In 1996, the publication of my book Future Noir was something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it was gratifying to see the volume warmly greeted by those who, like myself, find Blade Runner a fascinating, influential, and unique motion picture. So ebullient was the reception given Future Noir, in fact, that since its initial appearance, I've more than once found myself touched by the genuine enthusiasm the book seems to have aroused in its readership. For that, I thank you - all of you. The kind comments and compliments you've expressed regarding The Making of Blade Runner are much appreciated; they've left me grateful, humbled, and surer than ever that, no matter what the blinkered pundits may claim about the sterility of contemporary life, the truth of the matter is that we still live in a world with plenty of room for affection and respect.
But there was also a downside to the publication of Future Noir - at least, for its author. Although my book has now gone through multiple printings in the United States (as well as being translated into Japanese, Italian and other foreign languages), the Future Noir which is currently out there is not the book I originally wrote. That effort is an edited version, shorn of almost 300 pages just before publication, mostly for economic reasons.
The deletions? Entire chapters and appendices, whose excise forced me to launch a frantic 11th-hour effort to salvage what I could of the removed material. For instance, dozens of pages were compressed into single paragraphs. Other, more discrete material was forced into sections of the book where I felt they really didn't belong. Worse, huge chunks of text were dropped altogether.
Among the outright deletions was a separate appendix entitled "The Blade Runner Data File", a catch-all section filled with the type of trivia that did not qualify for inclusion in Future Noir's other appendices. As for the cut-down sections, most radically shortened was the chapter on Blade Runner's special effects, which, as it now stands, only includes about 25% of the information I'd been able to gather on BR's visual trickery. And then there was the chapter on Blade Runner's crew.
Of all the last-minute edits I was forced to perform on Future Noir, losing the book's crew chapter was the most difficult. It's no secret that I make my living working on and/or writing about motion pictures, and no one is more aware, or more appreciative, of the hard, hard labor any film crew devotes to the movie on which they're currently employed. To then see a full chapter celebrating that dedication chopped down to a few random sentences scattered throughout Future Noir (the reason why some of the information you're about to encounter may seem already familiar to you), was more than a frustrating experience - it was painful.
That's why it's my great pleasure to announce that, thanks to the kind efforts of 2019: Off-world, I'm now able to reproduce, in full, one of Future Noir's previously deleted chapters - and yes, it's the one about the crew. Nothing has been changed or rewritten, although two footnotes (concerning the death of Jordan Cronenweth, Blade Runner's Director of Cinematography, and actor Brion James) has been added to the body of this text. That addition can be identified by its bold print and the fact that it has two asterisks before it. Otherwise, what you are going to read is exactly what I presented to Harper Collins in late 1995.
One final note - there now may be hope for the resurrection of Future Noir's other textual elisions as well. Plans are afoot to republish my book in an expanded, more heavily illustrated version in 2002, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Blade Runner's original release. I'm crossing my fingers; I'll also keep you, and Off-world 2019, posted as to the progress of this project.
Until then, I hope you enjoy this "orphan chapter" of Future Noir - and come away from it with a bit more appreciation for the creative, backbreaking, groundbreaking work put into Blade Runner by its supremely talented crew.
Paul M. Sammon
July 6, 2000
Los Angeles, CA
See also: the preface to this document.
"A lot of people didn't like Ridley - I guess that 'll come out in your book - but I liked him very much. He's one of the two most creative directors I've ever worked with in my life, the other one being Sam Peckinpah. They both wanted perfection. But they were both very creative at the same time.
"For instance, Sam was not only a director but a great writer. Ridley had more control of his personal life than Sam did, and Ridley never ran out of ideas. I told him that one day.'You know Ridley, you never run out of ideas. And every one is a better one than the last one. The only problem for me is, you've got to come up with the best one first. Because every time you come up with a good idea, by the time I get that one ready, you've got a better one! I can't keep up with you!'"
Blade Runner Stunt Coordinator Gary Combs
Conversation with Paul M. Sammon. May 6, 1995
Once the Filmways fiasco had been laid to rest, the core BR production team pushed back the start of principal photography to March 9, 1981. This allowed them an additional sixty days of breathing space in which to employ the final few department heads, staff members and production assistants comprising Blade Runner's crew. All motion picture units are made up of various and clearly defined departments. Wardrobe, makeup, camera, props, publicity - each is a separate component with a specific function, adding up to the filmmaking whole. For a production as idiosyncratic and complex as Blade Runner, however, other specialized talents were needed as well.
Future Noir has already examined BR's producer, director, writers, cast and art department. Key remaining crew members (and their job descriptions) were:
As for how he arrived at Blade Runner's distinctive dark, smoky, "pierced-by-shafts-of-light" style, Cronenweth told me (during a 1981 interview not used for my 1982 Cinefantastique piece), "Ridley had very specific ideas on how he wanted Blade Runner to look. He's a skilled cinematographer - Scott operated his own camera during many of his British films and commercials - and he had no reservations about telling me exactly how things should be done.
