Transposed with great love by me JUNE 28, 1997
DECKARD A REPLICANT?
An exerpt from Paul M. Sammon's FUTURE
NOIR: The Making Of BLADE RUNNER. One of the best books about Blade Runner
I have ever seen.
If the abrupt inclusion of a galloping unicorn
into Blade Runner was puzzling to some viewers, then the idea that
Deckard might be a replicant- a notion the climax of the Director's Cut
underlines more forcefully than any other version of Blade Runner-
was even more difficult for people to accept. Indeed, this twist ending
seems to engender more passionate debate than any other aspect of the film.
And it's not only casual viewers who reject the Director's Cut insistence
that Deckard is a replicant; many of the film's makers also shy
away from the concept.
But why? A simplistic explanation would be that
audiences don't like their movie heroes being revealed as something less
than human-- no identification value, you see. Yet Blade Runner's
audience, in the main, is anything but simplistic. Consequently, BR
fans who don't like the idea of Deckard being a replicant usually choose
to state their objection in moral terms: what's the point of Deckard's
spiritual awakening, they will ask, if Blade Runner's android hunter
turns out to be an android himself?
Ridley Scott has some interesting responses to
that question, as evidenced near the end of his interview in appendix A.
Before the Future Noir reader incorrectly assumes that Scott alone
was responsible for the Deckard-as-replicant concept, however, it should
be noted that author Pilip K. Dick had already toyed with this idea in
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (when the novelistic Deckard
suddenly finds himself under arrest in a strange police station, where
he's confronted by a bogus investigator who suspects Deckard as an android).
Further-more, the cinematic notion of Deckard as a replicant originated
with screenwriter Hampton Fancher.
"The idea of deckard really being an android sort
of invented itself," Fancher recalls. "In the final version of the screenplay
I wrote before David Peoples stepped in--which I'm not sure he ever saw--I'd
ended the film with Deckard coming back home and sitting down at his piano.
There was a close-up of Deckard's hand going down toward the keys...and
suddenly his hand cramped up, just like Batty's did. You weren't sure it
was the same thing, but it looked an awful lot like a replicant clench.
Then the image froze, the music came up, and that was it. the end. The
last shot in the picture.
"I wanted the audience to walk away thinking,
'Is Deckard like Batty?' That was my whole point in creating this ending
in the first place. The idea was supposed to be, take your own empathy
test. Constantly monitor your emotional temperature. See how human you
really are, because we can always be better at being human. It was a philosophical
challenge, really. That's all the notion of Deckard being a replicant originally
meant to me."
After David Peoples began his BR writing
chores, however, Fancher's initial concept concerning Deckard's true humanity
under-went a mutation--and a misunderstanding.
"In the ending I wrote for my first draft of December
15, 1980," Peoples himself explains, "Deckard kills Gaff because Gaff tried
to terminate Rachael. Then Deckard takes Rachael to the beach--and he kills
her, too. Next he returns to his apartment. Now he's sitiing in his bedroom
laying out ammunition for his gun, because Deckard knows that someone from
the police department is going to come to his apartment and try and shoot
him for murdering Gaff.
"At this point I invented a kind of contemplative
voice-over for Deckard. Here, let me read it to you [Peoples now quotes
from his December 15, 1980 script]:
"'I wonder who designs the ones like me... and
what choices we really have. I wondered if I had really loved her. I wondered
which of my memories were real and which belonged to someone else. The
great Tyrell hadn't designed me, but whoever had hadn't done so much better.
"You're programmed, too," she told me, and she was right. In my own modest
way I was a combat model. Roy Batty was my later brother.'
"Now, what I'd intended with this voice-over was
mostly metaphysical," People's continues. "Deckard was supposed to be philisophically
questioning himself about what it was that made him so different from Rachael
and the other replicants. He was supposed to be realizing that, on the
human level, they weren't so different. That Deckard wanted the same things
the replicants did. The 'maker' he was refering to wasn't literally Tyrell,
either. It was supposed to be God. So basically, Deckard was just musing
about what it meant to be human.
"But then Ridley--" People says, laughing "--well,
I think Ridley misinterpreted me. Because right about this period of time
he started announcing, 'Ah-ha! Deckard's a replicant! What brilliance!
How Heavy Metal!' I was sort of confused by this response, because
Ridley kept giving me all this praise and credit for this terrific idea.
It wasn't until many years later, when I happened to be browsing through
this draft, that I suddenly realized the metaphysical material I had written
could just as easily have been read to imply that Deckard was a replicant.
Even though it wasn't what I meant at all. What I had meant was,
we all have a maker, and we all have an incept date. We just can't address
them. That's one of the similarities we had to the replicants. We couldn't
go find Tyrell, but tyrell was up there somewhere. for all of us.
"So what I had intended as kind of a metaphysical
speculation, Ridley had read differently, but I now realize there was nothing
wrong with his reading. That confusion was my own fault. I'd written this
voice-over so ambiguously that it could indeed have meant exactly what
Ridley took it to mean. And that, I think, is how the whole idea of Deckard
being a replicant came about.
"On the other hand," Peoples' concludes, "while
I may have accidentally initiated or inherited this suggestion of Deckard's
android nature, it quickly became Ridley's, because he's the one who picked
up the idea and ran with it."
