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The Online Blade Runner Fan Club    


Paul Sammon in "On The Edge of Blade Runner" © Channel 4.
GW: Thank you for your time for this interview, Mr. Sammon
PS : No problem. Feel free to ask whatever you want.

The two faces of Future Noir
GW: Well, I know we canít cover your whole book, unlike when I interview the actors that appeared in Blade Runner. I can have them zoom in on their recollections of their experiences in the film. But with you, to try to cover every part of the film in a short interview would be near impossible.

PS: Iím sure all the performers said that making BR was a wonderful experience.
GW: (laughs) They have, for perhaps political reasons.
PS: Fortunately, Iím not in the same loop. So I can be a bit more candid.
GW: Before I get to the heart of the interview, I just want to tell you what Future Noir has meant to the fans. We seem to pore over the book like monks over a holy book at times. And we certainly are somewhat crazed in the love of Blade Runner.
PS: Thanks for the kind words about my book. Theyíre much appreciated. But you know, sometimes I think back on my own initial emotions about the film, and I realize that those feelings wereÖcircular.
GW: How so?
PS:Well, when I first started watching Blade Runner being prepped and photographed and saw what was being built in front of me, I was thrilled. I was also pretty vocal about that excitement. This was in 1981. Unfortunately, at that time mine was a relatively lonely voice in the wilderness - there really was only a handful of us, at least on the production end, who had faith in BR while it was being made. And I kept that faith for over a year. But by the time Iíd finally seen the cut that was released to theaters, Iíd seen so many other versions of BR and had immersed myself in its world so deeply that, by 1982, I was probably too close to it. A little burnt-out. In fact, I remember talking to Michael Deeley after Blade Runnerís San Diego sneak preview, and he asked me, "What did you think?" And I replied, "Itís better than I thought it would be." Which (laughs), probably wasnít the most politic thing to say. Michael gave me a dirty look for that one. But I was being honest. By that point, Iíd already seen so much of Blade Runner that I was responding superficially to it; I was mainly impressed by the final cutís production design, and by the melancholy mood Ridley had drenched it with. And I hated the narration Ė I just thought it poorly written. So, in that sense, I was responding like a lot of people who didnít Ďget" BR when it first came out.
Later, though, within another year or so, I started realizing that all the elements that had originally excited me about BR Ė the tonal fidelity to itís source novel, Blade Runnerís various subtexts, the way its narrative was obliquely communicated to the audience through Ridleyís intelligence and subtlety Ė were still in the picture. And I gradually found myself feeling the same positive emotions Iíd experienced while watching BR being made. Which meant Iíd come full circle, at least emotionally, on my reaction to the film.
But that took awhile. Even then, I was in the minority. There still was just a core group of about half a dozen people connected with the project who, like myself, continued to think Blade Runner was an important film during the 1980ís. Flawed, yes. But still important.
GW: What do you mean by "flawed?"
PS: Well, it should be pretty obvious after writing the kind of book I wrote that I really love this motion picture. But you should also know Iím not a blind BR camp follower or an uncritical acolyte. In fact, one of the sections that got edited out of Future Noir just before publication was a little chapter that gave my own critical take on the film. Which, believe it or not, despite all the other observations Iíd disagreed with in her own review of the film, mirrored some of the same objections Pauline Kael had written about Blade Runner in her New Yorker review.
For instance, I do believe that Kael was on the right track when she criticized BR for being all "subtext and no text." Thatís an insightful statement. I also think some of BRís story points could have been made clearer, or more logical. I further felt Deckardís side of the narrative should have been strengthened, and that the "Deckard as Replicant" twist needed more work. I mean, the ambiguity Ridley was aiming for regarding that idea certainly works Ė the problem is that the idea itself isnít fully worked out. Then there were all the little technical errors I would have liked to have seen fixed. I guess the most well-known example would be the sixth replicant/Bryant lip-flap problem. But most of all, I always felt BR was a film whose totality was definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
All these flaws still bug me. On the other hand, I think Blade Runnerís strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. I certainly donít agree with the more common complaints against BR, when people say its too downbeat or violent. Far as Iím concerned, I could have done with a lot more of those elements!
GW: I had many friends, especially the girl I was dating at the time when BR came out, who really didnít like it. They thought it was too dark and violent and would have rather seen a comedy. And they couldnít understand why I went on and on about it.
PS: Well, if you look at that reaction from an anthropological viewpoint, you could say that their response was understandable, because they were from a different tribe. Ours is the 2019 tribe, right?. And we speak the same language. But your friends were from a different tribe which spoke a different language. The tribe that couldnít understand what all fuss concerning BR was about.
GW: Since you have released a deleted chapter from Future Noir to the 2019 website, now youíve whetted our appetites, and of course we want more. Is there going to be a second edition of your book that includes the edited chapters that perhaps would coincide with the release "Special Edition" DVD on the 20th anniversary of Blade Runner.
PS: The short answer is Ė maybe!! For some time now, Iíve been lobbying for a contract to do an expanded version of Future Noir. What Iíve been proposing is to bring back all the material that was originally deleted - that was substantial, about 300 pages Ė then add any other text needed to update the book. That would include old material thatís popped up, or new developments thatíve taken place since 1996. Because a whole new level of interest in BR seemed to kick up in the mid-nineties.
GW: Future Noir had a lot to do with that.
Japanese edition PS: Thank you again! I suppose I could be immodest and say that my book has been, or perhaps even continues to be, partially responsible for Blade Runnerís renaissance. But thatís only true up to a certain point. I mean, yes, Future Noir does seem to have appealed to a large readership cross-section, from fans to film industry folks to mainstream readers. The bookís also gone through multiple printings, been picked up by a number of foreign territories, and generated some pretty good ink. In fact, the worst criticisms Iíve read concerning FN seem to have had more to do with secondary issues than the substance of the book itself.
GW: How?
PS: Just about the worst reviews Iíve gotten regarding Future Noir have been thinly veiled personal attacks Ė the really nasty ones usually are. Or else the book is attacked for its style, which I intentionally chose to keep simple and fact-oriented. Then there were the reviews that seemed to give off the faint perfume of professional jealously.
GW: I donít think Iíve even seen a bad review of Future Noir.
PS: Oh, theyíre out there. In fact, one Canadian review started this way: "Self-styled American "film historian" Paul M. Sammon is a dreadful writer." Well, fuck! Thereís a nice piece of objective criticism! But, you know, reactions like that keep you grounded Ė even if some critics havenít done enough of their homework to realize that this same "film historian" had been writing published criticism and production histories for over 20 years before Future Noir came out.
On the other hand, negative reviews of Noir have pretty much been in the minority. And I really am amazed and flattered at the tremendous amount of positive press FN has generated since its release. The book seems to have become kind of a focal or rallying point for Blade Runner, in its own small way. Which is great; my ego says itís a good thing that Future Noirís had something to do with jumpstarting interest in Blade Runner. But I donít kid myself. A book is just a book. The real reason BR continues to grab new viewers is because itís such an attractive, fascinating, idiosyncratic film. Itís sort of become the ultimate cult movie. Although thatís a double-edged term, with both positive and negative aspects.
Anyway, I think itís very, very cool that Blade Runnerís stature continues to grow. And as the power grows, the story behind it grows. For instance, this year (2000), the Special Blade Runner Collectors Box came out from Warner Brothers, which is a nice package. Although Iím sure you and I would be more interested in hearing that Warners was going to release the BR Work Print, or Ridleyís true original cut. And Ė wait a minute. What the hell was your original question?!? (laughs)
GW: Whether youíre going to do an expanded edition of Future Noir or not.
PS: Right! Thanks. Mr. Focus, thatís me. Anyway, yes, there has been talk about doing an expanded edition, almost since the book was first published in 1996. Ď97 was the year I began talking to Harper-Collins about doing an update. Thankfully, most everyone has been amenable to that idea. But the sore point with Blade Runner in the business sense is the fact that it seems-I stress seems-to have multiple owners. And I feel honor-bound to have those owners formally okay an expanded edition of my book. Not that Future Noir was ever a licensed product. It wasnít. Instead, it was an original, self-generated historical work containing previously published images that had been used for publicity purposes. Even so, the book is 100% mine. Thereís no hidden or studio agenda there. Because when I wrote Future Noir, I was basically just trying to provide an accurate history of Blade Runner. And I had a lot of freedom to shape that history in the way I wished.
Still, even with that freedom, Iíve realized that you must honor the various corporations and the individuals who were responsible for getting BR made in the first place. You must treat these entities with the necessary respect. Unfortunately, the BR rights situation is so complicated right now weíll all just have to cross our fingers, and hope that these issues sort themselves out. Because Iíd really, really love to have an expanded edition of Future Noir out in bookstores by 2002, to tie in with the filmís twentieth anniversary.
GW: One can see the amount of effort that it took for this book, that it actually became part of Blade Runner lore. Whether you wanted it to or not you are now involved in some sense, along with Ridley Scott and Syd Mead.
PS: Yes. Well, being involved that way is of course an honor. But I hope my name always appears at the end of that list you just mentioned. Because Ridley, Syd Mead, Hampton Fancher, Michael Deeley, the cast, the crew, theyíre the ones who made Blade Runner. Iím just the scribe who chronicled its life-cycle. And I think thatís an important distinction to make. We now live in a culture thatís grown alarmingly shallow and self-centered. Selfish, really. That makes me sound like a conservative old fart, huh? But I truly believe that. Iíve seen this country go through many changes over the past few decades, and now we happen to be at a point in time where journalists tend to shine the spotlight more on themselves than on the subjects theyíre writing about. Call me "old school" call me a "relic" call me an "antique", but when it comes to nonfiction, my instinct has been usually to go in the opposite direction. I mean, who the fuck wants to read about me? Iím there to service the material, not my ego.
So thatís the approach I consciously took with Future Noir. Iíd decided very early on that if was going to approach a piece of work that was not my own, like Blade Runner, and then take it apart, Iíd have to make a pact with myself to only write about Blade Runner. Because in my cosmology, when you do this sort of project, it should be a given that youíre writing about the film - youíre not writing about yourself.
GW: But one of the things I like about Future Noir is its voice, the way you shaped the material.
PS: Whatever you see of me in that book is really a result of my own passion for the film. Blade Runner will always be an emotional topic for me. Then again, Iím a pretty passionate guy anyway.