**When I wrote this line in 1995, Jordan Cronenweth was still alive. But on November 29, 1996, after a years-long struggle with Parkinson's Disease, Cronenweth passed away in Los Angeles.
"For instance, first we screened a number of older films as visual reference points. Some film noirs, of course, but I think the two primary influences on Blade Runner's cinematography were Citizen Kane and Metropolis, the silent movie by Fritz Lang. In fact, to a certain degree, Tyrell's office was modeled after a similar corporate headquarters that appeared in Lang's film.
"Ridley and I also looked at things like Eraserhead and The Blues Brothers. That last picture, I think, inspired Scott to include those flaming oil refinery towers you see at the beginning of Blade Runner. The Blues Brothers opened with a similar sequence, but in that case, they filmed real oil plants."
According to Cronenweth, different lighting techniques were used throughout BR. One took the unusual approach of utilizing the neon signs seen Blade Runner's buildings and in the film's teeming streets as primary lighting sources, resulting in a subdued yet "electric" look. Another saw heavy clouds of smoke constantly being injected onto sets to diffuse the light. Yet another approach combined skewed, Expressionistic angles (a favorite film noir device) with harsh, high contrast backlighting. Actors were then simultaneously frontlit with softer, filtered lights, which were placed below the performers at an upward angle.
This frontlight/backlight technique, in fact, became one of the two key lighting strategies in the film. The other was Blade Runner's omnipresent, restlessly rotating shafts of light, constantly seen spilling in through windows and skylights. "Ridley had already conceived of the idea of the Blimp and the Spinners by then," Cronenweth explains, "So we reasoned that the light beams were emanating from those futuristic aircraft. Those shafts of light also serviced a subliminal context; this L.A. of the future was supposed to be a dark, dangerous place, with crime everywhere. So the police have stepped up their surveillance efforts to fight back against that. Of course, that tactic suggests a police state or 'Big Brother' mindset. Consequently, those shafts of light were supposed to be so intrusive they'd make the audience uncomfortable, and to unconsciously suggest to the viewer that no one had any privacy in this future world anymore."
If the preceding technique was suggestive, another was overt; the eerie reflective quality of the replicant's eyes (somewhat akin to a deer's pinned in the glare of oncoming headlights). Ridley Scott maintains that this effect "was strictly a stylistic device, one more bit of detailing, if you like. If the replicant's eyes really did glow like that within the context of the story, then why would you need a VoightKampff machine to sniff them out?" Actor Brion James, who played Leon, had his own interesting take on the eyeglow.** "It's pollution," James said to this author in 1995. "The replicants are such quality products that their eyes react to all that crap in the atmosphere. Don't forget, the replicants weren't made to function on this planet (Earth)."
** Brion James was found dead in his Malibu, CA home on August 7, 1999, of a heart attack. He was very much enjoying a resurgence in his career at the time, and had told this writer that James was pleased with the way FUTURE NOIR was introducing him to a new generation of BR fans. Brion was a big, rough-looking, tough-talking guy, but had surprisingly deep pockets of sensitivity and intelligence. He was also a huge movie buff. I miss him.
Cronenweth's technical explanation as to how he accomplished the replicant's glowing eyes was told to The American Cinematographer magazine in its July 1982 issue (in a superlative article written by Herb A. Lightman and Richard Patterson, ''Blade Runner Production Design and Photography"). According to the piece, the replcant's glowing eyes were accomplished live, on set, during principal photography, utilizing a relatively simplistic technique.
"One of the identifying characteristics of replicants is a strange glowing quality of the eyes," Cronenweth told American. "To achieve this effect, we'd use a two-way mirror - 50% transmission, 50% reflection (in other words, a mirror from which part of the silver backing had been scraped off), placed in front of the lens at a 45 degree angle. Then we'd project a light into the mirror so that it would be reflected into the eyes of the subject along the optical axis of the lens (and bounce back into the camera). Sometimes we'd use very subtle colored gels to add color to the eyes. Often we'd photograph a scene with and without this effect, for Ridley to have the option of when he'd use it."
Blade Runner line producer Ivor Powell concludes this discussion of the replicant's eyeglow by adding that, "Although I can't be sure of this today, it might have been a prior experience of mine which prompted me to suggest we use this 'reflected light' technique in the first place. Because when I was working on 2001, we were using a lot of what's called front projection. How that works is, you hang a highly reflective screen behind your sets and actors and front-project a background onto that screen. You can't notice this in the film because you've also lit the set in such a way to disguise that front light.
"Well, one day when we were doing this on 2001," Powell continues, "we brought a live leopard onto the set for the 'Dawn of Man' sequences. And a totally unanticipated thing happened. As a result of throwing all this light forward, the leopard's retinas reflected that light straight back into the camera. And it's eyes looked like they were glowing - it was the motion picture equivalent of what you see when someone takes a bad snapshot of you and the light from the flash bounces back from your eyes onto the emulsion. "So the glowing eyes of 2001's leopard hadn't been planned at all. But Stanley (Kubrick) liked the effect so much he kept it in the final cut. This is so similar to what we did on Blade Runner, it is feasible I suggested this idea to Ridley or Jordan early on. Unfortunately, I just can't remember."