One scene in which Scott ran with Peoples' idea
involved staging a scene where Harrison Ford's eyes are seen to glow, just
like the replicants'. It is a moment however, that still seems to annoy
or puzzle some of the major Blade Runner participants.
"In my script, it was much more ambiguous whether
Ford was a replicant or not," points out Hampton Fancher. "I wanted people
to only think as an after thought that maybe Deckard was an android.
I fought very hard for that. But when I finally caught the film and saw
how Ridley had made the replicants' eyes glow, and then you saw Ford's
eyes glow, I thought, 'Aw, shit.' That device made explicit what I'd wanted
to be ambivalent. I didn't like the glowing eye effect, either--it was
too obvious. I found it vampiric, almost a B-movie trick."
"I never understood why Ridley wanted Harrison
to have those glowing eyes," Katy Haber adds. "I always thought that was
a very weird red herring. Besides, Harrison definitely didn't want to be
In point of fact, Ford actively resisted the idea--being
revealed as a replicant at the end of the film was, in the actor's estimation,
almost as wrong headed a decision as Deckard's narration. "The biggest
problem [I had with Blade Runner] was...at the end," Ford was quoted
as saying in Lance Loud's October 1992 BR/Details magazine piece.
"[Ridley] wanted the audience to find out Deckard was a replicant. I fought
that because I felt the audience somebody to cheer for."
"I never thought Deckard was a replicant,
either," continues Michael Deeley. "That was just a bit of bullshit, a
little extra layer Ridley put in. Also an obfuscation. Not only did I never
believe Deckard was a replicant, I also thought it futile to try and make
him one. Harrison resisted the idea, too. But that was Ridley's pet theory,
even if it didn't make sense. Why would you do that? Deckard would be the
first replicant you'd knock off if you were getting rid of them. Anyway,
just because you say,'Wouldn.t it be funny if Deckard was an android?'
doesn't necessarily make it so."
Deeley has a most unexpected ally in his point
of view: Bud Yorkin. "Is he or isn't he a replicant? You can't cheat an
audience that way," Yorkin is quoted as saying in Kenneth Turan's 1992
Los Angeles Times Magazine "Blade Runner 2" article. "It's another
Confusing or not, the Director's Cut's revelation
regarding Deckard's inhumanity was a story point Ridley Scott had been
tinkering with long before 1992. "There was an ongoing conversation durring
the filming of Blade Runner about Deckard being a replicant," recalls
Terry Rawlings. "And it's a concept I have no trouble with. It's only logical,
really. For instance, why would Olmos leave this tinfoil unicorn in Deckard's
apartment, unless it was a clue that he knew Deckard's memories had been
"Besides, Ridley and I had many concrete conversations
during the editing of BR as to how to best suggest him being an
android. One nice way was the scene of Deckard's eyes glowing, when harrison's
at the doorway of his kitchen behind Sean Young. Ridley had blocked that
out wery carefully; he purposefully put Harrison in the back ground of
the shot, and slightly out of focus so that you'd only notice his eyes
were glowing if you were paying attention. I love that--it's subtle. It
was meant to be subtle. I don't think Ridley ever wanted to bring
out a troupe of dancing bears holding up neon signs reading 'Deckard is
a replicant!' Instead, he was going for something more ambiguous. Ridley
himself may have definitely felt that Deckard was a replicant, but still,
by the end of the picture, he intended to leave it up to the viewer to
decide whether deckard was one."
Despite Rawlings' final assertion, however, knowing
that Scott intentionally meant Deckard to be a replicant certainly casts
a new light on a number of Blade Runner sequences that previously
may have seemed cut and dried. For example, with BRDC's exclusion
of the theatrical version's happy ending and it's emphasis that Deckard
is a replicant, we can now only assume that both Young and Ford have been
cursed with a replicant's limited four-year lifespan--meaning that their
time together will be very short. Also, following Rachael's V-K test, Tyrell's
amused reaction to deckard's astonished realization that the replicants
have been endowed with artificial memories gains added sinister significance--if
Tyrell is aware that deckard is a replicant with false memories himself.
And Gaff's line to deckard on the rooftop at the end of the picture--"You've
done a man's job, sir"--takes on an ironic double meaning in the BRDC.
Despite all the preceding evidence which this
author has presented, however, there will always be those who resist the
idea of Rick Deckard being a replicant. These naysayers will find such
a concept illogical, or one that robs Blade Runner of its hero's
affected human dimension. In response, I can only say that that
first objectionignores Ridley Scott's original intent, while the second
misses the point. For the replicants are human too--"More human than human,"
Besides, the question of whether Deckard is or
is not an android really depends on which version of the film you watch.
For in all other variants of Blade Runner--the
ones that shorn of the unicorn sequence--Deckard only may be a replicant.
because Gaff's leaving behind a tinfoil unicorn at deckard's apartment
could simply mean that Olmos had already been there, seen the sleeping,
fugitive Rachael, and let her live.
But couple Gaff's tinfoil origami with the very
private vision Ford has of a live unicorn in the BRDC and ask yourself
why Gaff chose that particular calling card. Then recall the scene where
Deckard told Rachael he knew her private memory concerning the spider outside
The only logical conclusion is an inescapable
one: in the Director's Cut, Rick Deckard is a replicant.
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