How Ridley Scott Turned Footage From the Beginning of The Shining Into the End of Blade Runner

Flop­ping in 1982 but ulti­mate­ly accru­ing more crit­i­cal acclaim and cinephile esteem than per­haps any oth­er sci­ence-fic­tion film, Blade Run­ner, star­ring Har­ri­son Ford and Sean Young, has become the quin­tes­sen­tial mod­ern exam­ple of a work of art before its time. Direc­tor Rid­ley Scott, a true cin­e­mat­ic prag­ma­tist, had his sus­pi­cions about the film’s box-office fate even dur­ing pro­duc­tion: “The fact is, if you are ahead of your time, that’s as bad as being behind the times, near­ly.” “You’ve still got the same prob­lem. I’m all about try­ing to fix the prob­lem.” He and his team decid­ed they could fix one “prob­lem” in par­tic­u­lar: the film’s ambigu­ous end­ing, which appar­ent­ly left cold those who saw it. So cast and crew went to Big Bear Lake, where they shot a new sequence of Ford and Young escap­ing into the moun­tains. “I did­n’t know how long we’d have togeth­er,” says Ford’s pro­tag­o­nist Rick Deck­er, in the final words of his faux-hard boiled explana­to­ry voice-over. “Who does?”

The tight shots inside Deck­er’s fly­ing car, built to soar across a dark, dense, neon-lined post-Japan­i­fi­ca­tion Los Ange­les but now cruis­ing incon­gru­ous­ly through a lush for­est, came out okay. Alas, cloudy weath­er ruined all the wide-angle footage cap­tured at greater dis­tances. Scott remem­bered that Stan­ley Kubrick­’s The Shin­ing, a cou­ple years before, had opened with just the sort of over­head moun­tain dri­ving imagery he need­ed.

This gave him an idea: Kubrick “must’ve done a blan­ket shoot of every peak in Mon­tana for The Shin­ing using the best heli­copter crew. I’ll bet you he’s got weeks of heli­copter footage.” He did indeed have plen­ti­ful out­takes and a will­ing­ness to hand them over, which meant the first ver­sion of Blade Run­ner in wide release end­ed with shots from the very same pho­tog­ra­phy ses­sions that pro­duced the begin­ning of The Shin­ing. For all the inge­nu­ity that went into it, this rel­a­tive­ly hap­py end­ing still, in a sense, wound up on the cut­ting room floor. Excised along with that wide­ly dis­liked voice-over as new cuts and releas­es restored the pic­ture to its orig­i­nal form, it gave way to the orig­i­nal­ly script­ed end­ing, with its much more suit­able (and mem­o­rable) final line deliv­ered by Edward James Olmos as Deckard’s col­league Gaff: “It’s too bad she won’t live, but then again, who does?”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Mak­ing of Blade Run­ner

Blade Run­ner is a Waste of Time: Siskel & Ebert in 1982

Philip K. Dick Pre­views Blade Run­ner: “The Impact of the Film is Going to be Over­whelm­ing” (1981)

The Blade Run­ner Sketch­book: The Orig­i­nal Art of Syd Mead and Rid­ley Scott Online

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (4)
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  • viktoriana says:

    awww, Sean Young, always such a cool doll ! love her

  • Jack Meyer says:

    Dear Rid­ley Scott — STOP MESSING WITH YOUR OLD MOVIES!nnYour re-release of Leg­end with­out the orig­i­nal sound­track fea­tur­ing Bri­an Eno, Yes, and Tan­ger­ine Dream effec­tive­ly ruined the movie. Like­wise, Blade Run­ner gets worse and more pre­ten­tious with every sub­se­quent rework­ing. You should have left it at the first go. You know, the one every­one came to see in the first place.nnSTOP, PLEASE! NO MORE! Quit while you’re ahead!

  • cjbussey says:

    His name is DECKARD, and none of this is exact­ly news to the true fans who’ve seen the Final Cut DVD and its spe­cial fea­tures that was released SIX YEARS AGO.nnnCut-and-paste “jour­nal­ism” at its finest.

  • kenoi says:

    Some­one’s got Luc­a­sitis… >.<’ It’s a rare con­di­tion that affects only movie direc­tors, and there’s no known cure (oth­er than to dis­tance the direc­tor from his own movies alto­geth­er).

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