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'Blade Runner 2049': How director Denis Villeneuve approached a sci-fi classic

Gary Thompson, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Entertainment News

When he was offered the job to direct the sequel to "Blade Runner," Denis Villeneuve went a little Batty.

As in Roy Batty, the synthesized human "replicant," played by Rutger Hauer, who makes a pilgrimage to confront his visionary maker in the original. Villeneuve insisted on his own pilgrimage, albeit a less ominous one -- he wanted the blessing of "Blade Runner" visionary Ridley Scott, and he wanted it in person.

Otherwise, no deal.

"Blade Runner" meant that much to Villeneuve, who was profoundly moved by the 1982 movie when he saw it as a teen in Quebec, and who has drawn upon its vast influence for his own memorably moody sci-fi, like last year's "Arrival." "Blade Runner" is also all over his 2013 movie "Enemy" -- featuring Jake Gyllenhaal as a rumpled philosophy professor who becomes obsessed with his doppelganger -- in its urban dystopian atmospherics and its themes: What is identity? Am I original? Who am I really?

Villeneuve's identity, for the moment, is this: The guy fiddling with the DNA of a beloved classic, finding a way to replicate (pardon the pun) that experience for fans, while creating something essentially new.

"Blade Runner 2049" arrives Friday, starring Ryan Gosling as a police officer in mid-century Los Angeles searching for his missing predecessor, Roy Deckard (Harrison Ford, reprising his title role), who holds the key to a crucial mystery.

We talked to Villeneuve about his challenge.

Q: Scott talks about Blade Runner being his most personal movie ever. Did he tell you why?

A: After "Alien," his plan was to do "Dune," and something happened, he lost a brother (to cancer). And suddenly "Blade Runner" was the movie that was a more meaningful reflection of his state of mind. He needed to work, he needed to explore the shadows that were related to how he felt, and that was "Blade Runner." He was angry with God. I think you can feel that in "Blade Runner." And I think the movie as it resulted is very close to the dream of the movie he had in his head when he began. And that is rare, and special.

Q: I think for a filmmaker there must also be something special in the way Philip K. Dick's story lends itself so aptly to the medium of film. In the original, a replicant finds out memories she thinks are hers are actually designed for her and implanted. Film comes very close to fulfilling that role for us -- movies become shared memories, implanted.

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