If you’ve been worried about the upcoming 25th anniversary box set for Blade Runner, which in addition to four older versions of the film and a mother lode of extras includes a new Final Cut of the film, worry no longer. Not only is producer Charles de Lauzirika a friend of Chud, he’s an accomplished DVD producer. If you’ve enjoyed the Alien Quadrilogy, the 4-disc Kingdom Of Heaven: Director’s Cut and Spider-Man 2 discs, you already know his work. You just didn’t know you knew. And since he told me I could mention it, he’s also at work on the only set that makes me even vaguely as excited as Blade Runner: the complete, definitive edition of Twin Peaks.
But this is Blade Runner, and the work Charlie has done just looks spectacular. We knew about the new cut and the face replacement effects, but did you know about the 47-minute outtake version of the film with a full alternate voiceover by Harrison Ford? Get on the pre-order train, kids. This one’s going to be good.
I sat in on a roundtable interview with Charlie at Comic Con this year. Here’s the goods.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut hits DVD, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD on December 18.
When did your relationship with Blade Runner begin?
It began on June 25, 1982 when I saw it at the Mann Hollywood Theater, where my mom snuck me in because it was an R-rated movie. But really, it took a couple years for me to appreciate the film — I wasn’t blown away when I first saw it — so it took a while for me to really love it. But I wanted to work with Ridley Scott, so out of USC film school I started interning with Ridley and Tony [Scott] and then DVD hit, so I started producing their DVDs, and all that time I was thinking that Blade Runner was the one that needed it. We had to do an amazing box set.
So we had a meeting with Warners back in 2000, right after The Matrix had come out, and they were looking for another sci-fi, cyberpunk sort of film so they could do robust features, interactivity, that sort of thing. It was looking good, had the first few meetings, initially proposing a two-disc set with some extras, deleted scenes. They didn’t know if they wanted to do a two-disc. So in a way it’s a good thing it’s taken this long, because each year we added a disc to the box set.
It’s been a long process, but ultimately I think it’s for the best. A lot of the things we did for this set, like putting Joanna Cassidy’s face into the Zhora sequence, wouldn’t have sold if we did it back in 2000. Look at face replacement back then, and few and far between they were convincing.
You mentioned The Matrix, which was a huge push for DVD. Could this be the equivalent for HD?
I think so…here’s the thing. Blade Runner is more about the story, the making of the film. It’s not about the bells and whistles that Blu-Ray can provide. So I don’t know if it’s going to be the killer app.
But it is going to be a must-have on HD because the picture and sound quality alone are so good. It didn’t look this good in 1982. We went to the original negative and did a 4K scan, which is still rare. For the visual effects we went back to the pristine 65mm elements and did 8K scans. The thing looks like it’s 3D. It’s incredible how beautiful it is. It’s been meticulously dustbusted, every single frame. We’re still working on it. Monday, Ridley is doing his final sign-off on the color timing. So on picture quality, yes. Content, yes. In terms of interactivity, it’s the story that counts, not being able to be like Minority Report and move things around.
In terms of footage that didn’t make it into the original…
That’s in the new Final Cut? There’s a lot of nuance. It’s a lot of moments that kind of flesh things out or are closer to what was originally intended. For instance, the new unicorn dream sequence is the original cut of that sequence. It’s not just Deckard at a piano, arbitrary dissolve to the unicorn, arbitrary dissolve back. It’s him at the piano, to a close-up of him thinking and staring off into space, we go to the forest, the unicorn eventually runs in, he reacts to it. It’s more in his head. It’s not what they could do in ’92, easy and cheap because that’s all they had. We found the original footage, we found the original cut, conformed it with the negative, so it’s more of a vision in his head. The sound design is totally different. It’s the moment that Ridley wanted, not the moment he had to concede to back in ’92. Things like that.
There are several new VFX tweaks and changes, enhancements that fix a lot of errors. Most notably, there’s the scene where Batty dies and lets go of the dove, we go from dark, rainy, grungy we cut to blue sky, aluminum corrugated sci-fi tubes. So it’s now a really gritty, grungy matte painting that’s beautiful…it’s like a hybrid of what would be done in ’82 that was actually shot in 2019. It’s really clean and elegant, we’ve got the same dove to lock onto through the cut.
It’s like when I saw the Star Wars special editions I was distracted thinking, ‘oh, new shot, there’s a new thing,’ and was completely taken out of it. Here we wanted to integrate everything so seamlessly and elegantly that you’d never notice what was new. If you’re a fan of the film you’ll notice things we’ve changed, but if you’ve not seen the film, you won’t notice the changes at all.