GW: Did you have any other reasons for writing Future Noir the way you did?
PS: There were really three operative principals I had in mind when I started the book. The first, as Iíve said, was to acknowledge to myself the fact that I was writing about someone elseís work. The second was to give civilians a taste of what really goes on when youíre making a motion picture. The third Ė well, Iím surprised that no one seems to have picked up on that third principal yet. I mean, I am well aware of many Future Noir reviews. I have them sent to me by my publishers, and sometimes Iíll go online and cruise the Net, just to see what other people are saying about the book. Yet I still have not come across anyone who really understands what I was trying to do by casting Future Noir in such a hyperdedtailed format.
GW: It does contain an incredible amount of information.
PS: Yeah. But that fits the subject, donít you think? Blade Runner is a dense, multi-layered motion picture with a fascinating production history. So it seemed only logical to me that any book written about BR would at least attempt to achieve the same level of complexity. In other words, I just thought, "Goodness - the only proper way to do this job is to write a book thatís just as dense as the film itself."
GW: I know in one area of the book - Iím paraphrasing here - you say "Under the pop visuals and trendy special effects is a subtle tangle of moral, philosophical and sociological concerns."
PS: Blade Runner was made by intelligent men and women, by intelligent artists and artisans. That type of person makes most movies, actually. But this time those qualities bled through into the final product. And thatís what I find most satisfying about the film.
Obviously, the first thing that hits you about Blade Runner is its production design. Thatís a given! But BR is also a classic case of a motion picture with much more going on than meets the eye. I, mean, there is so much below Blade Runnerís pretty surfaces, underneath those dazzling visuals. And that sub-strata, at least for me, is the well-spring that nourishes the entire film.
GW: Can you give some examples?
PS: Sure. In its own crazy, fragmented way, there are some very serious and difficult topics being addressed by BR. It touches on the problems of corporate dominance and corporate corruption. On mortality. On personal humiliation. On pollution. Slavery. The homeless. The danger of overempowering paramilitary police departments. Having lived in Los Angeles for the past 17 years, that last one strike a chord - just look at todayís LAPD! BR also addressees the need for family, as well as illustrating the slow erosion of societal infrastructures. It looks at urban economic and class divisions. Our increasing lack of privacy. The way even our most personal, intimate possessions Ė like memories - can be exploited for a buck. And, of course, BR most famously shows how multi-culturalism is spreading throughout the United States, particularly in Los Angeles. And Iím just getting started! Thatís why the film is easy for me to get excited about. Thereís a lot going on.
GW: Every time I see Blade Runner I see it from a different angle. In the very beginning, the first few times I saw the film, I saw Deckard as the hero. Perhaps thatís what I was supposed to think. Then after that I started to have empathy for the "Replicants". It wasnít so black and white.
PS: Well, I tell you, it always seemed to me that Ridley favored the Replicants. I think you can feel that in the film. One thing I find interesting is that, as Blade Runner begins, Deckard and the Replicants both appear to be assholes. Dangerous assholes. But then, as the story progresses, you see them all change, become more human. And by the end youíre thinking, "Hey, what does it really mean to be human?"
GW: At the very end of the film, you also realize that maybe Roy Batty is more human or has become more compassionate than Rick Deckard.
PS: Yeah, although Royís fierce love of life and Deckardís attraction to Rachael makes Harrisonís character more human and compassionate too. But isnít it interesting how Battyís character is so charismatic and attention grabbing, while Deckardís is so low-key? Thatís actually a classic theatrical ploy, you know, to place contrasting characters in opposition to one another. That way itís easier to have some kind of interpersonal conflict going on.
Blade Runner certainly has those conflicts. I mean, on the one hand you have this "crazy" Replicant, Roy. Whoís enthusiastic, and child-like, but at the same time brilliant, and technically capable. Meta-capable. Yet Royís being driven by two primal human impulses. One is sheer biological survival, the impulse to extend his life; the other is trying to come to grips with Royís paternity. Or lack of it. That last compulsion of Royís is very interesting, because when you think about it, one of the most terrible things about the "Replicants" is that they really donít have a family. They have to create one among themselves.
Anyway, it just fascinates me that Blade Runner continues to have such resonance. And perhaps another of the primary reasons viewers keep being attracted to the film is because BR is a sort of social mirror that reflects the problems that were afflicting America when the film was shot. A kind of cracked and warped one, maybe, but nevertheless a mirror that reflected what this country was really all about in the late twentieth century. Even though BRís supposed to be taking place in the twenty-first century.
GW: If I was living in Indiana (where Iím originally from), living in farm community, I probably wouldnít be able to relate to it. But living as I do in an industrial area of Los Angeles, Blade Runner mirrors my every day life, with helicopter search-lights and sirens.
PS: Yeah. My wife and I live in a pretty quiet neighborhood here in LA, but we suffer through the same thing. I hate those goddamn LAPD helicopters! With their racket and constant overhead circling and blinding searchlights that shoot out these thick, intrusive shafts of lightÖ which of course are exactly like the search lights that go through Deckardís apartment in Blade Runner. Those are supposed to be searchlights too, you know. Ridley designed them that way to connect them with the real world, to suggest this constant, omnipresent surveillance LA residents have to put up with in 2019.
Thatís one of the more paranoid aspects of BR, you know. That youíre always being watched. Remember that giant eye at the beginning of the film? Some critics choose to interpret that solely as part of the eye motif running throughout BR. But that big eye is not only a visual riff Ė it could also be looked at, pardon the pun, as something else. A subtle form of social criticism, perhaps. As in, "We are watching you". I mean, even Blade Runnerís audience is being watched, right at the start of the movie. By a big, giant eye. I like that opening. I also find it comical, in a darkly humorous way. I mean, how often do you go to a film that opens up with the movie looking back at you?
GW: On to your background a bit. Were you born and raised in California?
PS : No. Basically, Iím a world citizen. I was born in Philadelphia, but my father was in the Military, the Navy. Then, when he retired, he was still young enough to start a second career. Which he did. First he trained with the CIA, in the early Sixties. Later he became a member of NCSU, the Naval Counterintelligence Support Unit. And throughout all this, we were constantly traveling, like any good military family. My first 20 years were mostly spent both in Japan Ė my brother was born there - and in the Philippines, on a couple of Naval bases named Sangley Point and Subic Bay. We also lived and traveled all over the United States; San Diego, Charleston, Washington DC, any place there was a significant Naval presence. But even today, I tend to think of the Philippines as home Ė even though I and my family are mostly Irish!
That reminds me of another connection between myself and Blade Runner. Itís one most people, particularly readers of Future Noir, would not know about, since I didnít put it in the book. But after having spent so many years in the Philippines, I was really tickled when David Peoples told me heíd based "Cityspeak", BRís street language, on conversations heíd overheard while riding in jeepneys around Manila. Conversations in Tagalog, the Philippinesí native tongue.
GW: What are jeepneys?
PS: These gaudy little trucks the Filipinos use for taxi cabs. Most of them are converted jeeps, extremely colorful ones; they have all these hanging decorations and pictures of patron saints inside. To catch a ride on a jeepney, you just run after one and hop aboard. They can hold six to eight people. Anyway, as I said, Tagalog is the official language of the Philippines. So when I found out that David Peoplesí had based Cityspeak on that, it was like my own version of six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, you know? I only remember a little Tagalog, by the way. Certainly not as much as I used to, even though I can still curse pretty fluently in Filipino (laughs). Anyway, I find it amusing that Blade Runnerís polyglot language got its start in the country where I grew up.
GW: How did you wind up in Los Angeles?
PS: Iím only in LA because I work in the film business. I did think about settling in New York at one point. But because of my twin compulsions to write and to get involved with the film business, I had to make a decision early on as to whether I wanted to go live in the city that had the publishing industry Ė Manhattan - or the city that had the film industry Ė Los Angeles. I opted for LA. It has better beaches!
GW: Was writing an early interest of yours?
PS: Iíve always written. First got published, professionally anyway, around 1970. So Iíve been at this for awhile. But some people can build wonderful homes, other people can draw, some are musical, others can fix a car blindfolded, and some people have the knack for effective psychological counseling. Itís just a matter of what genes you were born with, plus how you were raised and what choices youíve made in your life. Right? My talent happened to be writing. So, as I just said, Iíve always written. And Iíve always been totally in love with film. But if I ever had to sit down and give a hard look at my other interests, Iíd probably conclude that they were pretty widespread. Eclectic, even. I adore music, for example. And I like astronomy and politics and traveling and working with my hands and oceanography and crime and psychology and anything to do with computers and art and working out and swimming and boating and a hundred other things. So my interests arenít scattered on a narrow field.
Thatís what Iíve often criticized about contemporary society, you know, the way everything is so specialized and channeled and "lock-stepped". This is not the way to become a well-rounded human being. But I was fortunate in that respect. My dadís line of work showed me the worst things people were capable of at a very early age, so I have street smarts, and of course with all our travelling, I was constantly being bombarded by new cultures and ideas. And even though my father hated movies, he loved books - classic literature and poetry. He then passed that fascination on to me. My mother loves books too, but she also loves movies. She was the one who got me hooked on cinema. My mom used to take me out to the movies all the time when I was a kid; weíd be watching some forgettable Fiftiesí Universal melodrama, and sheíd lean over and whisper, "Thatís Rhonda Fleming." Or, "Thatís Kirk Douglas". Then later, when we were living overseas, there was very little television to watch. Just movies. Which, because of the time period and the fact that they were being shown on a military base, you could see for free. All that helped nuttier this hunger growing inside me, the urge to learn about film. It also helped me become part of that generation of film buffs formed by the 1960ís explosion of world cinema. So I guess Iím just a film brat, as they used to call us.
GW: I love the American Movie Classics channel.
PS: Me too. My wife and I watch AMC all the time. But I also watch a lot of foreign films, and independent cinema, and anime, and TV, and porn, and documentaries, and bizarre stuff that mixes it all up in nutty ways. In fact Iím a member of the American Cinematheque, and just last week, I saw this very obscure but absorbing Japanese film from 1960 called "Hell". It was basically a moralistic tract with this huge cast of characters who all end up dead about three-quarters of the way through the film. Then theyíre tormented for the rest of the picture in this partly-Buddhist, partly-Christian, thoroughly low-rent hell. That was pretty amazing. And of course I watched all the Bergman and Fellini and Antonioni and Godard movies when they first came out, plus some of the most obscure stuff imaginable. So I do have a solid, broad-based education in film. Also in literature. Iíve never limited myself to one genre, though; I basically read and see everything. Usually because itís good; sometimes, because itís so amusingly bad (laughs).