Additional Blade Runner photography (mostly second unit and insert work, the latter shot in England after the production phase had wrapped), was supplied by Stephen Poster and Brian Tufano.
The warm, funny, highly knowledgeable Rawlings (who's also that rarity among Industry types - a genuine film buff), has since edited such pictures as Watership Down (1978, a moving animated film focusing on an extended family of rabbits), 1981's Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, the popular F/X (1985), the intriguing White of the Eye (a criminally neglected sleeper from 1987), and 1995's James Bond film Goldeneye.
Terry Rawlings is also no stranger to the work of Ridley Scott. "The last sound editing on any film I did was Scott's The Duellists," recalls Rawlings. "So, when Ridley was going to do Alien, he phoned me up and said he'd like me to do the sound for him. But I wasn't interested in doing sound work anymore; I told Ridley I wanted to cut the picture for him instead. Scott said, "That's alright by me, but you'd better come over and meet two of the producers." So I did, met with Gordon Carrol and David Giler, and they were happy to have me edit Alien. Which is basically where my career as a film editor really took off."
Rawlings later cut Legend, Scott's 1985 follow-up to Blade Runner. But it was on the earlier Alien that Terry Rawlings acquired a reputation as the editor some film composers love to hate.
Since Rawlings is a self-described "crazed" music and soundtrack collector, with hundreds of CD's in his collection, and since one of Rawling's (and all other film editors) jobs is to lay down a temporary music score over sequences he's finished cutting (called a "temp track," and used to give a director a better feeling how that sequence will play to an audience), Rawlings has a keen grasp of which popular, classical or contemporary bits of music he thinks will best enhance a film.
"The trouble is," says Ridley Scott, "many times Terry's choice for the temp music tracks are better than the original soundtrack score done by the composer. This can lead to some friction, as you might imagine." Friction indeed - after Rawlings originally inserted a movement from classical composer Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2 ("Romantic") over the end credits of Alien, director Scott then liked this cue so much he cut out the original music composer Jerry Goldsmith had scored for this part of the film! "Needless to say," Scott ruefully recalls, "Jerry was not amused."
Neither was Rawlings about the credit he ultimately received on Blade Runner. "I suppose the first thing I should point out is that my credit on Blade Runner - 'Supervising Editor" - is a misnomer," Rawlings underlines. "That was more or less imposed on me by the American unions. I did not 'supervise' the editing of Blade Runner; I can assure you that not one frame of that film was cut by anyone other than myself. Yet the American editorial union forced me to hire a standby. So I interviewed people and chose a woman, Marsha Nakashima, to come on as my assistant. But as the picture was finishing up, the Union wanted me to share a joint screen credit with Marsha. Yet she'd only been an assistant! So we had a big fight over that. Happily, the Blade Runner production company backed me and got me on the screen alone. But I was forced to use the credit "Supervising Editor", simply because I wasn't a member of the American Editor's Union." Union hassles aside, what are Rawling's overall feelings on Blade Runner today?
"Blade Runner is a film that we can all be proud we were involved with," Rawlings replies, genuine emotion in his voice. "It's one of those landmarks of filmmaking." In addition to Marsha Nakashima (Editor), Rawlings was assisted on BR by William Zabala (Assistant Editor).
Previous to BR, Charles Knode had designed costumes for the Royal Opera House of Covent Garden in London and the Metropolitan Opera House in New York - his film credits (at the time) included the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore Hound of the Baskervilles, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and that same comedy group's Life of Brian. More recent Knode-work included the wardrobes for 1995's Braveheart, plus designing and supervising the manufacture of costumes for Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992).
Michael Kaplan has worked for network television and Home Box Office - he also designed costumes for three of Bette Midler's then-most recent tours. Kaplan's other films include Flashdance (1983), Risky Business (1988), and 1993's Malice.
But what of life in the year 2019? The most noticeable aspect of Knode and Kaplan's Blade Runner costumes was the way they incorporated futurism with a touch of Forties nostalgia; witness Deckard's tough-guy trenchcoat, for example, worn over geometrically patterned shirts and ties (Harrison Ford once stated that Deckard dressed like "a middle-aged Elvis Costello"). Rutger Hauer's costume evidenced a similar eye for detail, since Batty's gray undershirt / gray pants (with red stripe) were designed to subtly indicate the rogue replicant's military background. As for Blade Runner's standard Police uniforms, these consisted of bullet-proof plating and a headpiece fitted with shield and goggles, transforming the ordinary beat cop into someone with whom you would not like to mess.
