The Battle Behind Bladerunner: Harrison Ford vs. Ridley Scott
Was Deckard a Replicant? Ford and Scott disagree
The 1982 sci-fi film Bladerunner has gone from flop to cult favorite to a genre classic. It seems to be better appreciated as time goes by. People have forgotten about the disastrous box-office when it first came out. It's a smart, unique film that mixes sci-fi with film noir, and makes some interesting statements about the nature of humanity.
But how many people are aware of the hidden sub-plot that director Ridley Scott had planned for the film. (A plot that re-emerged in his director's cut.) Scott's original idea was that the hero Deckard (Played by Harrison Ford) was not just a Replicant hunter, but actually a Replicant himself. He was supposed to be one of the newer model Nexus 7 Replicant's like Rachael (Sean Young) who didn't know he was a Replicant because he had false memories placed into his android brain.
This idea wasn't in Phillip K. Dick's original novel "Do Android's Dream of Electronic Sheep". In the book, Deckard was a human, because the sub-text of the book was about humanism vs. technology. In the original script to the film, Deckard was still a human. However, Ridley Scott felt he should add a Twilight Zone like twist to the story, so he added in some subtle hints that Deckard was really a Replicant.
Harrison Ford was adamantly against this idea and he argued with Ridley Scott about it. Ford had read Dick's book and knew the human vs. machine theme, which would be contradicted if Deckard was a machine himself. Also, he felt the character's story arc was about a man who had become as cold a machine but finds his humanity again. This, too, would be contradicted if Deckard was a Replicant.
Still, Ridley Scott was in charge and he insisted on filming certain scenes, which Ford didn't approve of. At one point, Ford said he thought he had Scott convinced not to use those scenes in the final cut but then found out that Scott was including them anyway. Ford went over Scott's head to the studio, and got the big brass to look at the film. They agreed that the Replicant plot should be cut, although for different reasons than Ford. The studio didn't think people would understand it and so the scenes were declared irrelevant. They backed Ford and so Ridley Scott cut out a scene which, in his view, was the key to understanding that Dekard was a replicant.
Ford was happy with the omission but Scott wasn't, and he restored the scene when his Director's Cut came out years later. Debate has followed about the real nature of Deckard ever since then.
The deleted (later restored) scene was one in which a sleeping Deckard dreams of a unicorn. By itself, this doesn't seem important. However, at the end of the film, Gaff,(Edward James Olmos) leaves an origami Unicorn for Dekard. What Scott was inferring here was that Deckard's memories were implants, just as Rachael's were. Gaff, therefore, had access to Deckard's fake memories and was leaving the Unicorn as a clue to Deckard about his true nature.
In Scott's own words..."That's the whole point of Gaff, the guy who makes origami and leaves little matchstick figures around. He doesn't like Deckard and we really don't know why. If you take for granted for a moment that Dekard is, let's say, a Nexus 7, he therefore has an unknown lifespan and was starting to become awfully human. Gaff, at the very end, leaves an origami, which is a piece of silver paper you might find in a cigarette packet, and that's Gaff's message to say 'I've read your file, mate.' That relates to Deckards speech to Rachael when he says, 'Those aren't your memories, They're Tyrell's niece's memories'. He describes a little spider on a bush outside her window. The spider is an implanted piece of memory from someone else. And therefore Deckard, too, has memories."
In reference to the unicorn, Scott says..."How could someone have known what's inside his head other than someone who has looked at his file and knew what had been implanted in his brain. I can't be any clearer that that! If you don't get that, you have to be a moron!"
Harrison Ford hated this idea. Ford said..."This was the main area of contention between Ridley and myself at the time. I felt that the audience deserved one human being on screen that they could establish an emotional relationship with."
There were some other subtle hints thrown in by Scott, too, such as Deckard's high threshold of pain. (He gets beaten up by Leon and doesn't have any bruises later when we see him shirtless. Also, he gets his fingers broken by Roy but he's still able to leap to the next roof and pull himself up by hand.)
Another hint that Scott put in is that, at one time or another, all the Replicant's are seen with red eyes, due to some illumination. In the scene in Deckard's apartment when he is talking to Rachael, the lighting makes his eyes look red.
A further hint Scott slipped in was that many of the Replicant's seem to collect photographs. Deckard has a lot of photograph's in his apartment.
Yet another thing that may have been meant to indicate that Deckard was a Replicant was the uncaptured 6th Replicant. At the beginning of the film, chief Bryant tells Deckard that six "skin jobs" escaped from Tyrell Corporation. One died in the attempt and five are at large. Four of them are killed during the film. (Roy, Leon, Zora and Pris.) So what happened to the last Replicant? It's never mentioned again. There is some speculation that Deckard was the escaped Replicant but got captured and reprogrammed with someone else's memories, then sent to hunt down his fellow Replicants. That may explain why Roy knew Deckard's name at the end when Deckard never spoke, but on the other hand, Leon didn't seem to recognize Deckard.
Also; Gaff seems to follow Deckard everywhere and clearly didn't trust him? Why was that, if Deckard was a great Replicant hunter? Maybe (if we follow Scott's thinking) it was because he knew that this Deckard wasn't the real Deckard and was assigned to keep on eye on him.
Finally, could that be the reason that Roy saved Deckard's life at the end? Was it because he knew that they were the same and that Deckard was just being manipulated by the humans?
The co-writers of the film seem split on the issue. Hampton Fancher agrees with Ford that the Replicant thing should be ignored. However, the other writer, David Webb Peoples, thinks Deckard being a Replicant was a good twist to add in.
Actor Rutger Hauer, who played Roy Batty, supports Ford in his belief that the Replicant idea was a bad one. However, Edward James Olmos (who plays Gaff) likes the idea. He recently compared the Replicant's to the Cylon's on his later series Battlestar Galactica. In Galactica, main characters also turn out to secretly have been Cylons.
In 2007 comic-con, Ridely Scott hinted that he wants to make a sequel to Bladerunner one day which will explain and expand on his vision. Harrison Ford will certainly not be involved because he still remains firm in his belief that Deckard is pure human.
In the end, unless a sequl is made, the matter is open to interpretation.
What do you think? Was Deckard a Replicant?
More by this Author
Rumors and urban legends are a common thing in modern society. They can turn up anywhere, including in tinsel town. Hollywood has, in fact, given way to some of the most persistent and bizarre rumors you’re likely...
Did you ever see an actor/actress in a famous role and then hear later that they were not the first, or even the second choice to play the iconic part? Many of the legendary movie characters began as a vehicle for a...
What did Native Americans expect of the first Europeans they saw? And vice versa?