GW: Just a moment, let me check my recorder. My biggest fear on these interviews is that the tape recorder is not recording properly.
PS: I understand. You know, I used to work as a free lancer for the LA Times, Omni Magazine, Rolling Stone, things like that, and Iíve interviewed virtually every type of personality, from astronauts to pop stars. And boy, could I write a catalog about what can go wrong! In fact, not too long ago, Iíd spent months setting up a major interview with James Cameron. But when the day finally came where I was sitting across from Jim, I realized Iíd dashed out of the house without grabbing any of the questions Iíd wanted to ask! Talk about flop sweat! (laughs).
GW: Letís get back to Future Noir. My understanding of the way you first got involved with Blade Runner was because you were assigned to write an article about it for Cinefantastique magazine.
PS: Yes and no. Actually, I wrote about BR while it was being filmed for two different magazines. Those were Omni and Cfq, both of which I had prior relationships with. But Cinefantastique asked to me to cover the making of the film first, yeah. After I said yes, I then immediately contacted Omni and told them I could probably come up with a different slant on the same subject. They said sure, go for it. Which I did. And Cfq had no problem with that. Iíd just felt that writing about something like Blade Runner might benefit from a two-pronged approach - one for a prestigious, scientific mainstream magazine with a huge circulation, and the other for a small, cultish, obsessive film magazine. That was a fun challenge, in the literary sense. The BR stuff I wrote for Omni and the pieces I wrote for Cinefantastique had very different tones, you know? WHICH MADE FOR a good technical exercise.
GW: I have not been able to find the Omni magazine pieces.
PS: I think I did three articles on Blade Runner for them. One on Ridley, one on Syd Mead, and one on Phil Dickís relationship with the project. Iíd be happy to give you the publication dates on those later, if youíd like.
GW: Were you nervous on the first days of shooting? I know you spent much time on the set. Were you at ease?
PS: If you mean nervous in the sense of being intimidated by the filmmaking process, no. By then Iíd already been involved with the film industry for some years. Blade Runner certainly was not the first film I saw shot, or helped to get made. So I was already aware of the mechanics, the politics, and the atmosphere of a studio-sponsored set.
For example, anyone that works in this business will tell you that the first couple weeks of production, which means principle photography, are usually a difficult time for everyone. Itís a somewhat tense period because, basically, no one knows anyone. You might have a core crew that youíve worked with in the past by your side, people you already know, if youíre the director or producer or a department head. At the same time, youíre dealing with this huge influx of totally new personalities. No one knows or trusts one another yet, and the friendships and the rivalries havenít gelled either. So itís pretty much a given that, on any movie, the first couple weeks are the roughest. Everyone feels a bit off balance.
Having said that, the tension on Blade Runner certainly lasted longer than the first two weeks! To paraphrase "Spinal Tap", the stress level on BR was an "11"! For the whole shoot! (both laugh) So BRís was a stressful set, and a tense set. Yet, as Iíve explained in the book, that was not due to any single cause. Iím sure the crew probably felt it was all Ridleyís fault (laughs). Really, though, there were a whole host of other factors contributing to that tension.
GW: It never really got any better on the set?
PS: Not really. You see, as a film goes on and the cast and crew settles in, they usually become more comfortable with one another, and there is a much more informal and relaxed atmosphere. In fact, you pretty much experience the same three stages on any movie. First comes the period of the first couple of weeks, where everybody is uptight. Then that all settles down and you hit a groove where everything is flowing nicely.Then you get towards the end of a production, where everybodyís bored and twitchy and ready to move on to the next show, the phase where everyoneís tired of this thing youíre doing.
Having explained all that, Blade Runner was one of those shows that unfortunately seemed to have a "tired of this" atmosphere from the very start! (both laugh). And yeah, Ridley certainly was part of that tension Ė he got increasingly irritable and loud as the shoot wore on. But there were also two events that were the keys to understanding exactly why Ridley was acting that way, at least in my opinion.
Scott behind the camera One, Blade Runner was a completely new experience for Ridley Scott, what with him shooting in America with a major studio behind him on what was considered a fairly big-budget motion picture. Plus, the union regulations that always accompany big-studio shoots really drove Ridley crazy. Heís a very hands on, "I can do it all" kind of guy. Of course, the impressive and depressing thing about that claim is that Ridley really can do it all! Unlike some other people who pretend they can.
GW: Thatís what Morgan Paull said about Mr. Scott - he would want to move a chair.
PS: Oh yeah. For instance, Sebastianís workshop? The layout of all those dolls on Sebastianís table were literally placed there by Ridley himself. By hand. But Ridley always exhibited that kind of obsessive attention - not only to detail - but to doing it his way. So the problem Ridley immediately ran up against while he was doing Blade Runner was the stratified Hollywood guild system, and the way itsí infrastructure functions.
I guess the most famous story along these lines is how, before BR, Scott had already established a certain reputation for being his own camera operator. Ridley certainly had personally shot most of the ten years worth of commercials heíd directed before BR,and Rid was also his own camera operator on Alien and The Duellists. But then Blade Runner comes along. Whereupon this man whoís used to working with and using all the cinematic tools himself flies from London to Los Angeles, where heís immediately told by the union, "You canít operate the camera! Only a carded operator can do that!" So having his tools taken away from him drove Ridley completely nuts. He also thought it was illogical. "Like taking the golf clubs away from Arnold Palmer," as Ridley used to say.
So Ridley had to navigate through a Byzantine maze of this and various other Guild regulations. Then, on top of that, he also had to explain and defend every single frame of Blade Runner, almost on a daily basis. And Ridley, I think, felt he really didnít have to explain the movie he was trying to make, or why heíd do certain things a certain way. In fact, part of Ridleyís attitude during the whole process of shooting BR seemed to be, "Hey - you hired me as the director of this picture because you perceived me to have very specific filmmaking strengths. So why not lay off this ridiculous process of forcing me to baby-talk you through every single thing Iím trying to do here, and just let me run with those strengths?" Ridley hated being constantly second-guessed - he just wanted to get on with the job, you know?
Now, some people might find that attitude egotistical. But I gotta tell ya, if there was anyone whoíd proven that he already had the chops to pull off a film like Blade Runner before he actually shot it, it was Ridley Scott. I mean, doesnít the name of a little movie called Alien strike a bell? Besides, Ridley was already firmly established as a major filmmaker, in both the artistic and business senses, long before he made Alien. Especially in the United Kingdom.
You see, by 1980, nobody in the British film or television industries would have dreamed of second-guessing Ridley Scottís technical abilities. He was already very well-respected, as both an artist and a businessman. The English system wouldnít have challenged Ridleyís artistic decisions, either Ė certainly not to the extent that Hollywood did while he was making Blade Runner. Which, as Iíve said, took the form of this maddening process where virtually every frame of BR was discussed or challenged or fought and argued over. That process still goes on today, unfortunately.
GW: So why, if he was already so respected in England, did Hollywood make things so hard for Mr. Scott during BR?
PS: Honestly? Because I donít think Hollywood was all that aware of Ridley Scott while he was making BR. I mean, this has always been a very parochial town, but back in the early Eighties, things in Hollywood were even worse. If you hadnít established yourself through the American cookie-cutter style of filmmaking, people in Hollywood, especially the truly powerful people, just werenít going to be all that interested in you. Particularly if youíd made a name for yourself in Europe doing TV commercials.
GW: What about Alien? That was a huge success, and Mr.Scott made it years before Blade Runner.
PS: He certainly did. But you have to keep in mind that even though Alien was a smash, it was still a science-fiction/horror film. And back in the late Seventies/early Eighties, those two genres, at least in the opinion of many Hollywood executives, were barely a step above pornography. Even if horror and science fiction films were suddenly becoming these huge cash cows. A lot of studio execs still feel that way, in fact! (laughs)
Anyway, there was a lot of frustration on Ridleyís part about battling Hollywoodís rules and politics while he was shooting BR. There also was a personal angle that might have contributed to the way he was acting out during that shoot. You see, Ridleyís older brother, Frank, had died from cancer not long before Ridley made BR. And that hit Ridley hard, I think - perhaps Frankís death became a very personal brush with mortality for Ridley Scott. Which would mean that, on top of his work-oriented problems, Scott might also have been trying to work out some issues regarding his brotherís death while Ridley was on BR.
I find that last hypothesis very interesting, by the way. Because Iíve always suspected that something unusually personal seeped out of Ridley Scott and into Blade Runner while he was directing that film. One example of that would be BRís fascination with human mortality. Or the way the filmís Replicants are searching for an extended life span. Of course, Iím only speculating on all this. But the hard facts of personal extinction and the finality of death did seem very much on Ridleyís mind at this point in his career.
GW: Were there any other things that made Blade Runner a hard film to work on?
PS: Well, there were a lot of firings. But some of them had to do with the people who were let go not being able to "get" Ridley, or being unable to keep up with him. I mean, as Iím always saying, Ridley Scott is an extremely talented, extraordinarily focused filmmaker. He knows what every lens does, what every light does, what different film stocks can do. He also knows the entire filmmaking culture, from top to bottom, and what it takes to really get the job of making a movie done On top of that, Scott is a genuine artist Ė heís very good at drawing Ė with a deep knowledge of art history. So his talents are legion. But, on Blade Runner, Ridley came into a system which is a bit like Congress Ė thereís a lot of "pork barrel" politics in the film business. For instance, some people, even though they work on film after film, just sort of "get by" during the current project. Know what I mean? Well, Ridley wasnít like that. He didnít want to be working with anyone on Blade Runner who wasnít there a thousand percent for the film. Also, Ridleyís mind works very, very quickly - even if some of the shots on BR seemed to take an eternity to set up!(laughs).So the production suffered from the problem of certain people not being able to match Ridleyís pace. I mean, this is a director whose mind and imagination work very rapidly, as Iíve said. So if you couldnít get up to speed with Ridley on Blade Runner, you were basically left behind. In the dust.
