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.

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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).

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.