Besides paying careful attention to detail and utilizing a Forties / sci-fi design scheme (Rachel's broadshouldered business suit being a good example of this latter approach), Knode and Kaplan also created a slew of intriguing costumes for BR's street scenes. These sequences were clotted with every possible variety of clothing - punk, Chinese peasant, upperclass chic - wardrobes that had been meticulously planned to drop subtle hints about the nature of 2019 LA society.
To achieve these subtitles, Knode and Kaplan dressed many of the Asian extras in tatters or traditional earth-brown peasant clothing to denote their working-class status. The well-to-do, on the other hand, wore lavish outfits of fur or jackets with fur-trim - an obvious, arrogant status symbol, since there are so few genuine animals left on the Earth. Then came the film's punk/new wave wardrobes, most noticeable in Pris's outfits and on some clothing worn by selected streetlevel citizens.
According to production designer Lawrence Paull, Blade Runner's punk look began with a holiday celebration. "In late 1980, all of us threw a Christmas party in the art department," Paull explains. "There were presents scattered everywhere. One was a wonderful calender of air-brushed, stylized portraits of new wave fashions - heavy rouge, different hair colors, features and clothes heavily accented. Sometime later Ridley stumbled across that calender and asked if he could borrow it for awhile. It wasn't long before he had his head together with Charles Knode, who is one of the most resourceful costume designers I've ever met. The punk look then became the style for Pris and for some of the background extras on the street."
Assisting Knode and Kaplan on Blade Runner were Men's Costumers James Lapidus and Bobby E. Horn; Ladies Costumers were Winnie Brown (who also worked on the 1990 Tom Cruise racing film Days of Thunder) and Linda A. Matthews.
"Well, in that particluar case, we reused a sound effect originally created for Alien," Rawlings concludes. "It had been done by a terrific sound editor chap named Jimmy Shields; Jimmy had initially cooked up the sound you hear in Decakrd's apartment for Alien's Autodoc, the automated medical scanner John Hurt's put under after the Facehugger clamps onto his head. The reason we reused this audio bit for Blade Runner was because Ridley just liked the sound of it. It was so dynamic, it really stood up and hit you in the ear. Or tickled it, as the case may be."
"That was Deckard's handgun," Mead says. "There were endless permutations of that. Ridley was adamant that it look exotic, yet believable. So I kept changing the look of that thing. One rejected Deckard handgun design, in fact, I simply laid on its side, and it became a telephone."
"Deckard's firearm was a problem," confirms Ivor Powell. "We just couldn't seem to come up with something Ridley liked. But then one day he and I were on a 'reccy,' or location hunt, near downtown Los Angeles. And we were passing a gun shop when Ridley suggested we have a look 'round inside. So we're browsing through the store when I notice this bolt-action thing, part of a disassembled weapon that was laying in a glass case. I pointed it out to Ridley. He said 'Interesting' That was the start of the final design for Deckard's gun."
The sectionalized weapon which had caught Powell and Scott's attention was part of the barrel and bolt-action mechanism (a "reciever") of a Steyr Mannlicher .222 Model SL, a firearm manufactured in Austria. Ironically, this weapon is a rifle, not a handgun (and certainly not the "German flare pistol" I erroneously reported as being the framework for Deckard's gun in my 1982 Cinefantastigue BR article). But subsequent, extensive modifications by the Blade Runner prop department transformed the Steyr Mannlicher .222 into a standard Replicant Hunter's sidearm*.
First, the majority of the Steyr/Mannlicher's barrel was sawn off, down to its bolt-action receiver. Then (most of) a Charter Arms .44 Special Police Bulldog revolver was attached underneath the abbreviated Steyr / Mannlicher mechanism. Next, a new, translucent, amber-colored pistol grip was added to the Bulldog's frame. Now two red LED lights, powered by a small internal battery, were inset on either side of the weapon, just forward of the Steyr/Mannlicher's distinctive twin triggers. Finally, a large, cockable hammer was attached at the rear of the bolt action assembly, the entire gun painted a flat matte black, and the end result took on the appearance of a convincingly formidable sidearm.
It's a common practice for prop departments to also manufacture molded-rubber "stunt doubles" of weapons, to use in either long shots or in situations when there is no need to display the genuine prop. Such was also the case with Deckard's handgun. "I still have Deckard's rubber stunt-gun in its holster in my home," concludes Powell. "It's a nice souvineer." Terry Lewis' assistants in the BR prop department were David Ouick, Arthur Shippee Jr. and John A. Scott III.
*Holden, the Blade Runner shot by Leon in the opening of the film, can be briefly seen clutching the same type of handgun used by Harrison Ford in BR, after Holden crashes through an office cubicle wall and Leon shoots him a second time.
Westmore was born on Christmas Eve, 1934. He is a third generation member of the famed Westmore makeup clan, whose Hollywood roots were laid down by George Westmore's contributions to the 1920's silent film era. The Westmore dynasty then extended through succeeding decades with the countless motion picture makeups designed by Perc, Ernest, and Bud Westmore. Marvin's father was Monty Sr., whose final makeup credit was attached to Gone With the Wind.