That pressure led to firings, which added to the tensions on BRís set. And then of course there were the squabbles between the cast, which we all know about from my book. Throw that towards a film thatís constantly being watched for any financial overages, one that is then taken over by the completion bond guarantors before the end of postproduction, and youíve got all the ingredients for one hellacious headache. On the other hand, there is an old saying in the movie business that goes something like this: "If you work on a film and have a good time, itíll probably turn out to be a piece of shit". (both laugh) I guess Blade Runner proves the inverse of that saying is also true!
GW: But you never felt uncomfortable on the set yourself?
PS: No. Most of the time I felt fairly comfortable. Part of that is due to my own personality, I guess. However, I think the main reason I felt comfortable throughout the entire Blade Runner process was because, at its very beginnings, the point where Ridley had just signed onto the project, he and I met and he was incredibly gracious to me. I got none of the irritation people complained about later on; never did, in fact. Ridley was always polite, respectful, and helpful. It wasnít a forced conviviality, either; it always seemed like the real deal. I also "got" Ridley, right away. I mean, it was pretty obvious to me from the git-go that Scott was a serious, talented guy who was going to demand the best from himself and everyone around him during Blade Runner. Therefore, I adjusted my own personality to fit.
So I guess it really was a personality thing. Ridley and I just clicked, thatís all. And to this day, we donít have to say a lot to understand each other. I also think there was a certain degree of mutual respect and trust between us going in. That helped relax me a lot. Then there was Michael Deeley, BRís producer, who also was very accommodating and gracious. All of this meant I never really felt unduly stressed out by what was going on while Blade Runner was grinding on, even when people were getting fired or screaming or doing other unpleasant things.
GW: Sounds like you were lucky, in a way.
PS: You bet! You also have to understand what my position on BR was, and how that helped keep the shitstorm away.
During the entire BR process, I was there as a sort of a "field observer", to jot down what happened that day. That implies a certain neutrality, right? Which was helpful, not having a personal stake in the various feuds and conflicts. Conversely, I eventually managed to be given a hell of a lot of latitude during production, too. I mean, by staying polite and friendly and knowledgeable, I was ultimately granted total access to the production. Once the powers-that-be understood that I really was serious about covering every detail of Blade Runner, I think they were both flattered and amused by my obsession. They also realized they could trust me. I mean, really trust me. I rarely grind axes in my non-fiction; Iím just there for the facts, you know? So ultimately I was given free rein, and allowed to write about everything from the personalities on the show to why certain Blade Runner shots didnít go right. On the other hand, actually being on the BR set wasnít always pleasant. But God, was it an impressive world to wander around in! And itís always terrific to meet and talk with the kind of high-caliber personalities who get hired to work on a film like BR. I also loved Rutger. Rutger was a kick.
GW: Everybody says that heís a great guy.
PS: Yeah, he is great. Heís crazy, like me. But in a nice way. Want to know something interesting? Rutger has the largest, toughest hands. Like a bricklayerís. Big, thick-skinned. You really donít see that in the film. But if you ever shake hands with the guyÖwow! Your hand almost disappears in his.
GW: What was your relationship with Harrison Ford like?
PS: We didnít spend that much time together. Then again, not many BR people did. I did speak with Ford a few times, but he mainly spent most of his BR time in his trailer.
As we all know, Blade Runner wasnít the happiest shoot for him. But Harryís a total pro. Even though he was having his own issues with the production, when he was around, Harrison was always quite pleasant and affable and low-key. He struck me as an intelligent, sensitive guy whoís also quite strong. A man who knows his own mind, and who certainly knows the film business. Overall, I liked Ford. I particularly enjoyed the way he seemed able to separate the "reel" and "real" worlds.
So I guess my final impression was that Harrison Ford was shrewd, and funny, and smart. Maybe a little bit shyer than he needed to be, too, as a lot of performers are. But I certainly didnít get to know Harrison as well as I did Ridley, or some of the other people on that set.
They still talk about how hard it was working on Blade Runner, you know. Guys like riggers or grips, the kind that go from film to film? Well, I ran into one of those guys on the "Alien Resurrection" set, which I watched being shot back in 1997. And this guy was still very Ė um Ė enthusiastic (laughs) while talking about the hell of making Blade Runner. And this was 15 years after the fact! So I guess, to some people, BR has become a legendary bad shoot, in terms of "I survived"! But I had a ball.
You know, for some reason, that reminds me of how amused I am by most "Making of" featurettes, the ones that purport to give you an insiderís peek behind the scenes on different movies. Iíve made a lot of them myself, but to be honest, theyíre usually pretty sanitized Ė pure bullshit. Yeah, you get a few facts and figures. And lots of talking heads. But you rarely are introduced to the politics and friction generated by the filmmaking process. And these featurettes hardly ever show the pure sweat and labor, the back-breaking, grinding, difficult work, that goes into making any motion picture. Which is what I tried to convey at least a little of in Future Noir.
GW: I guess youíd really have to actually be on the Blade Runner set to see what you described in your book.
PS: You had to be there, every day. Which I pretty much was. Wearing masks and goggles and getting wet and trying to stay out of the way, just like the rest of the crew. But hereís something funny.
I look quite different now than I did back in 1981 Ė for one thing, I had a full beard, not to mention a full set of hair! So these days Iím often amused by some of the folks I met on that set back then who now, years later, donít remember me. Because now I basically look so different than I did then. Of course, I also made a point of being as invisible as possible while I was on the BR set, once I realized what was going down politically Ė I can just fade into the woodwork when I want to. On the other hand, just the other day I was at a studio on some sort of business when I bumped into another BR crewmember. And he sort of squinted at me before saying, "Wait a second. Arenít you the character who was always hanging around the set and production office constantly whispering into a tape recorder?" I smiled and nodded and realized that losing the beard hadnít made that much of a difference, at least to this guy.
GW: Someone emailed me last week to ask me if I had seen a short studio produced film that came out shortly after the release of Blade Runner called, the "Making of Blade Runner". Do you know anything about that?
PS: A little. That was done on 16 millimeter, and primarily shot for the Science Fiction Convention circuit. Jeff Walker handled all that, BRís fan publicity. He used to screen that "Making Of" short during his dog-and-pony shows at the Cons. I did have a copy of it myself, Unfortunately, I lent it out, and that short then went south with the person who "borrowed" it. Thereís a lesson! Make sure you lend things to the right people!
GW: What was the short "Making of Blade Runner" like?
PS: Well, speaking as a collector, it was a nice item to have, because it was contemporaneous with the production. It also had footage you normally wouldnít see, like behind the scenes stuff during Deckardís chase of Zhora through the street. But quite frankly, that short also always struck me as being kind of dull and amateurish and haphazardly put together. Itís been years since Iíve seen it, though. But as I recall, I never really thought it was all that great. Anyway, that "Making of Blade Runner" short has now definitely been superseded by the hour-long documentary Channel 4 made in England, the one titled "On the Edge of Blade Runner". Thatís the better documentary of the two.
GW: You were interviewed on camera for "On the Edge of Blade Runner", so you could appear in that documentary. What was that experience like?
PS: Well, personally it was a little weird, because, as I previously alluded, I produced and directed literally dozens of "Making Of" featurettes while I was working for the studios. Little documentaries on things like David Lynchís Dune. So it was a funny feeling being in front of the camera instead of behind it. But the guys who made that doco Ė theyíre from Scotland and England Ė were quite professional, and well-informed. They should have been well-informed, because when it came time for me to go to the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood to be interviewed for this, the first thing I saw were copies of Future Noir littered around the set. And they were all plastered with Post-it notes! The producer and director of "On the Edge" told me they were big fans of my book and had used it as their primary reference source. Which was quite flattering. I do wish, though, that theyíd added about 30 extra seconds to show audiences just where Future Noir fits into the overall Blade Runner picture, and how well my book has been doing world-wide. I mean, they shot the covers of the American, British and Japanese editions of Future Noir for that documentary, but never used them. I understand the priorities they faced, though. This is just my poor, bruised little authorís ego talking.
By the way, Gary, before we move on to the next question, can I make a personal statement?
GW: Sure.
PS: Well, this is going to sound like the most insincere thing in the world, but I really do mean it when I say that I am so grateful and humbled by the reaction Future Noir has gotten from its readership. Because, honestly, while I was writing it, I really tried to do my best with the thing. BRís something I deeply care about, and know other people care about as well.
GW: Is there anything you donít like about the book yourself?
PS: Tons of things! (laughs). My biggest regret was the last-minute edit that was forced on me, the one that made me drop all those pages we earlier talked about. I then had to go back, very quickly, and stitch everything together, Frankenstein-like, to smooth out the holes left by the edits. I really didnít have the time to give the entire book another pass after that, either. So Future Noir, to me, reads very much like a first draft; I basically think it needs one final nip-and-tuck session, to smooth things out. Believe me, I see every awkward sentence and paragraph.
Thatís one of the reasons why the positive reactions fans of the book have passed on mean so much to me. I mean, it really does make me feel good to know that, for some people at least, Future Noir hit the bullseye. There ainít much in this world that does that for you!
GW: There is so much information in your book, it would take a lifetime to track it down. Actually, we would have never known this information about Blade Runner unless you had chronicled it in Future Noir.
PS: Thanks again. But do you know what the most difficult balancing act for me was, technically speaking, while I was writing Future Noir? How to keep readers interested while simultaneously throwing mountains of statistics at them. That was tough. I also, as Iíve said elsewhere, chose Future Noir to be about Blade Runner, not Paul Sammon. Surprisingly, for some people was a no-win situation. I have in fact been criticized for taking that approach. Have been taken to task for not writing something more personalized, like the books The Devilís Candy or Final Cut.
GW: But Future Noir is so well crafted.
PS: Flatterer! Well, thanks again again. You know, I never intended Future Noir to be a "tell all" book, one that primarily goes for the negative, or innuendo, or rumor. All I was trying to do was set down as much hard data as I possibly could. Verified date, of course. Pure information. The difficult part then became, "How do I make Future Noir flow? How do I keep everyone happy?"
GW: I love the way the chapters are divided, it makes so much sense and it is so easy to find any fact.
