GW: Thank you for your time for this interview, Mr. Sammon
Paul Sammon in "On The Edge of Blade Runner" © Channel 4.
PS : No problem. Feel free to ask whatever you want.
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
The two faces of Future Noir
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
GW: But one of the
things I like about Future Noir is its voice, the way you shaped the
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
GW: What about Alien?
That was a huge success, and Mr.Scott made it years before Blade
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!
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
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
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
GW: What was your relationship with Harrison
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
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?
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
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
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
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
GW: Blade Runner could
have turned into something like "Dick Tracy", the Warren Beatty,
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
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
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
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.
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
GW: This seems to be
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
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
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:
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
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
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
GW: Iím just trying to
imagine how you would have so much detail in all of your articles
and your books.
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
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.
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
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
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!
GW: Any other set
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
GW: What do you
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
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
PS: Thank you!
Itís been a pleasure. Have a better one.