As for Marvin, his first motion picture was the 1966 remake of the John Ford classic Stagecoach. Since then, Westmore has contributed both straight and elaborate makeups to; films (The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas): made for TV movies (John Carpenter's Elvis, wherein Westmore transformed actor Kurt Russell into The King of Rock n' Roll): and television miniseries (V, for instance, for which Westmore designed extraterrestrial reptile invaders).
"I took on Blade Runner because I thought it would be an interesting project," Westmore recalls. "I was right, although not always in the ways I wanted. Because on some levels, this was the most stressful and unpleasant production I've ever worked on.
"On the other hand, Blade Runner was the ultimate in creativity for our group. That's because it was a hands-on makeup project for the most part, as opposed to our department being forced to exclusively rely on the advanced, special effects prosthetic makeups that were in vogue at the time. Don't misunderstand - this picture did involve prosthetics work, but it was relatively slight. By and large, Blade Runner was primarily a hands-on job demanding the full range of traditional makeup techniques. That was the most exciting part of it.
"For example,"Westmore goes on, "one day I might have to apply a beauty makeup to Sean Young, whose look was definitely patterned after the glamour queen's of the 1940's. Now, Sean had near-perfect features. Her lips were perfect; I fascinated by those absolutely perfect lips. Yet since I was instructed to follow this Forties look, I kept Sean's makeup exceedingly simple. Foundation, blusher, eyeliner. That was it.
"However, the next day I might be asked to do a subtle makeup job on Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah, to suggest that they hadn't long to live. To achieve that, I came up with a discolored look for the skin underneath their fingernails. I called that "Replicant Blue." What I did was combine greasepaint with a thinned-down nail lacquer that I then worked in and under the nail, using a little bit of pigment and a lot of vehicle. This was to insure that the coloration was translucent and dispersed, not opaque. This method is called a "Rembrandt " in makeup circles. Rembrandt himself used the same dispersion idea to add depth and luminosity to his paintings.
"Now comes another day, when I'm asked to age William Sanderson to suggest he's got something wrong with his glands and is prematurely growing old. That was an interesting job. I used traditional stretch and stipple techniques there; again, no prosthetics were involved. Bill would come in about two and a half hours before his call, sit down in the makeup chair, and try and catch some sleep. Meanwhile I'd be powdering his face and hands so that what I was going to put wouldn't stick to his skin. This substance was flesh-tone latex, a kind of liquid rubber, which I applied to the areas I just talked about. Then the latex was allowed to dry. After that, I'd brush some castor oil on over it, which allowed the makeup to be translucent and show through.
"Anyway, after all this dried, it would stretch the skin against the grain of the muscle and produce wrinkling by exaggerating the natural lines in Bill's face. I'm not saying Bill really looks like a wrinkled old man when he takes his makeup off; I am saying the technique I used pinches and brings out the lines that are already on that an individual's features. This 'stretch and stipple' thing is a good indication of what you're going to look like when you really get old, by the way.
"Again, these varying techniques were done in a traditional hands-on manner. That was the appeal of this show.'
However, the cutting edge of special effects prosthetic makeup, as Marvin has already indicated, was also used on Blade Runner. These specialized makeups were supplied by another (and uncredited) member of the Westmore clan. His name? Michael Westmore - who has since gone down in science fiction history as the supervising makeup artist for all three spinoffs of the classic Star Trek television show; Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager.
"Marvin is my older brother," Michael begins, by way of explanation of his involvement on Blade Runner. "He'd asked me to help him out by doing some prosthetic work for Ridley's picture. I agreed, but didn't get any credit for my work. I also didn't do it all myself. Instead, I had a very interesting and famous guy helping me out on Blade Runner. His name was John Chambers.
"Now, Chambers had already won an Oscar for turning people into monkeys for Planet of the Apes," Westmore continues. "And Blade Runner was John's last job. But he didn't get a credit, either. He didn't want one, really. John had already pretty much decided he'd worked long enough in this business, so after Blade Runner, he retired and left town. Anyway, I can't tell you enough what a privilege it was to work with him. Because prosthetics makeup was actually pioneered by John Chambers, in a sense. He'd spent his early career creating artificial limbs and faces for people who'd lost their own through wars or accidents or whatever. John then brought those techniques into the film industry in the 1960's, which is where the whole modern concept special makeup effects started."
"For Blade Runner, I and John did a number of things. One of them was this elaborate artificial head of Joe Turkel, which we made for the scene where Rutger Hauer kills him. We also did a prosthetic job on the tip of Rutger's ear; that was used in the sequence where Batty's ear is shot off, after Harrison Ford fires his gun through this hole in the wall of Sebastian's apartment. Another prosthetic we created was a false hand for Rutger, for the shot where Batty punctures his own hand by driving a nail through it.