PS: Well, basically I just tried to, first, lay events out chronologically. Then I divided that timeline into units. Then into subunits. Then into sub-sub units, and sub-sub-sub-units, and, wellÖ (laughs)
GW: Did you mention in your book whether Philip K. Dick was ever on the set of Blade Runner? Were you able to meet and interview him?
PS: Phil never came to the set, per se. In fact he actively bad-mouthed the production while BR was being made. But he did show up for what they call a red-dot reel screening of the filmís F/X at EEG, Douglas Trumbullís special effects facility down in Marina Del Rey. Phil was shown some EEG effects footage down there by David Snyder; Ridley kind of snuck into that screening at the last moment. Anyway, Dick got to see a few of Blade Runnerís special effects, and then he was given a tour of the EEG model shop. He also got to see a few live-action sequences featuring Rutger Hauer, and, I believe, a couple with Daryl Hannah. All of which completely turned him around in respect to his bad-mouthing Blade Runner. Because the oft-quoted remark Dick uttered after seeing that red-dot reel was, "How did you people know what I was thinking? This was exactly what I had in my head while I was writing Electric Sheep!!"
But what was crucial about that afternoon wasnít the fact that Dick had a chance to catch some of Blade Runnerís optical tricks. More importantly, Phil suddenly realized his Sheep novel and the ideas in that book had not been downgraded or coarsened. Iím just as sure that that Blade Runner footage also made Phil see that the filmís approach to its source novel was a deadly serious one. So sophisticated and adult, in fact, that I think most of Dickís fears evaporated. In fact, I recall talking to Phil not long after he saw EEGís reel and him saying, "My God, the stuff looks amazing! And theyíre making a serious movie out of my book!"
GW: Blade Runner could have turned into something like "Dick Tracy", the Warren Beatty, Madonna film.
PS: Oh yeah. All style, no substance Ė which was exactly the criticism leveled at BR when it first came out! But have you ever seen how the trade papers announced Blade Runner while it was being made? "The 21st Century. A detective. Rogue androids. The hunt is on!" Or some such drool. The trades pitched BR solely as a thriller, about a detective in the future hunting androids. And the film itself could easily have been dumbed down even further than that, had not the right group of people been involved.
But to answer your question as to whether I knew Phil personally, yeah, I did.Thatís one of the fondest memories I have of the entire Blade Runner experience. Iíd read just about everything by Dick long before BR got going, so I was very familiar with and intrigued by his peculiar fiction. And prior to Blade Runnerís filming, Phil and I had already crossed paths a few times. Mostly during social situations; cocktail parties, that kind of thing. But then I got to know him fairly well over the year and a half I was doing my initial reporting on Blade Runner. I liked Phil very much. Some people were put off by him, but he was almost always cordial to me. Very gentlemanly.
I was also appreciative of Dickís talent. He was a hyperarticulate individual, extremely well read. Obviously a master of his craft. But, to be fair, there also was a fairly dark and semi-lunatic side to him. It didnít emerge all that often Ė at least, not around me. But when it did, it was like talking to a completely different person. That could be disorienting. On the other hand, because my father had been in military intelligence, and had dealt with a lot of what you might call aberrant personalities, off-kilter folks I was always meeting too, because of my dad...well, Iím not saying Philip K. Dick was a criminal, but I was kind of already initiated into how to handle people like Dick before I met him. So Phil didnít throw me as much as he did other folks. Besides, I have a degree in psychology. And pretty early on I made my own diagnosis of Philís personality. Which was that he was basically a latent paranoid schizophrenic, whose condition was exacerbated by all the drugs he took. Especially the amphetamines. Remember Ė speed kills. And Phil took a lot of speed, as well as a bunch of other stuff. Substances he eventually renounced, although by then it was too late. The damage had already been done...
GW: Dick could certainly do a lot of writing when he was on amphetamines.
PS: Yeah. But I donít want to leave the wrong impression here. Phil was human, like everyone else. And to be human is to be imperfect. But the bottom line is that Philip K. Dick was an astonishing author with an intimidating command of language, who also just happened to always be very nice to me. I could call Phil any time, I could go to his little place in Santa Ana. I was there a number of times. And Phil was great. I really, really liked him. He did have that alien side, though. And when that took over, there wasnít anything to do but try and terminate the conversation, because Phil could lean so far off the wall, it became impossible make any headway. You just tried to honor the fact that Dick was going through one of his little periods. Youíd wait a day or two and then the other Phil would be there. Overall, he was a truly brilliant, great guy. And I always, again, appreciated how forthcoming he was with me, how easy he was to talk with. And how articulate he was when he spoke.
GW: Since the "Alien" franchise has done so well, do you think there ever could ever be a "Blade Runner" franchise.
PS: Well, I donít think itís exactly earthshaking news that Hollywoodís capable of franchising anything. To take a really extreme example, remember that early Eighties Bill Murray comedy, "Meatballs"? Even something that insignificant went through multiple sequels. So when you use the words "Hollywood" and "franchise", youíre not only talking about big ticket items like the Star Trek or Star Wars films - bargain basement products are welcome on the franchise line too. So thereĎs always the possibility of a BR sequel. Or franchise.
But whoever put that together would have to overcome a lot of obstacles first. One problem Ė beyond the obvious one of finding a worthy enough script, cast and crew to live up to the original Ė is that there are many, many different directions a hypothetical BR sequel could take. Iím divided about the whole BR sequel idea anyway, though, because as soon as Blade Runner has a sequel, good or bad, the second film will detract from the power of the original. Because there now would be a second picture to which you could compare the first, a process that in itself would dilute the impact of the original. So with the release of any BR sequel, the first film would no longer be a stand-alone, self-contained, fascinating unit. And frankly, even if it robbed us of pictures like Godfather II or The Empire Strikes back or Aliens, I still would rather see our industry drop the whole idea of sequels altogether. I basically dislike sequels anyway Ė you always find yourself facing the problem of diminishing returns, and sequelitis also cramps creativity; why film anything original when a sequel will do?
Anyway, there are certainly a lot of directions you could go with a BR follow-up. One that is the most obvious is to take the story Off-World. I always thought that would be good idea, to take the BR world on a complete change in direction. Because that world is so fascinating. And of course itís Ridleyís world. Unfortunately, at the moment, and despite the rumors Iíve been reading on the net, there is no BR sequel planned. But if Ridley Scott or an equal talent could get involved with something on the sequel levelÖwell, that would be exciting. I mean, Ridleyís always been up to do one, if all the politics were smoothed out and the proper screenplay presented itself.
GW: I agree that itís a good idea to do something totally different with a BR sequel, like to go Off-World.
PS: You also could pick up the story where the original left off, with Deckard as a fugitive. Of course, you now would have a 20 year time gap between films, so youíd also have to deal with that in terms of the natural aging of the performers.
GW: You mentioned Aliens, which is a good example of a good sequel.
PS: Yeah, but despite the general quality of those films, the Alien franchise Ė I prefer Alien Saga, because franchise sounds too corporate - is also a good example of how a franchise might be detrimental to any sequels to Blade Runner. I mean, the Alien Saga has more or less rested on the shoulders of Sigourney Weaver from the start Ė but it didnít have to necessarily be that way. One understands all of the commercial imperatives that would push a studio in that direction, since Sigourney has "star power", and the continuing character of Ripley is a fascinating one. But Sigourney herself has said many, many times that she felt that the biggest mistake the Alien saga made early on was to rely on the character of Ripley so much. She was trying to say that you could have picked up the ending of the first Alien and run with it away from Ripley, you know? The Alien Saga really didnít need to go the cliched route of bringing back Ripley to fight more Xenomorphs every time. Because, letís face it, the way that the first Alien was set up, Ripley could still be out there somewhere, floating around in hypersleep. So there are many different directions one could take with the Saga. Look at the Dark Horse Alien comics Ė theyíve gone off in some terrific directions using the original film as their starting-off point.
Besides, despite the fact that there have been four films in the Saga so far, there are still all these unanswered questions that the original brought up. Like, whatís the deal with LV-426? Where did the original alien race come from? Who are they, really? What are they? Who was the Space jockey? Why did it have all those eggs on a crashed ship? And why, if the xenomorphs are such great mimics, do we have to have movies where the aliens mimic humans every time? Why not fish aliens? Bird aliens? Insect aliens? Or completely non-terrestrial aliens? I mean, the first Alien hinted at a whole back story that hasnít been explored in the Saga yet.
Still, with all these dangling questions, the Saga has basically turned into a "monster of the week" concept now. Which I suppose is to be expected, but itís always depressing for me to see a sequel take the easiest way out. Which is what I fear has a high possibility of happening on any filmed Blade Runner sequel. So I would approach the announcement of an upcoming Blade Runner sequel with a mixture of anticipation and dread. I think a lot of other people would, too.
GW: There were problems or gaffs in Blade Runner that editing or re-editing caused. And now the rumor is that Mr. Scott is re-working the film to solve some of these problems, and to also replace some edited scenes to produce another version of Blade Runner on DVD for 2002, a "Special Edition" Blade Runner. Is there anything in particular that you would want included or changed on that DVD.
PS: Well, "Special Editions" have been going on at least since the early 1980ís, when Spielberg released his "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" Special Edition. That was really the impetus for the current trend of having a director go back to change, delete or reinsert something in a film that had already been released. But for a Special Edition Blade Runner? HmmmÖI think it would be nice to fix a couple of the technical flubs, like the voiceover lip-flap where Bryant is talking about the number of Replicants that have been killed. But as for adding new footage that was originally cut from the filmÖwell, there usually are sound reasons why the majority of sequences or bits of business are edited out of movies before they are released. And they usually revolve around the fact that that cut footage isnít any good. That is why they call film editing "cutting," you know Ė because you slice out the bad shit.
GW: You know, we never considered that possibility! We Blade Runner fans never thought of that. We just want to see everything.
PS: Of course! So do I. But one has to approach that hunger with the understanding that thereís usually a damned good reason why something was cut out in the first place.
