Because The Future Has Arrived
November 5, 2019 7:40 PM   Subscribe

An Oral History Of Blade Runner's 2019 Los Angeles, a long-ish read from LAist, featuring screenwriter Hampton Fancher, visual futurist Syd Mead, production executive Katy Haber, and art director David L. Snyder about creating the the future that will soon be the past.
posted by hippybear (20 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
”The first thing Ridley said out of his mouth was, ’This is not going to be Logan's Run.’ I thought, ’Well, that gives me a clue.’”

Thank goodness for that. “The Future” in Logan’s Run is Disneyfied Dystopia. Clean and antiseptic on the inside, tranquil and pristine on the outside.

Blade Runner’s version of the future doesn’t look dated even now because they weren't trying to guess what the future looked like. They went to the past and mishmashed a bunch of styles and decades together. It’s hard to describe, but you never feel lost in Blade Runner’s version of 2019 because it feels like a pastiche of various decades all jumbled together.

p.s. There is no Sanctuary.
posted by zooropa at 8:45 PM on November 5, 2019 [10 favorites]

An even deeper dive from Vanity Fair in 2017, covering some of the same ground but including others involved (Scott amongst them). Similar length to the first link.
posted by hippybear at 9:15 PM on November 5, 2019

“The Future” in Logan’s Run is Disneyfied Dystopia. Clean and antiseptic on the inside, tranquil and pristine on the outside.

Imagine the present only when everyone who is older than 30 is dead and has been dead for a few decades because of the Logan's Run premise!
posted by hippybear at 10:26 PM on November 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

We kept on going, as black budgets, or whatever. So we've been to Mars and back — manned missions — already, two times.

Would you like to know more? Because I know I'd like to know more about this throwaway line from Mead.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:17 AM on November 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

After Alien and Bladerunner (and even Legend) , I really thought that Ridley Scott was going to be one of the great directors and somewhat sad that he turned out to be a very talented craftsperson. He's obviously directed some solid movies since then but nothing that comes close to his second and third films.
posted by octothorpe at 4:56 AM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed this very much. Bladerunner in all of it various forms is one of my favorite movies of all time. I almost cried with relief when 2049 turned out to be just as good. One thing I wonder about in this article, was the guy they interviewed saying Zorah's death scene would have been better if she smashed into a bus?! Because, no, just no way. That scene was cinematic perfection. So beautiful, and so sad, making us feel for Zorah, and giving her a beauty and a fragility that is unique to living things. I think it's a pivotal point for Deckhart's character arc. Having her smash into a bus would have been a ruination.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:49 AM on November 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

It is tempting to say “the thing I loved is perfect and any change would be like crossing the streams,” but then I think about the other timelines where I’m a sixty-foot tall laser robot or the mummy of Art Carney and I realize ... it might have been awesome too. Especially when the person making the suggestion was one of the people that made the movie. I would definitely be up for a few cross-time jumps to watch some Alternate Bladerunners, especially the one done by Kubrick...
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:26 AM on November 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Related post from last week
posted by DrAstroZoom at 6:51 AM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

The myth that William Gibson walked out of Blade Runner while writing Neuromancer isn't really true, but he notes that Scott/Mead were completely spot on:
"But the simplest and most radical thing that Ridley Scott did in Blade Runner was to put urban archaeology in every frame. It hadn’t been obvious to mainstream American science fiction that cities are like compost heaps—just layers and layers of stuff. In cities, the past and the present and the future can all be totally adjacent. In Europe, that’s just life—it’s not science fiction, it’s not fantasy. But in American science fiction, the city in the future was always brand-new, every square inch of it."
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:26 AM on November 6, 2019 [11 favorites]

I ask Siri, "Do you dream of electric sheep?" She replies: "Flying."

Maybe she was still half asleep.
posted by SoberHighland at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

My main takeaway from this is that Syd Mead is a conspiracy theorist, which I did not expect at all.
posted by adamrice at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2019

My takeaway was that he was a dedicated futurist who became disappointed in where we ended up. I have melancholy feelings about that; it is sad to see artistic romantics get their hearts so deeply broken.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:34 AM on November 6, 2019

I took a set design from Syd Mead through UCLA Extension years ago. He was the humblest, kindest instructor, a mentor who stays with you long after the class is over. He was so self-effacing about his work, and so pragmatic advising his students. He brought a number of his colleagues as guest speakers, and had them critique our set designs as a group. Mead begged the class before hand not to "desperation mob" his friends, but most people in the class did just that. He recommended women directors as some of the most competent and undeservedly underpaid in Hollywood. He and his critique group were really supportive of my home made, camera-centric set over most of the other student projects; I felt so proud. Still love the man.