"The funny thing is, that artificial head and nail-through-the-hand gag weren't used in the original theatrical film - they were cut out. Later, though, they popped up on home video and on certain laserdiscs, in a version of the film that was shown overseas. I understand you're calling that one The International Cut."*
Yet another well-crafted Westmore/Chambers prosthetic can be seen during the moment when a vengeful Roy Batty pulls Rick Deckard's hand through the hole in Sebastian's wall and methodically breaks two of the Blade Runner's fingers. This effect was accomplished by first, having Harrison Ford plunge his arm into a bucket of dental alginate (a liquid substance used by dentists to create false teeth), which then hardened around the actor's hand and created a very tough solid. Wet plaster was next packed around this alginated hand, which, when dried, created a perfectly accurate mold of the actor's own hand.
Liquid, flesh-colored latex was then poured into the plaster mold and baked in an oven. When the latex "cured," or hardened, the result was a flexible, life-like prosthetic replica of Ford's real appendage. "After that we inserted a copper wire framewwork inside that rubber hand, which ran through every finger and terminated at the wrist,'' Westmore continues. "This copper armature allowed the wrist and fingers to be bent at any angle. They also stayed put once they'd been bent. Next we hollowed out the hand and stuffed it with sawdust. That gave it a nice, full appearance, and a convincing illusion of weight."
Westmore and Chamber's final work on the prosthetic Deckard hand involved carefully painting and painstakingly detailing the prop, a process which included the meticulous attachment of false plastic fingernails and real human hair to the prop. When the prosthetic Deckard hand was finally needed on the set, all actor Rutger Hauer then had to do was reach through the hole in Sebastian's wall, grab the fake hand waiting on the other side, and yank it through.
"That set-up was done in medium-shot," observes Michael Westmore. "So you don't really see the hand all that well. But when Rutger bent those fingers up as if he were breaking them, they stayed up. That was a real wincer - everyone on the set flinched. Good sound effects took care of the rest."
Marvin Westmore's two primary makeup assistants throughout Blade Runner were Peter Altobelli and Jack Obringer. "Two great guys," Marvin concludes. "Then again, if you want a good job, you have to hire good people."
*For a complete summary of this and all other alternate versions of Blade Runner, please turn to Future Noir's "Appendix A: Different Faces of Blade Runner (How Many Versions?)".
Born May 19, 1941, Frazee is, as it's known in Industry parlance, a "mechanical" (or "floor effects") supervisor. Floor effects supervisors oversee those special effects done live, on camera, without the aid of computers, animation stands or other postproduction equipment; Terry Frazee's first solo credit in this area was for the highly acclaimed 1974 TV-movie, The Autobioaraphy of Miss Jane Pittman. Frazee then went on to supervise the mechanical effects for such films as Star Trek 6: The Unknown Country, Ghost, A Few Good Men, Strange Days, and the 1995 Pecos Bill/Disney fantasy Tall Tale (a personal Frazee favorite).
Today, Frazee maintains that he "very much enjoyed working on Blade Runner." Yet it was Hampton Fancher's script, not Ridley Scott's celebrity, which initially drew him to the project. "I really liked Hampton Fancher's screenplay," Frazee recalls. "Loved it, in fact. It was way out there."
But not all of Frazee's BR work was of the spectacular variety. "The press always writes up the big effects sequences," Frazee notes. "Maybe that's because they don't realize I work out lots of little details too. "Take the big clouds of smoke the full-size Spinners kick out when they take off. Now, somebody told me - I think it was one of the miniature special effects guys on the picture - that that exhaust was supposed to be liquid nitrogen vaporizing in the air, because nitrogen was supposed to be the coolant that keeps the Spinner's engines from overheating. Well, that reads great on paper. But no way would I have used real nitrogen on those full-scale cars. Because it's temperature is, what? 200 or something degrees below zero.
"So what I did for the nitrogen exhaust instead was to install manually operated CO2 bottles in the full-size Spinner prop, which were operated by solenoid valves. They were interactive, too. I'd installed a couple of buttons on the full-scale dash inside the Spinner cockpit so that the actors could fire those off themselves. There were two exhausts, actually. One pointing straight down, one pointing forward. I know I must have done a good job because when Eddie Olmos and Harrison Ford were lifted up off the ground by crane when that Spinner's supposed to be lifting off from the noodle bar - Eddie and Harrison were actually inside the flying car for that shot - we couldn't keep Eddie from pushing the buttons! He was having a ball pretending to fly that thing!"
A veteran stuntman/stunt coordinator who'd begun his career by doubling for actor Robert Horton on the old Wagon Train TV series, Combs had already "stunted" on such features as the Oscar-winning John Wayne vehicle True Grit, the Sam Peckinpah earthshaker The Wild Bunch, and the big-budget SF clinker Logan's Run before being called in for a Blade Runner interview. "Actually, it was more of a location scout than an interview," recalls Combs. "I was flown directly into Los Angeles from another picture I was doing and hustled straight to downtown L.A. to meet Newt Arnold, the guy who'd suggested they hire me. At that time, Newt was the First A.D. on Blade Runner (Newton Arnold was later replaced on BR by First Assistant Director Peter Cornberg).
