thick that you can project things into the atmosphere in 3D. So the ads are
no longer just huge billboards, they are amongst the population. And that's
something that is again an extension of our own reality; it's where we are
"As we were planning the movie," Villeneuve continues, "we met with
scientists, doctors, architects, designers, scientists, computer experts...people
who told us what they thought the future could be. That informed a lot of the
design of the film."
LOS ANGELES, CIRCA 2049
Principal photography on "Blade Runner 2049" was accomplished in Hungary,
where the production established a massive footprint-taking over all six
soundstages and the backlot at Origo Studios in Budapest; three soundstages at
Korda Studios in Etyek; and various other locations around the country.
Executive producer and unit production manager Bill Carraro comments, "The
facilities there are top-notch, as good as you can find anywhere, but what
attracted us to Hungary, and Budapest particularly, was the diversity of looks
within the city-eastern European architecture mixed in with the brutalist
Villeneuve attests, "Budapest has a certain aestheticism that impacted the
film. We were able to shoot some scenes on the streets of the city because some
of the architecture we found there was totally accurate to the spirit of the
At the Origo and Korda Studios, Dennis Gassner's team built the world of the
film almost entirely from the ground up, fulfilling Villeneuve's desire to work
on practical sets. The director attests, "I need real environments because those
environments will trigger ideas. Early in the process, the decision was made to
construct everything and use very little green screen, and everyone was excited
to go in that direction. Of course, there had to be some CGI to extend certain
sets, but everything you are seeing in the foreground is real."
Harrison Ford offers, "Physical environments are enormously helpful. People
behave in a more realistic way when the surroundings are affecting things like
the sound of your footsteps. As an actor, I think that helps."
"Blade Runner 2049" opens as K is flying to Sapper Morton's farm in a vehicle
that fans of the first film know as a Spinner. Gassner shares, "The very first
thing we designed was K's Spinner, which was intended as an homage to the
original, but within the context of the brutalist style Denis wanted."
K's Spinner is a bit boxier and has sharper angles than the one owned by
Deckard in "Blade Runner," but although it is a later model, it is by no means
new. Supervising art director Paul Ingis says, "We tried to craft an interior
that feels like the vehicle is 10 to 15 years old. There's a lot of life inside
it; there's a lot of age. Everything is worn down and you can see the stains,
the marks, the scuffs... It's a set in itself."
There were two Spinners built for K, one of which could actually be driven
and had servooperated doors that opened vertically. Equipped with power steering
and an electric motor, it could reach groundspeeds up to 50 miles-per-hour,
though that wasn't advised on set. The other was designed to fly-by-wire or be
mounted on a crane on a gimbal with Gosling inside. Cameras were mounted behind
the actor to capture his perspective looking through the windshield, as wipers
tried to keep up with the constant rain.
K's Spinner does have a new feature that did not exist in the first film: an
intelligent, dronelike object visual effects supervisor John Nelson calls "the
pilot fish. It lives in the back of his Spinner, and when he comes to a stop, it
flies up and hovers like a drone. It's like K's digital sidekick that he can
tell to 'watch the car,' but it can also photograph the area and feed
In addition to K's Spinner, there are other vehicles featured in the film,
including a larger multi-seat limousine Spinner and one belonging to Deckard,
which is updated from the one he drove in the first film.
Sapper Morton's farm and farmhouse were built on the backlot of Origo
Studios. There, the confrontation between K and Sapper was choreographed by
stunt coordinator Joel Kramer, who says, "Ryan put so much thought into
everything he did. He'd give up what little free time he had to come train with
us, and he picked everything up very quickly."
Kramer took a totally different tack for the battle between K and Luv later
in the film. Kramer confirms, "Even though Luv is a woman, she has as much
fighting prowess as K, if not more so. I found a martial arts champion named
Chloe Bruce, who can do things with her body that I'd never seen before...moves
that didn't even seem human. I showed her demo reel to Denis, Andrew and
Broderick and they flipped. We brought Chloe in and had her training alongside
Sylvia Hoeks to teach her some of the moves. Sylvia couldn't do them all,
obviously- none of us could do what Chloe does-but she really applied herself to
it. I was impressed with how well Sylvia did, especially since she'd never
really done fights before."
"The action scenes were a big challenge for me," Hoeks acknowledges. "I
trained for six months, which I loved because I was able to do more things with
my body. I felt like I transformed into a very strong human being and that
helped me to be this character as well. As an actress, it was incredible to have
a chance to work on those movements and learn those techniques."