How much longer does this cut run?
It’s almost the same. 117 minutes, so probably a few seconds different. But we have about 47 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes on another disc that are just incredible. I’m really happy with the documentary, I’m really happy with all the extras, but I think what people will really be talking about are the deleted and alternate scenes. Because it’s like a different perspective on Blade Runner. It’s really interesting.
Why didn’t you toy with a cut that incorporated those?
Because that’s not what Ridley wanted. This is his final cut, his final say. Those scenes were cut out for a reason. The scene with Holden in the hospital — there’s actually two of those — they look beautiful but they take you right out of the film because the tone is so different. They’re almost like comedy scenes. Because they’re like two old Blade Runners shooting the shit. It doesn’t fit into this ethereal, moody detective story. It’s a couple of guys hanging out. If you had a couple beers sitting on top of the iron lung Holden’s in, it would be the same. The second scene actually has Holden making fun of Deckard because he thinks he slept with Zhora. He’s like, ‘what’d you do? Fuck it?’ It’s a joke. Doesn’t go with the film. All the scenes you’ll see — great scenes, just not right for Blade Runner as Ridley wants it.
You talk about the new cut being so clean it almost looks 3D. Is there a point where that becomes counter productive? Does the sheen detract from the atmosphere?
There’s that potential, absolutely. The problem we had was making it so clean that it actually looks synthetic. It started looking fake, not like the Blade Runner we know. We started seeing all these details that were never there. So that’s where Ridley comes in and color times it to get back to where it has to be. But there are so many new details, I’ve seen it hundreds of times and every time I see this one I notice something new. The increased resolution from the 4k, we’re looking at it every day, and you walk up to this gigantic screen that’s almost 1:1 life size, and you feel like you’re in the movie.
There’s also an alternate narration, correct?
Yeah. in going through the restoration research and development phase, I enjoyed going through about a thousand boxes and cans of film. 35mm, 65mm, 70mm. And I found this bounty of lost scenes, different angles, takes, that I didn’t even know about. I had no audio for that, just picture. So we wondered how to present that.
We also found this complete collection of alternate Harrison Ford narration as Deckard. It covers the entire film, and it’s pretty good narration. It’s much better than what you heard in the original cut, which was dumbed down for audiences. This is actually really interesting voice over.
I had no way to present it except as an audio track, so I thought I’d put those two elements together. So I’m sure Warners was eyeing the bill as I was transferring everything, and I started cutting the scenes to suit the voice over. So it’s like an abridged version of the film in 47 minutes. The new narration, with deleted scenes you’ve never seen before plugged in for context. It’s seamless. It’s [audio] mixed; there are new effects shots. We start with an all-new title sequence, and the first shot is a wide of LA with the blimp flying in, spinners, lightning strikes…it’s like the opening shot of the first Burton Batman film where you see Gotham City. That’s how we enter into this completely different world of Blade Runner.
Who did the new effects?
John Scheele was our VFX supervisor, but we did it in consultation with the original guys who we brought in for a powwow, to see what they’d do today if they had the resources and technology. We got their notes, and actually David Dryer, who did most of the work back in ’82 was actively involved, especially with Batty’s dove shot.
Sony Imageworks did the head replacement and other tweaks, we’ve got Illusion Arts doing the dove shot, some other wire removals. There are a lot of tiny finesses. Lola Effects has done some great work. They had to stabilize the unicorn horn, since it wobbled, and The Orphanage did some great work, too. We went to a bunch of houses since we had to get so much done in little time. Every effects shot has almost been touched a little bit. For instance, the first shot in the film, the fireballs were out of sync with the glow on the tower; we fixed that. The spinner used to magically appear; we put it all the way back so it comes in from a pinpoint. Every little shot has a kiss of something on it. But again, it’s just to make it seamless.
And all this is just in the Final Cut?
Yes. Every other version is completely untouched, as it was in ’82, warts and all. And I was really excited for the workprint, since that’s one fans have wanted for a long time. But almost the last third of the film is not Vangelis on the score. It’s Planet Of The Apes, it’s Humanoids From The Deep, it’s The Hand. All these temp tracks, and Warners paid to license those.
What’s the theatrical release plan for the Final Cut?
It’ll be in New York and LA, in October. I hope we can platform it out. We want it everywhere. It’ll be at the Venice Film Festival, we’re really going to try to get it everywhere. They’re trying to figure out what’s economically viable. They’re also trying to work out a 4K projection system for the Zeigfeld in New York, which would be cool.