"Anyway, Newt and a bunch of these other people were wandering around on top of this old building in downtown Los Angeles, because at the time they were thinking of doing all the jumps between the buildings during the final fight between Harrison and Rutger for real.* What they were going to do was construct a false section of roof with a big platform and net beneath it out of camera range, to catch anybody if they fell. That's the same gag they used on that famous Harold Lloyd silent thing, Safety Last.
"Anyway, I didn't know anybody up there on that roof except Newt. So I'm keeping quiet and looking around when I notice that it's about an 18 foot jump across those buildings, and 300 feet straight down. Now Ridley comes over to me and we're introduced. And he says, "I want you to jump across this gap, but you don't quite make it. You're hanging on the edge and eventually you get pulled up by the bad guy. What do you think?' And I said, "Well, I just showed up here. This is my first day, and it may be my last, but I'm going to tell you what I think.
"What do you want to shoot this scene way up here for? I mean, I just overheard you saying what a great illusion this'll be. Then you come over here and say you want to shoot this thing for real, 300 feet off the ground, 'cause you want to see cars and buses running down below. 'Well,' I said, 'you can do it that way, but there's a few things you're going to have to get rid of. The first thing you're going to have to lose is this big half- inch cable that's going to be sticking out of my back, in case I don't make it to the other side. Another thing is, down there a few stories between the buildings, there's gonna have to be a net to catch me in case a cable breaks. And then, down on the ground, there's gonna have to be an airbag so big I don't know how you're going to be able to shoot your cars and buses without that airbag messing up the shot.'
"Then I wound up and said, 'So I don't understand. Over there, at that part of the roof, you say it's going to be an illusion. But over here it's got to be the real thing. What about this instead? Why don't you just move this whole scene onto the Warner Brothers backlot and shoot down on a process screen (a white material onto which background scenes are later optically composited)? Then you can have your actors do these jumps all day long if you want. Or I can jump across and you can set up lightning effects and wind fans or whatever else you want. But if you do it up here, downtown, on these real roofs, there ain't gonna be none of that stuff.' At that point Ridley kind of scratched his head and said, "Hmm - we'll talk about this.' (laughs).
"Eventually, I guess, because of, my efforts, we didn't go up on those real building to shoot. Instead we built a phony two-story building that rolled around on rollers on the backlot of Warners instead, and did the jump there."
*The buildings Combs' is refering to here are the Rosslyn Hotel and Rowan Building, located near 5th and Grand in downtown Los Angeles. Both structures are still standing, and do indeed have about an 18 foot gap between them.
Born June 16, 1927, Winfield has built a sturdy career on producing unusual vehicles and props for a number of specialized television and film assignments. As a teenager in Modesto, California, Winfield found he'd been blessed with a mania for building hot rods and doing car customizations. This love affair gradually blossomed into a fruitful professional association with AMT, one of the countries leading model kit companies, where Winfield was eventually allowed to run his own shop and concentrate on building full-scale versions of certain cars spotlighted by AMT. These life-size, working versions of AMT models were then taken on the road for a series of national promotional tours.
After AMT, Winfield found himself involved with Hollywood. His first cinematic assignment lay in designing and building Napoleon Solo's Man From U..N.C.L.E. car at a cost of approximately $35,000; later, Winfield designed and built a full size Galileo 7 shuttlecraft based on the one appearing in the classic Star Trek TV series. Other television programs for which Winfield produced full-scale custom autos were Get Smart, Ironside, Bewitched, The Hero, and T.H.E. Cat. Winfield's company also designed and built the humorous "bubble cars" seen in Woody Allen's sci-fi parody Sleeper.
Interestingly, on Blade Runner, Winfield's was one of the few outside companies hired for the film that experienced all the vagaries of the production's constant growing pains. Winfield had first been contacted in 1980 by Universal Pictures to work on BR, since, as Winfield recalls, "At that time there was the possibility of Universal doing Blade Runner. They were budgeting the picture to determine whether they were going to produce it, so they'd called me to say that there was a possible film coming up that had a lot of cars in it, and they wanted me to bid on this film. They also wanted me to design the cars at that point. But then Universal decided against the whole thing and dropped it."
"Four months later," Winfield continued, "I get a call from Filmways. About the same picture, with the same requirements. I won the bid on the first go-round. I then went over to the Blade Runner production offices. The first thing I noticed, of course, was that all of the cars had already been designed by Syd Mead."
Working within a budget that was "well under $800,000," Winfield now proceeded to hire out a car building team that would utilize as many as 35 members. In addition, three shops were used, two being rented facilities and the other Winfield's own building in Canoga Park. Beginning in early December of 1980, Winfield and crew then spent a total of 5 1/2 months producing the various vehicles needed for the BR shoot. As it transpired, Winfield's schedule eventually overlapped the live-action filming, to the point where many of his cars were being delivered straight from Winfield's shops to the Blade Runner set.