The large sets comprising the various offices and archives of the Wallace
Corporation took up soundstages at both studios. The clean, minimalist design of
Wallace's personal office belies the complexity of the set, with the center
surrounded by an interior moat of water and accessible only by an automated
stone path. Roger Deakins utilized the rippling pools to bounce and reflect
light off of and onto the walls and ceiling to stunning effect.
Inglis offers, "The lighting was actually more integral to the set than any
particular architectural style. Roger was very clear from the start that he
wanted the light to be natural, almost like sunlight, which is virtually
non-existent outside where the sun is always shrouded in the haze. You'll notice
there's not a single window on any of those sets, but within Wallace's world,
there is the feeling of an artificial sun as shafts of manufactured sunlight
move through it."
Standing in his character's domain, Jared Leto says, "I could feel the energy
on that set, and playing someone who is blind, I was able to experience it in a
way I otherwise wouldn't have. If you close your eyes, it's incredible what you
can tell about a space you're in. And one of the great gifts to me was that in
these cathedral-like spaces voices would reverberate off the walls. The sound
helped me feel very empowered in my role."
The Wallace Tower stands in stark contrast to the milieu of the less
fortunate who subsist outside its walls. One familiar gathering place is Bibi's
Bar, a bustling, open air marketplace where throngs of both humans and
replicants can purchase everything from food & drink to merchandise to sex.
Constructed on a soundstage at Korda, the elaborate set featured rows of
touchscreen vending machines with brightly lit displays and various kiosks.
Trains passed by overhead and tuk-tuks maneuvered through the more than 300
"Bibi's gave us our first real concentration of color," says Gassner. "Given
the state of nature, it's perpetual winter, so almost everything has a
desaturated, gray quality to it, but Bibi's is where we can lift people up with
color as Roger does with light."
Other notable sets in the Los Angeles of 2049 included K's small efficiency
apartment; the rooftop of his apartment building, where he shares a dance in the
rain with Joi; and the police station with Lt. Joshi's office.
Unlike the first movie, "Blade Runner 2049" takes the story out of the
confines of Los Angeles, a change welcomed by Villeneuve. "That gave me the
opportunity to think about what the world would look like outside the vicinity
of the city," the director explains. "It brought a different look to the movie.
For instance, as you get farther away, the smog and the atmosphere is less dense
so there is more sunlight. I'm not talking about beautiful, bright sunshine-it's
still bleak-but more than when you are deep in L.A."
K's investigation takes him south to the San Diego area, where his Spinner is
forced to crash land in a vast landfill and scrapyard that stretches as far as
the eye can see. The trash mesa, as it was dubbed, was the production's largest
set and was built on the backlot at Origo. The immense physical set would later
be expanded through the use of miniatures and CGI, allowing it to extend to the
horizon and beyond.
Gassner based the design of the trash mesa on giant shipyards where old super
tankers and decommissioned Navy ships are taken apart. Amidst the tons of refuse
were pieces of rusting metal of varying sizes, some still recognizable as having
once been part of a large vessel. For safety reasons, any "metal" pieces placed
anywhere near the actors were fabricated from painted rubber.
Rising out of the mountains of detritus are mammoth-sized, overturned
satellite dishes that have been converted into the headquarters of Mister
Cotton's salvage business, as well as the grim home of those unfortunate enough
to have to live and work there. The interiors were assembled in separate
locations: a stage at Origo; the Soviet-era Inota Power Plant, about an hour's
drive from Budapest; and a former electronics warehouse in Kistarcsa, Hungary.
Following Rick Deckard's trail eventually leads K out of California to the
city of Las Vegas, Nevada, which bears no resemblance to the glittering,
neon-lit pleasure capital it was. All its color and light have been reduced to a
monochromatic orange/red haze, the result of a catastrophic blast 50 years
earlier that left the once vibrant city in ruins and deserted...except for one.
To envision a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, Villeneuve and Gassner consulted
with celebrated futurist and concept artist Syd Mead, who had previously guided
Ridley Scott on the City of Angels of 2019. "We tried to imagine what Las Vegas
would look like in 2049," he says. "And for that, only one man could give me the
answer. I went back to the master, Syd Mead, and explained to him my challenge
and he brought back these insanely beautiful views of Vegas." Gassner adds,
"What happened in Vegas and its environment turned it into an extinct place
where no one would want to go, which, in turn, made it safe enough for Deckard
to hide in plain sight."
In the center of Budapest, the production transformed an unoccupied building
that had previously housed Hungary's largest TV station into a Vegas hotel
lobby, its former grandeur covered in a layer of red dust. The other
hotel/casino sets, including the penthouse, casino and showroom were erected on
soundstages at Origo.