GW: Well that changes everything, Paul!
famous deleted hospital scene PS: For instance, take BRís famous deleted hospital scene, the one where Deckard goes to confer with Holden about the Replicants. A portion of the hospital scene is included in "On The Edge of Blade Runner", and, at least the way that scene is presented in the documentary, itís hard to judge just how effective it would have been in the final film, or whether Ridley was right to cut it. Because the footage as shown in the documentary is so raw. It has on-set dialogue, no sound effects, no music, none of the technical tweaking that has to be done to bring that sequence up to the same technical level of a film released anywhere in the world, much less a film on a caliber of Blade Runner. So itís hard to judge how effective that Hospital Scene really might have been Ė but my feeling at the moment is that Ridley was wise to edit it out. From what I remember seeing in one of the early assemblies of Blade Runner, that hospital stuff just didnít work. Itís tone was off. The whole thing was a bit too over the top. But then again, Ridley is pretty good at putting in so much over raw footage that might start out a bit shaky that he might be able to actually improve upon the Hospital Scene when and if it finally comes out. So weíll have to take a wait and see attitude on that.
Anyway, it really is a bit premature to even talk about this so-called "Special Edition" of Blade Runner because itís still an ongoing project. Sure, there is a lot of speculation going on about that project right now, and yes, I do know a lot of the insider details about whatís going on right now. But really, itís too soon to talk about this, because so many things are still up in the air. I guess Iím trying to say that sometimes, when someone says it's premature to discuss something, it really is! (both laugh) Not all the decisions have been made on the BR Special Edition Ė and I donít even know if the project will ultimately be called that! - so itís really difficult to talk about now. But I certainly look forward to it. I hope the BR workprint is involved somehow, though. Because my favorite version of Blade Runner is the "Work Print" and it always has been.
GW: I have never seen the Work Print.
PS: It makes BR a different picture. Truly.
Metropolis GW: Iíve also noted that you said Ridley Scott or someone had looked at the film "Metropolis", the German film by Fritz Lang, and used the feel of parts of it for Blade Runner.
PS: Yes Ridley is a huge fan of Metropolis. Most intelligent, historically-aware filmmakers are.
GW: That Fritz Lang film was produced in 1926. The one I originally saw when I was in college was kind of a choppy, fourth-generation version. There were places the film just didnít make sense. Then in 1984 Giorgio Moroder restored the film, and replaced some scenes similar to what Mr. Scott is doing with Blade Runner, in terms of restoring and replacing stuff. In fact, I can actually see Mr. Scott doing his own version of Metropolis. Besides, Metropolis was set in 2026 and Blade Runner was set in 2019. Thatís not much time difference.
PS: Originally Blade Runner was set in 2020. Then someone made the comment - probably as a joke Ė that, "Hey, 2020 sounds too much like perfect vision." Now, artistically speaking, I wouldnít have had a problem with setting the film in the year 2020. But somebody did.
GW: I have a Japanese Blade runner Poster that says 2020, not 2019.
PS: Yeah. Well, the decision to switch to 2019 came relatively late in the game. Which allows me to address a pet peeve here.
You see, as an American citizen of the early 21st century, one with an interest in and laymanís grasp of current technologies Ė biotech as well as digital ones - and as someone whoís very well read in the science fiction genre, I think the basic mistake many movie people make who arenít familiar with either literary SF or the incremental progress of real-world technology is that they tend to place "futuristic" science films much too close to our own time period. So, while I think a lot of the advanced technology displayed in Blade Runner will eventually become viable, the actual implementation of those technologies is still decades away. I guess Iím trying to say that, for me, the plausibility factor of BRís imaginary environment might have rated a bit higher with me if theyíd simply pushed the storyline to occur later in the 21st century. Or maybe even in the 22nd century. Not that I ever expected this to happen, because most people have no idea, say, of the difficulties inherent in simple real-world cloning, much less the idea of breeding Replicants with superior capabilities and a four-year life span. I just donít see anything like a Replicant happening for at least the next 20 years. I could always be wrong, of course. But if Iím still around then, Iíll be very surprised to see the rollout of anything like a Replicant in the year 2019.
GW: At least the film didnít portray the characters in silver jumpsuits.
PS: Well, Ridley wouldnít allow that. Thatís one of the things about garden-variety science fiction films he hates the most.
GW: You mean he wouldnít allow a domed city, either?
PS: Like the one in "Loganís Run"? Which today for some reason has itís own cult following? Thatís totally undeserved respect, in my opinion. Iíve always thought "Loganís Run" defined "mindless Hollywood product", the absolute quintessence of crappy mainstream sci-fi It just wasnít a very good movie, you know? Despite having some well-crafted miniatures - which werenít very well shot - Logan had a really thin story line. Basically, it was just people running around chasing each other and shooting funny-looking guns. Oh yeah, and blowing things up. Which just goes to show the direction Blade Runner could have gone, had not the talent involved decided otherwise. I mean, on a certain level Blade Runner is Loganís Run Ė a futuristic story set in a fantastic environment starring a conflicted law enforcement official running around shooting people. "Runners", in this case. But Ridley Scott took the high road, where the makers of Loganís Run took an easier, lower path.
By the way, did you know that Iíve recently written the first book on Ridley Scott?.
GW: No, Iím not familiar with your new book.
PS: Actually, I have three new books coming out. The one on Ridley, thatís called "Ridley Scott, Close Up". And it is indeed the first book solely devoted to the early life and full career of Ridley Scott. It was published last year (1999) by Thunders Mouth Press in the United States, and Orion Publishing in England. Itís available now, in all the chain bookstores. I was restricted on my word count to 45,000 words for that one, though. Which was unfortunate. I mean, how can you possibly do justice to a career like Ridleyís in only 45,000 words? So the Scott book definitely could use some expansion. Which is why that I was happy to be recently contacted by the Japanese publishers of RS Close Up and asked to include new chapters on Gladiator and Hannibal. Those, I hope, will someday be included in any English-language reprint of the book.
GW: This seems to be Ridleyís year.
PS: Itís about time! I mean, people always said to me Ė at least until Gladiator came out Ė "Whatever happened to Ridley Scott?" Iíd reply, "What do you mean? He never went away!? You know? But that brings up something Iíve always wanted to say about Ridley.
I want to go on record as saying that Ridley Scott has always been totally gracious and accessible to me. Heís put up with me for hours and hours and hours worth of interviews over the years. I can ask him the most obscure and arcane things and Ridley goes out of his way to help me as much as he can. I very much appreciate that.
GW: Why do you think heís been so cooperative.
PS: Oh, different reasons, I guess. Weíre both from the same tribe, for one thing. So we speak the same language. I also think he trusts me, and Iíve always tried to respect that trust. And Ridley and I share the same work ethic. Although Iím more likely to be curl up under a tree and take a nap than Ridley Scott (laughs). Anyway, Iíve always been very, very thankful for his professional courtesy.
GW: Youíre mirroring the comments by Morgan Paull (in his interview) about Ridley Scott.
PS: Yeah , Iíve known Ridley on and off for 20 years now, and Iíve never had problem one with him. Well, his schedule can be exasperating sometimes Ė I like to think that I keep myself busy, but this is a man who never quits! Now, other people have had dissimilar or negative experiences with Rid, but hey, all I can talk about is what Iíve gone through. And itís always been fun. On the other hand, Ridley is English. Plus, heís of the generation before mine, so he has a lot of old-school attitudes I donít particularly subscribe to. Remember that wonderful story in Future Noir where Hampton Fancher talks about how unhappy he was over certain things in the screenplay, and how he wanted to discuss those problems with Ridley and Michael Deeley. And how since Hampton knew Ridley and Michael were both British, he also knew that they werenít about to sit down and do therapy with him? I love that. (laughs). But thereís a lot of truth in that story, too. Still, in many respects, Ridleyís a regular guy, just like you or me. He just happens to be a world class kind of regular guy.
GW: Do you think Mr. Scott is surprised at the recent popularity of Blade Runner?
PS: Yes and no. And this despite the fact that, on one level, Ridley Scott is like any good artist Ė he always wants to make it better. I mean, there does seem to be a particular breed of artist whoís never satisfied with what theyíve done. Same thing for Ridley on BR, which could be one reason why there are so many different versions of Blade Runner out there. Ridleyís like a artist working in charcoal, erasing a line he doesnít like before sketching a new one in. And since 1991 and the Directorís Cut, Ridleyís been erasing or enhancing strokes he didnít like about BR. Thatís kind of interesting in another way, too, because Ridleyís tweaking has made Blade Runner an organic piece that keeps changing as the years go by. And as it changes some peopleís perceptions of it change as well. Personally, I think thatís a good place to be; you stay hungry. And Ridley was certainly hungry to do the best possible job with Blade Runner Ė at least while he was working on it. Because another of his traits is that Ridleyís always looking forward to the next thing, not backwards at the last project. Thatís just the way he is.
So when you ask me if Ridleyís surprised at the growing popularity of Blade Runner, the first thing you have to remember is that Ridleyís gaze is usually pointed forward, not back. Which means he really didnít give BR a lot of thought while he was making things like Legend and Someone to Watch Over Me or some of his other later films. Heís also obviously not going to have the same degree of nostalgia or objectivity towards Blade Runner that people who were on the outside of the process of making it have towards the film. Because Ridley lived through it, in a way you and I will never know. So I suppose itís understandable that, for years, Ridleyís attitude was, "OK, Iíve done that. Iíve done Blade Runner. Time to move on." For awhile there, I think whenever Ridley thought about BR, even though he was pretty sure in his own head heíd made a good film, the lack of enthusiasm greeting BR on its initial release made Ridley question his talents a bit. He says as much in RS: Close-Up.
But to be more specific, I think Ridley, although he certainly knew there was a buzz about Blade Runner, was unaware to a certain extent of just how loud that buzz had become. And because Ridleyís now at a certain point in his life and career, itís only been recently that heís been willing to look back on that career and reassess what he has done. Like being able to do audio commentaries on DVDís of his work. That technology just seems to have come along at the right time in his personal development, you know?
I think what Ridleyís had to carry with him for many years were the scars left by Blade Runnerís initial failure. Not only with audiences, but its financial failure, which can really impact a mainstream director. Letís face it, Hollywood is this crazy arena of art and commerce - but commerce is the engine that drives the art. And the only way many directors get a chance to do another film is if the previous one made money, or at least broke . So Ridley had to live with the fact of Blade Runnerís failure for many years. And it really was a failure back in 1982. A mega-flop, in fact. I mean, hereís this Harrison Ford science fiction thriller released in a year stuffed with science fiction films, and bingo - nothing happened.