"When I first bid on this contract," Winfield explains, "54 cars were going to be built. That number was subsequently cut back to 27. Then, when a design modification resulted in what we called the Armadillo Van bumping out the production of two little coupes, the total amount of vehicles we were responsible for was 25."
It was at this point that Winfield was tasked with giving his full-size constructs more detailing than he was usually asked for on other films - an assignment which helped sell the notion that Blade Runner's vehicles had been manufactured by some futuristic offshoot of General Motors. "For instance," Winfield explained, "instead of flat glass panels being inserted into the windshields, which is the usual cost-cutting procedure for this type of project, the vehicle windscreens were fitted with a compound curved plastic. That added a nice touch of authenticity."
According to Winfield, screenplay changes also necessitated the rethinking of a number of Blade Runner auto designs. "At one point in the script Sebastian's van, which was supposed to be this combination workshop and motor home, the same vehicle that Pris runs into and breaks a window when it's parked in front of the Bradbury Building, was featured more prominently in the story. There was going to be a long dialogue exchange between Sebastian and Pris inside that vehicle, for example. Well, that changed. But by then the van had been built. And they liked it so much that we wound up making three of them. One was for Sebastian. Another was made over into a converted fire truck. The final van ultimately came out looking like an ambulance, We called that one a 'Medi-Van.'. All three of these vehicles were constructed from worked-over Dodge vans with an extra axle added, so that, in the end, they'd look like anything but a Dodge van. All were powered by standard Dodge engines."
The remaining Winfield-built Blade Runner vehicles included eight "Everyman" coupes and six sedans, one of which was Deckard's car. Three of these sedans were also painted as "black and white" police cruisers. Furthermore, four taxis (of two differing styles) were constructed by Winfield's group for the film. But the most important vehicles, of course, were the Spinners.
"In all, we built four different full-scale Spinners," Winfield pointed out to me in 1981." Construction began with blueprints, which had been prepared for the Blade Runner model makers. From these plans, a full-scale wooden mock-up of the Spinner was assembled, from which molds were taken to create fiberglass body pieces. About four weeks was then needed to completely assemble each car, including the installation of the necessary hydraulics. The "street" Spinners used a standard 1980 Volkswagen engine and rear suspension, with a custom tubular steel chasis up front. "Of those four Spinners,' Winfield continues, "two were fully operational and could be driven like regular cars. They were also provided with collapsible headrests containing stereo speakers. The doors were hydraulically operated, moving straight forward and up."
However, these full size street-Spinners had also been faithfully equipped with Mead's "twist-wrist" driving system, a detail that would soon prove impractical. "We were always telling the production team that the twist-wrist steering, which was a very complicated hydraulic system, would be hard for an ordinary person to drive," Winfield underlined. "We kept saying that they should send some people over to our shops so that we could train them on driving these things. We also kept saying that with the kind of Volkswagen engines and hydraulic systems we'd set up in the Spinners, they'd only be able to get these vehicles up to about 20 or 30 miles an hour anyway. But nothing ever came of our warnings.
"And what we feared would happen, did. The steering systems were so critical and hard to drive that the first street Spinner we delivered was test-driven on the lot - and immediately cracked up. After that, the production decided that they just didn't have the time to teach people the proper way of handling these things. So they then had the hydraulics and twist-wrists pulled out and a regulation steering system installed. This included small, round, chainlink, lowrider-style steering wheels. A chainlink steering wheel was put on Deckard's sedan as well. That particular vehicle had originally been installed with a beautiful twist-wrist system and back-up regulation steering.* The chain-link wheels were the smallest, cheapest things you could buy; the production company hoped their size would enable them to film around the things, so they wouldn't be visible in a shot. I don't think they ever were. I sure hope they never showed up on camera!"
*Winfield is only partially correct. While a chainlink steering wheel was indeed installed in Deckard's sedan for "drive-by shots" showing Harrison Ford motoring along city streets, the twist-wrist system was left in place for one scene in the film. It can be briefly glimpsed at the extreme lower right of the frame (in letterboxed tapes and discs)as Deckard sits in his car receiving radio instructions from Bryant to drive to Sebastian's apartment (a sequence which also features a departing Spinner telling Deckard to "Have a better one").
Blade Runner's publicist was Saul Kahn, who'd earlier made his mark as the male lead in director John Landis's first film, 1971's Schlock! (aka The Banana Monster). BR's Still Photographer was Stephen Vaughn, some of whose familiar and oft-repeated production stills grace this book (and have illustrated countless other BR-oriented books and magazines as well).
Six long years after Hampton Fancher first approached Philip K. Dick to option the author's book, Ridley Scott's proposed adaptation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? had been staffed with a full, highly experienced crew. Such a situation indicated that Blade Runner was prepared to take yet another step forward, during its long march to the screen. It also meant, of course, that the BR production team now actually had to shoot the damn thing.