Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve and I are talking about how technology impacts our lives, when technology impacts our interview. The phone goes dead.
“Sorry about that,” he says back on the line. “There was another call and I didn’t want it to be distracting but I pushed the wrong button. I was doing an interview with someone who was not understanding a word I was saying! Then I realized, I’m not talking to Richard anymore. I’m talking to an unknown person. That says a lot about where we are now.”
Villeneuve, the Oscar-nominated Trois-Rivières, Que.-born director, saw the original Blade Runner when he was 15 years old.
“It was a hybrid of film noir with sci-fi,” he says. “The world that was depicted in the first movie, it was the first time I felt like I had seen a serious vision of what could be our future. There was so much poetry involved in the characters. There is strength in the vision. It is very singular, very unique and at the time I was a science fiction addict and for me it became an instant classic.”
A self-described dreamer, Villeneuve says the movie lit his imagination on fire.
“In those years my strength was dreaming,” he recalls. “I spent the first years of my life more in dreams than in reality. There are a lot of dreams I had back then that are inspiring me today.”
Thematically the new film harkens back to Ridley Scott’s original but instead of being a reboot or a remake it grows organically out of the 1982 film. Like the original it is about discovering what is real and what it means to be human and how technology fits into that puzzle.
“I felt it had the potential to tell a very strong story about the human condition,” he says, “about our relationship with technology. These are timeless questions that were already present in the first movie but I thought it made sense to bring back those questions today, 30 years later when our relationship with technology has evolved so much. When Blade Runner was released it was the time when we were starting to see personal computers in homes. It was the very beginning of the electronic revolution and now it is a different world.
“When you make a science fiction movie it is a mirror of today. It is nothing else than that, an exploration of today.”
Blade Runner 2049 is a mix of old and new, of Scott’s classic vision and Villeneuve’s new ideas. A throwback to the first film comes in the form of Harrison Ford, who recreates his role of retired blade runner Rick Deckard. To find someone who could carry himself against the screen legend Villeneuve brought in fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling.
“I needed that taciturn quality; quiet and strong,” he says. “I needed someone with charisma, big enough to be in front of Harrison Ford and not melt. A real movie star. I knew at some point he would be face-to-face with one of the biggest stars of all time.”
Reinventing a beloved classic like Blade Runner takes guts. When I ask Villeneuve if he looked to Scott for guidance he laughs. “His advice was, ‘Don’t f-— it up.’”