Ridley Scott remains one of my favorite directors after all these years. I think he still makes really terrific films. Film fashion has moved on to market blockbusters rather than the type of film Scott makes. Character development, rich sets, great script with a set of problems. His films are not popular because he embraces controversy; Thelma and Louise in the time of Terminator and Kingdom of Heaven in the time of 9/11. He is a sort of pariah. His work is visually quoted by so many directors it has become cliche. I think the works of his that have been franchised don't even approach his original works, and I am glad to have been a part of the cultural soup that experienced them in real time.

One last memory I will share: I attended an early screening of Promethus at 10 am at the Grove. Much to my complete shock, he was standing at the door to the movie booth, opened the door for me, and bowed. I was stunned.

Happy birthday R-Man. You're the best.
posted by effluvia at 10:48 AM on November 6, 2019 [14 favorites]

But in American science fiction, the city in the future was always brand-new, every square inch of it

That's not actually true. In fact one author in particular, Cordwainer Smith, set his major works in a grimy multilayered city where manufactured "underpeople" slaved to support the often sybaritic lifestyles of "real" humans living high above them. Like Bladerunner, many of these stories are concerned with the nature of personal identity and personal authenticity. If Smith's Instrumentality stories weren't an influence on Bladerunner it can only be because these ideas were already part of the common SF canon.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:52 AM on November 6, 2019

The saga of the making of Blade Runner is a fascinating story in itself. I'd thought that Sammon's book 'Future Noir' was the last word, but this story & the Vanity Fair essay add more depth to the picture.
posted by ovvl at 5:29 PM on November 6, 2019

But in American science fiction,
That's not actually true.

I can find lots of counterfactuals, too, but the general observation is a little revelatory and pertaining to a certain age of scifi where everything is shiny and clean. The legacy lives on in Apple-white aesthetics in real life.

In the same vein of, 'The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.', there's nothing to preclude the co-existence of both a grungy lived-in future and an aseptic-new future in the same "universe."

I'm sure some parts of the offworld colonies are pretty nice.

'Alien' and 'Prometheus' are set in the same universe, but Prometheus is definitely more shiny than the Nostromo.
posted by porpoise at 6:04 PM on November 6, 2019

I almost cried with relief when 2049 turned out to be just as good.

Sorry, I can't go there with you. I remember the distinct feeling of relief, of "OK, this is going to be good" during the beginning after the snowballing disappointments of Prometheus and Covenant. The look was awesome and totally matched the same world. I loved Dave Bautista and thought Robin Wright and Ryan Gosling did strong work. But as is so often the case Jared Leto ruining big parts of the movie for me and I thought the replicants having babies thing was dumb.

a certain age of scifi where everything is shiny and clean

This was one of my (many!) issues with the Star Wars prequels (and Prometheus and Covenant). What kind of pan-galactic cataclysm happened over ~20 years to turn everything from clean and shiny to grimy and run down?
posted by kirkaracha at 10:38 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I thought the replicants having babies thing was dumb.

Yeah, I will have to agree with you on that point. But it didn't ruin the film for me, so I still think of it as a huge relief. I'm saying this as someone coming off a LONG string of my favorite movies being just total shit in their sequels (Yes, I'm talking about the Star Wars films amoung others).
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:43 PM on November 7, 2019

Definitely another "relief it wasn't bad."

I can't know, but if 2049 was a standalone movie and I had never seen BR, I would have liked it but not loved it. It was a sequel to BR in both in-universe and our-universe financial reasons movies are made, and I can grudgingly love it

In BR, the viewer hasn't yet formed an opinion on replicants, in 2049 we bring along our preconceptions and the babies/ slave-uprising arc wasn't completely satisfying to me.

In 1982, medical science could have advanced to where making replicants was possible by 2019. In 2019, we know that replicants aren't possible in 2019 and whether it'd be possible to the extent shown by 2049, it depends on a lot of of details.

I was ok with pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo What about EMS-3 recombination? We've already tried it - ethyl, methane, sulfinate as an alkylating agent and potent mutagen; it created a virus so lethal the subject was dead before it even left the table.

Depending on how replicants are created and the molecular method(s) of enforcing sterility, the baby thing may or may not be possible, depending on a lot of details. "Life finds a way" but in reality, you need either very fast replication times and/ or very large replication multipliers.
posted by porpoise at 7:12 PM on November 7, 2019

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