Written By: Gary Willoughby
Edited By: Richard Gunn
"IT’S ALIVE" - The Blade Runner Millennium Falcon Reborn
The "Millennium Falcon" replica model appears many times during the Blade Runner film. Notably it is seen during the take-off sequence of the Spinner from the Noodle Bar to the Police Station. It blends perfectly with the other prop buildings.
The Millennium Falcon Model was built by Bill George, who was a model maker at ILM. The model makers on the Blade Runner movie were frantic for more buildings to fill the scene. A call went out to any crew members that might have anything to improve the skyline of the backdrop. Bill offered a Millennium Falcon that he had been building in his own time - anything was considered to turn into buildings; even a famous sci-fi ship. They glued on some etched brass, some antennae, turned the Falcon so that it was standing on its ‘engines’ and one ‘instant’ futuristic building was created.
In Cinefex magazine Chief Model maker Mark Stetson remembers, "We started building five-foot buildings, with all kinds of stuff sprouting all over them. A couple of the guys on the crew, being science fiction fans, had built fairly large replicas of space craft from other movies, and so we have Ron Roennau’s "Dark Star" and Bill George’s "Millennium Falcon" standing on end there, and we dressed them up with towers and stuff like that."
According to the Paul Sammon book "Future Noir" he states, "the Millennium Falcon is right in the mid- foreground of the frame. In fact, the camera flies right over it during the beginning of the first shot. Just look for this little flashing blue Pan Am sign in the upper left of the frame at the start of that first shot, before the Hero Spinner starts coming in for a landing. The big, dark pointy building dead center in the foreground is the ‘Millennium Falcon’."
Like most of the props from Blade Runner the Millennium Falcon also disappeared after filming, then resurfaced at "Butterfield and Butterfield Auction House" in Los Angeles some years ago. A private collector bid and won the Falcon, but it was in very bad condition. The years had not been kind to the prop, torn wiring and loose and broken body panels and the trademark brass antennas were missing. As the "Falcon" was being carried to the collector’s car after the auction by the security guard, he slammed it into a wall further damaging it. The poor prop never got any respect.
Recently I was contacted by Stephen Lane of the Prop Store of London (www.propstore.co.uk). Stephen wanted to let me know that he had just acquired the model and was set to employ a skilled model maker to carry out the restoration.
Stephen employed a studio model maker to work with care on the model. He worked using all available photographic references, researching the item as fully as possible before repairing any loose pieces and panels that had come off.
Stephen also asked the model maker to rework the fiber optics in the model. Many of the fiber optic cabling had either broken free or had been damaged by the heat generated from a household light which had been installed to illuminate the cables at some time in its past.
While inspecting many of the components during the restoration, the model maker and Stephen felt that it was a strong possibility that some original components from a screen used ILM Millennium Falcon could have been used to create this piece. There is incredible detail inside the U section of the Falcon, which would never have been seen on the screen (due to the antennae that were mounted onto the model for filming) but matches what was used in the Star Wars movies. In addition to that many scratch built components and cast pieces of the piping, tubes and dressing match perfectly to the original screen used Falcon. If anybody out there has any additional information regarding the history of the build of this piece Stephen would love to hear about it.
Whether or not any parts of this piece could also have been used in "Star Wars", it is certainly the Blade Runner Millennium Falcon. The wooden stand that came with the model matches perfectly the photographs seen in the Cinefex magazine showing the shots of the filming of the Cityscape. There are two matching knots in the wooden stand that reinforces the stand that supports the model.
I congratulate Steve for rescuing yet another remarkable Blade Runner Prop.