In the showroom, echoes of Vegas's glory days come to life in the form of
holographic incarnations of the immortal Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
Showgirls, costumed by Renee April in feathers and sequins, also dance their way
back to the main stage. For Deakins, the performance required an extremely
intricate lighting design. He details, "The show suddenly starts up, but then
slowly begins falling apart...kind of glitching...turning it into more of a chaotic
light show. I spent weeks mapping out different lighting patterns and then
worked with a local company in Budapest to produce a computer previs of the
whole thing. We worked from there until I had the lighting pattern I needed to
Without question, some of the most demanding shooting days were spent in an
enormous water tank, built specially by the production for a pivotal action
sequence in "Blade Runner 2049." Special effects supervisor Gerd Nefzer and his
team oversaw the construction of the million-gallon tank that ranged from one
meter to five meters in depth.
The only problem with the tank was that the water was smooth and the seawall
scene called for crashing waves. Nefzer says, "I looked at different wave
machines, but they didn't give us the size we needed, so we had to invent
something." Nefzer's crew acquired several commercial-sized propane tanks, which
they sealed and affixed on boom arms. They then experimented with synchronized
motion, pulling the tanks in and out of the water. As the action was repeated
more aggressively, it simulated large, crashing waves.
The SFX team also had to manufacture rigs to enable the transport Spinner, to
move when battered by the waves. "It was very important to Denis that the
limousine not sit motionless in the water like a stone. When it gets hit by the
water, it should not remain stable. That was a really difficult rig to build,"
To protect the actors working in the tank, sometimes for hours at a time,
large dieselpowered boilers kept the water heated to a relatively comfortable 80
degrees. Against the cold night air, it formed a mist that rose from the pool,
adding to the atmospheric tone.
SCALE AND SCALES
Far from Hungary, the cityscapes and landscapes to be seen from overhead,
were crafted in miniature by the team at Weta Workshop in New Zealand. However,
Villeneuve counters that the term "miniature" is something of a misnomer. "Some
of those miniatures were gigantic!" he states.
Weta's director of photography, Alex Funke, confirms, "We built the Wallace
Tower- which in the story is one of the tallest buildings on Earth-at 1/600th
scale and even at that, it was about four meters tall. In each case we chose
what scale to build the different sets because a lot of things had to be taken
into consideration: How close are you going to come to it? What kind of surface
texture does it have? What size is the actual object supposed to be? And,
practically speaking, how hard is it gonna be to get it out of the shop and to
the studio? The massive trash mesa, for example, tended to be at 1/48th scale
because that's a manageable size. We would have been happy to build it at
1/24th, but there literally wouldn't have been room for it at the studio."
As filming came to a close, Villeneuve turned his attention to cutting the
film in collaboration with editor Joe Walker. He also worked with composers Hans
Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch who delivered the final creative element: the
Wallfisch recalls, "There was an incredible camaraderie and connection
between us because we all loved 'Blade Runner.' Starting from there, we were
faced with the huge challenge of figuring out where we would be 30 years later,
"Vangelis is a hard act to follow," adds Zimmer, referencing the composer who
created the evocative score of the earlier film and whose groundbreaking use of
synthesizers became legendary. "For me it was about doing what Denis managed to
do-embrace the DNA of what had been while bringing a completely fresh artistic
vision to it."
To that end, one of the first decisions the composers made was to break from
the more traditional orchestra in favor of a synthesizer-based score. Zimmer
elaborates, "We made an artistic choice to ensure the music was cohesive with
the sonic world of 'Blade Runner.' If we had gone with a full orchestra, it
would be a very different film."
"The mission from the beginning," says Wallfisch, "was finding the heart of
the film...finding a musical analog to K's struggle with the idea of what defines
humans versus highly developed replicants that are indistinguishable. What does
that sound like? It was definitely a process of discovery. And then we arrived
at the simplest possible theme-a four-note melody, which has a sort of symmetry
to it. And as soon as we hit on that, it was like the doors opened to the rest
of the score."
In addition to the music by Zimmer and Wallfisch, cinephiles will notice
echoes of Vangelis's "Tears in the Rain" from the "Blade Runner" soundtrack. The
familiar notes form an aural bridge between the two films.
Villeneuve reflects, "For me, 'Blade Runner 2049' is a love letter to 'Blade
Runner,' and I know all of the artists who worked on this film were deeply
inspired by its universe and by Ridley Scott's vision. Even people who don't
know that universe will discover that while this is a science fiction movie,
most of all, it's a very compelling human drama.
"The story is not focused on technology," the director concludes, "but
definitely on the human condition, and I think that's what makes it so powerful.
I never want to say what people will take away from a movie, but what I can say
is I hope people will enjoy it. I hope they will be moved by K's journey."
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