Anyway, I think that rattled him very much. Remember, Ridley went on to do Legend after BR, which was also difficult to make and a box-office dud. And as he told me in the Ridley Scott book , after Legend Ridley had a real crisis of confidence. He was thinking to himself, "Gee, do I really have what it takes? Or am I just going to make movies that nobody wants to see?". So another reason Ridley may have keep quiet about Blade Runner through the 1980ís and early 1990ís was this element of self-doubt; most people really donít want to dwell on what they perceive as their failures. Even if they havenít really failed at all.. But now I think enough time has gone by that Ridley can finally see BR for what it really is.
GW: If you donít mind my repeating myself, I really was struck by the way you managed to cram so much information into Future Noir.
PS: That strategy is nothing new for me; Future Noir is not an isolated example of my penchant for heavy detailing. Or over-detailing, as some might say (laughs).As far back as the late 70ís and early 80ís, when I was writing for Cinefantastique, I did a number of double issues for that magazine where Iíd churn out thirty or forty page-long articles on individual films. You see, my non-fiction literary tactic has always been to follow a "scorched earth policy". Like the American combat troops did in Vietnam Ė when Iím finished moving through a village, thereís nothing let but ashes.
GW: When you were walking through Ridleyville, did you have a tape recorder that you made comments to yourself?
PS: Yes, always. As I alluded to earlier.
GW: Iím just trying to imagine how you would have so much detail in all of your articles and your books.
Paul with the slug PS: Itís mostly heavy-duty research, which is something I really love. Iím always more than happy to get in there and play factual archeologist. But when you do the kind of books I do, like Future Noir or Ridley Scott Close Up or The Making of Starship Troopers or my upcoming The Complete Aliens, which examines all four of the movies in the Alien Saga, well, when you do that sort of thing, you really must develop the proper disciplines. First, to be there at the moment, and second, to grab that moment right as it happens. How you do that is up to you. It could involve just talking into a tape recorder as you watch shots being filmed, or grabbing someone to interview about that setup the moment the crew moves on to a new setup, or setting up a telephone interview later. So I get what I get by doing my homework, and by keeping my eyes and ears open while things are going on. For Future Noir, I also did a lot of follow-up interviews.
But thereís another reason why I get the information I do in my books. A big part of it is because Iím fortunate enough to be both an insider and an outsider in the film business. I mean, I work in the industry, and have done so for over twenty years. So I understand its protocols. But Iím also a hardcore film buff. And I think my enthusiasm, about film, plus, to be fair, my fairly extensive knowledge of film history and film technology, immediately puts a lot of the moviemaking people Iím interviewing at their ease. Again, itís kind of like theyíre thinking, "Oh, weíre from the same tribe." I also have never, ever written a piece solely to embarrass somebody. Some of the folks I talk to when I have my writing hat on already know this, and itís a lot easier to get people to open up when they trust you. Especially if they know youíre not out to do anything to them that will approach, as I said earlier, the current journalistic attitude of self-glorification.
But the bottom line? I guess Iím just lucky. I love what Iím doing. And I think that when that emotion is communicated to an interview subject, it makes it much easier for the person to open up and talk to me.
GW: So you basically took your notes on a hand-held tape recorder while you were watching Blade Runner being filmed?
PS: Absolutely. Tape recorders are great tools. So whether Iím part of the crew or whether Iím coming in from the outside to report on a movie, I always walk around muttering to myself. In fact, my recorder usually becomes something of a running joke. At first the crew thinks, "Who is this nut?", and Iíll get strange looks behind my back. But then they usually catch on. That happened on Blade Runner, in fact. One night on the New York Street set, I was walking by the grip truck, taking verbal notes. Then these three guys Ė whoíd Iíd made friends with by that time - all leaned out of the truck together, cupped their palms to their mouths, and started whispering to themselves, like they were making their own notes. (both laugh). That was kind of cute. But blabbing into a machine by yourself all day long does tend to make people curious. Or nervous! (laughs)
GW: I just couldnít imagine any other way for you to get that kind of detail.
PS: Really, itís just hard work. There is no way around that.
GW: Iím excited about BRís upcoming 20th anniversary, and wonder what will really happen.
PS: Well, I think itís a safe bet to say that the 20th anniversary, will create some new spin-off merchandise. And of course Scott Free and Warners have been working on coming up with a completely different BR DVD to mark the occasion, as weíve already talked about, which may contain a lot of new stuff. But you know, the appearance of that DVD in 2002 worries me a bit.
GW: Why?
PS: Well, if this DVD becomes the last, definitive word on the film, what then? Where does everyone go? Do you know what I mean? What will happen if, by 2002, everything that can be released regarding Blade Runner has been finally dumped on the marketplace? Maybe people will then tire of the film. Or, at least, find that their curiosity about Blade Runner has been satiated.
Will this mean that BR will then slip in popularity? You know, there once was an American philosopher named George Santayana, who once perceptively argued that, "Complete understanding extinguishes enjoyment". I thoroughly agree with that insight. Itís the type of wisdom that makes me wonder if all this new information on Blade Runner thatís been coming out Ė my book included - might not slowly be pushing the film into the "enjoyment extinguished" corner. Maybe people will actually begin to get bored with BR, once they have every scrap of information they can glean on the subject. Or maybe the release of this wealth of new BR material, of which the 2002 DVD will be a major part, will jumpstart a whole new wave of interest in the film. Itíll be interesting to see which way the ball bounces on that one.
GW: That never occurred to me - Iím still dealing with 18 year- old information! Where the excitement for me comes from is discovering new information on BR. Then again, as you say, if I had everything, or knew everything about Blade RunnerÖI guess itís sort of like someone starting a quest to collect all records of the Beatles. Then they finally collect them all. Whatís left?
PS: Exactly. To pull something off another pop-culture shelf, itís like the dilemma Professor Van Helsing faced at the climax of Dracula. I mean, Van Helsingís entire existence is tilted towards the eradication of the Count. But once he kills Dracula, then what?
GW: Was there anything unusual happening on the set of Blade Runner that hasnít been touched on before?
PS: Let me answer that question in the expanded Future Noir! (laughs) But I do recall one thing. One night my wife and I were watching BR being shot on the Warners backlot, in Ridleyville, and Ridley was setting up a master shot of Deckard and Gaff stepping out from the overhang of a building onto the curb of a street corner. They then had to look up at another building, which was supposed to be Leonís hotel.
Now, the usual crowd of onlookers was already everywhere - that used to really piss Ridley off, the way so many strangers would show up every night just to stand around and ogle the set. Anyway, Sherri (my wife) and I needed to cross part of this set to get to a better viewing position . So we stepped out of the crowd into the middle of the street and scurried across an open space Ė and suddenly, from out of nowhere, these horrendous curses started flying down at us at from about 20 feet up in the air! And it was Ridley! We hadnít spotted him earlier, but he was up on a scaffolding looking through the camera and lining up the shot - and weíd stepped right into his frame! That did not exactly endear us to Blade Runnerís director that night.
GW: It really made him angry?
PS: Yes. Probably because weíd broken his concentration, or delayed things for a minute or two. Frankly, Iím surprised we didnít get thrown off the set that evening. The vibe got very nasty! So Sherri and I basically just sort of melted right back into the crowd of onlookers again, so Ridley couldnít find us! (laughs) But that really was the only time during the entire shoot I rubbed Ridley the wrong way. And it was totally unintentional. However, getting chewed out by Ridley Scott in front of hundreds of people was certainly an interesting learning experience. Thatís what you say when something shitty happens to you in the film business, by the way. Itís never a bad thing Ė itís a learning experience! (laughs)
GW: Any other set stories?
PS: Mostly, a lot of covering the making of Blade Runner involved watching a bunch of other people torture themselves with a lot of hard work. Ridley, the crew, the cast, they just about killed themselves for that show. And since I was always there, it got pretty wearying for me too.
To give you an idea, I was working at Universal at the time, and every day, whenever it started to get dark, I would "go over the hill" from Universal to The Burbank Studios, which is what they used to call Warners back in 1981. Iíd be working all day at one studio, then take off my coat and tie and pull on a T-shirt and pair of jeans, hop in my car, charge over to Warners and stay there all night. I ended up averaging the same amount of sleep as the people on the production got, which wasnít much. About 3 or 4 hours Ė maybe five hours of sleep on a good night. But the experience was so fantastic I felt like I was sleep-deprived anyway! (laughs)
GW: Do you think thereís ever been someone left out of the Blade Runner discussions who really helped the film?
PS: I do think one person who never gets enough credit for what he did on Blade Runner was Ivor Powell, the associate producer. Well, Ivor has an associate producer credit on the film, but he really was a BR "line producer". In fact, Powell was more or less Ridleyís ongoing, in-house line producer for a good while. Ivor worked with Ridley on The Duellists, he worked with Ridley on Alien, and he definitely was around when Ridley was getting his commercials career going. So he had a lot to do with supporting Ridleyís visions on their journeys to the screen.
Whatís interesting about Ivor is that heís a hard-core science fiction fan. His first real film job was on 2001, in the art department. He was a young man at that time, basically just out of school, and he wound up working with Stanley Kubrick on a legendary SF film. But Ivorís a reader of the literature as well; heís quite familiar with the works of Arthur C. Clark and Ray Bradbury and other masters of the genre.
One of my favorite Blade Runner memories, in fact, involves Ivor and I spending hours one night walking around Ridleyville during a particularly long setup, and talking to each other about how great it would be if someone, someday, would do a faithful film of Alfred Besterís novel "The Stars of My Destination". Weíre both huge fans of that book.
GW: Isnít that about a man deserted and left to die in space?
PS: Yeah, thatís how it starts. Actually, Besterís novel is a rather clever futuristic reworking of The Count of Monte Cristo. Anyway, Ivor and I would talk all night long about this stuff. Which is part of what was great about being there while BR was being filmed; itís not every day one gets an opportunity to meet the unsung heroes of a project.Of course, at the end of the day, the biggest hero on BR was Ridley Scott. Yes, the film never would have existed without the Philip K. Dick source material, or without Hampton and Davidís script, and without all the actors and production folks who were involved in making it. They all definitely put their own fingerprints on the film. But in terms of Blade Runnerís presentation, or the world that was created for it - thatís totally Ridley. Ridley Scottís world.
GW: It certainly much different than "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep". Not better - the film is not better than the book. Itís just different.
PS: What Iíve always found remarkable about BR was how it was able to retain some of "Androidís" central thematic concerns without falling back on a slavish transcription of Dickís book. I mean, Blade Runner definitely captures Dickís sense of paranoia, and the sense of strangeness that was in Philís other work, as well as Dickís obsession with artificial people. Some of Dickís other societal concerns, like the criticisms of our contemporary culture that were usually featured in his work, were at least cinematically alluded to in Blade Runner as well. But not, as I said, in a word-by- word sense. Blade Runner wasnít made by the sort of folks who know the exact number of buttons on Captain Kirkís uniform, and then get upset if the same number doesnít show up on the costume William Shatnerís wearing for the latest Trek movie.
Blade Runner was made by people with respect for its source material, "Electric Sheep." That attitude seemed to really infect Hampton and David and Ridley, if only on the unconscious level. They really seemed to basically respect what they were working with Ė even if Ridley never finished reading Dickís book! (laughs). Anyway, that respect made an enormous difference to the film. You know, there are these things that get made I call "mortgage movies". But Blade Runner absolutely wasnít one of them.
GW: What do you mean by "mortgage movies?"
PS: Oh, thatís just a silly little phrase I invented to describe movies made strictly for a paycheck. Which is fine up to a point - a guyís gotta eat, you know? The film business is just like any other job or service-related industry that way, in that the majority of the folks working in it have bills to pay. Not everyone snares the big million dollar, ten million dollar, twenty million dollar contracts, you know. Very, very few do. Consequently, people who work in the movie industry have to send out checks at the end of the month Ė for their mortgages - like the rest of us. Ergo, the term mortgage movies. Which today covers way too much Hollywood product, sadly. A lot of films get made simply because their makers needed the cash that went along with shooting it.
I donít think anyone will be shocked by that statement. At least, they shouldnít be. I do find it tremendously amusing, though, that even after a hundred years of hard lessons, some people still refuse to understand that the bottom line in motion pictures, at least in the American studios, is money and power. Not art. Itís never been art. Well, maybe in the late Sixties. But that was a blip, gone in a nanosecond. And Hollywood is still all about money and power.
Happily, Ridley Scott wasnít exactly hard up in 1982, and Blade Runner definitely wasnít a mortgage movie. That, I think, is reflected by BRís longevity.
GW: Well, thatís about it. I want to thank you for your candor and your time.
PS: Youíre welcome. But can I say one last thing?
GW: Sure.
PS Thanks. I just wanted to go on the record as stating that not only am I appreciative of the people whoíve reacted so warmly and enthusiastically to Future Noir, I also enjoy meeting these people. I mean, I do occasional lectures and public appearances for Future Noir and my other projects, books and films, and I really, really like talking with the folks who show up at these things.
GW: The Bladezone Fans would be very interested in your schedule of lectures, where youíll be talking next. It doesnít necessarily have to be about Blade Runner. For instance, you mentioned you had three new books coming out, one about Mr. Scott.
ALIEN Illustrated PS: Actually, now that I think about it, I should have said four new books. 20th Century Fox recently licensed out the rights to reprint all four of the Alien filmís screenplays in book form, and Iím sort of the editor on that. The first one has just come out in the United Kingdom, in fact, from Orion Publishing. Itís called Alien, The Illustrated Screenplay. I contributed a fairly lengthy academic / critical introduction to that, detailing the history of the Alien script, and why that particular film continues to resonate with so many people. I also persuaded Ridley to do a Forward. Then I wrote a wrap-up chapter detailing what was cut out of the Alien script, or what was filmed for that picture and then edited out of the movie.
This particular book should be appearing in the states later this year, or the beginning of next year. Itís already available in England-you can order it over the Web by contacting Amazon Books UK. Iím happy with that project. Itís a very nice book. Hardcover, full color, a lot of stills. All related to the Alien screenplay.
GW: Most sci-fi fans are interested in Alien too.
PS: Well, funny you should say that, because, as Iíve already mentioned a couple of times, thatís my next big project! Itís a book called The Complete Aliens. Iíve been working on it for almost five years! It went through some evolutionary bumps along the way-one problem was that my publisher, Harper-Collins, downsized just as I was finishing the book up. They trimmed down on a lot of their varying departments, sliced away at their personnel, and I lost my original editor. So that put that particular book on hold for awhile. Iím hoping it finally will come out sometime next year, in 2001.
GW: What approach are you taking with The Complete Aliens?
PS: Basically, The Complete Aliens takes the same approach I used with Future Noir. Except that this time I examine all four Alien films, not just one Blade Runner. And if people liked the appendices in Future Noir (laughs)Öwell, if you think there was a lot of supplemental material at the end of "Future Noir", waitíll you see The Complete Aliens! It has ten appendices! I list every goddamn Alien garage kit, every Xenomorph model, all the books and magazine articles, each Alien-related soundtrackÖitís been crazy, uncovering all that information!
Anyway, my last new project will also see print next year. Orion in England will be publishing Aliens The Illustrated Screenplay. I edited that one, too. Wrote an Introduction and Script Cuts chapter for it, and managed to convince Jim Cameron to write a Foreword for the thing. As far as personal appearances go, in late October (2000), Cult Movies magazine and Hollywood Book and Poster will be sponsoring a Cult-Movie Con at the Roosevelt Hotel, in Hollywood. I and Joanna Cassidy will be there. Joe Turkel and Bill Sanderson will be there too.Weíll all be speaking and doing signings.
GW: William Sanderson is a real friend of BladeZone.
James Hong with Paul PS: Billís terrific. A really sweet guy. You know, he and Brion James and James Hong and I did some personal appearances and convention lectures back in 1996 when Future Noir first came out, to help promote the book. That was fun.
GW: Brion James? Heís such a big guy.
PS: Yeah. Brion was a character. I really miss him! He was a hardcore movie fan, you know. I think his dad owned a local theater in Beaumont California, and Brion kind of grew up in the projector booth. He was movie-mad. Like me.
GW: You mentioned Joe Turkel appearing at the Cult Movies Con. As Iím sure you know, Mr. Turkel was interviewed by BladeZone and had some negative things to say about you and Future Noir. How do you feel about that?
PS: Well, first, I hold no ill feelings towards Joe. Iíve always admired his work. Not just in Blade Runner or his turn as Lloyd the bartender in The Shining, either. Turkelís been working in films since the 1950ís, maybe even late Forties, and heís done some really good films for an interesting variety of directors like Roger Corman and Bert Gordon. But unfortunately, Turkel seems to have convinced himself that Iím something that Iím not.
GW: What do you mean?
PS: Well, shortly before the whole Cult Movies Con thing got going, I heard that Joe was really angry about what Iíd written about him in Future Noir. So I went back and reread that passage. Here it is: "This author was unable to locate or interview Joe Turkel for his thoughts on Blade Runner. But in 1995, a rumor surfaced that Turkel had passed away. I have been unable to verify his death, however."
Now, I thought that was pretty evenhanded. But Joe didnít. Apparently, he was upset that Iíd mentioned the rumor, which was told to me by about 6 different people, by the way. What Joe didnít know is that as early as 1994, when I was pulling together the follow-up interviews for the book, Iíd asked a lot of these people if anyone knew where Joe was. And nobody did. I then called the Screen Actorís Guild a couple of times to see if I could find Joeís agent, but I struck out there, too.
To make a long story short, I finally got hold of Turkelís number in the fall of this year (2000) and called him to apologize. The first words out of my mouth were that I was sorry if Iíd caused him any upset, because it was totally unintentional. Then I said that Iíd tried to repeatedly find him back in 1994/95 but couldnít. Finally, I invited him to dinner at Musso and Frankís, on me, as a goodwill gesture. Joeís response was to start yelling and call me names. "Liar", amongst others. I guess that was because he didnít believe Iíd asked around or called SAG about him. But come on, Joe - Future Noir was my 8th book, Iíve been in films since the 1970ís, I know how to find people, and I sure as hell tracked down a lot of other folks through SAG for Future Noir. So why should I suddenly forget to call SAG about you? And I really wanted to talk to him about Tyrell for Future Noir, you know?
Anyway, our conversation over the phone quickly became weird and unpleasant. I remained polite, though. I even called him back, after Joe hung up on me! (laughs). Whereupon he threatened to have me arrested if I ever called him again! (laughs) At that point I gave up and thought, "Well, gee, Mr. Turkel, I guess thatís that. Goodbye. Have a great life. And thanks for being so professionalÖ"(laughs)
But, you know, Joeís welcome to his opinion. All I can say is that the majority of people I talked to about Blade Runner get along very well with me, even today. And I have indeed read what Turkel said about me in the BladeZone interview him. My only responses to those words are, Bladezoners, take what you read about me in Mr. Turkelís interview with a grain of salt." Funnily enough, I still harbor no ill-will towards the guy. Maybe heís just one of those people who sees conspiracies everywhere, you know? But thatís the Turkel story. The true one.
GW: Well, Mr. Sammon, weíre getting close to the end here. Do you have any last thoughts?
PS: Well, talking about Future Noir so much today has given me an idea for a pretty self-serving request (laughs). But here goesÖ
If there is any college or university out there interested in sponsoring a Blade Runner lecture with me, I can give a very good one to two hour talk on the subject. I certainly have all the supplementary material - slides, video, that type of thing. And Iíve done a lot of public speaking in the past 20 years. So if any college student would like me to appear on their campus, they should get in touch with whoever books lectures at their college, and let those powers-that-be know that Iím available. Those lecture-bookers could then email or otherwise contact BladeZone with their requests - if thatís all right with you?
Anyway, thatís it. Howís that for shameless self-promotion! (laughs). I guess itís all those years of marketing coming back at me. But seriously, do you think BladeZone would mind forwarding lecture requests like that on to me?
GW: Oh, no! Iím sure Universities and Colleges that have film lecture series would be interested in this topic!
PS: Well, Iíll go anywhere - as long as they pay. (both laugh)
GW: Thank you so much again, Paul.
PS: Thank you! Itís been a pleasure. Have a better one.
The End
Paul Sammon photo album
Paul in Mocking Birds Dont Sing Paul in Robocop Paul in Starship Troopers
Paul with Robby & Gort
Paul with a friend in 1986
Paul as producer
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