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?

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Comments 28 comments

FatFreddysCat profile image

FatFreddysCat 5 years ago from The Garden State

Blade Runner is a film I've been meaning to re-visit for years now. I saw it in the late '80s and at the time I honestly wondered what all the whoop-de-do was about. Since then it's been re-cut, re-edited, re-released, and re-everything'd several times over, to the point where I'm not even sure anymore which "cut" of the film I saw back then (the Theatrical Cut? The Director's Cut? The Extended Cut? The Definitive Cut? The Super Duper Deluxe Original Director's Extended Definitive Cut? Haha).

Now that you've got me thinking about the film again I may have to seek it out sometime soon and give it another spin.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Freddy; It's a great film, but as you say, there are now so many version of it. The theatrical version, the directors cut, the final cut, ect, etc.

There are versions with voice-overs and without, and it seems to have more regenerations than Dr. Who. The one they usually show on TV is the original theatrical release.

Thanks for stopping by, Freddy.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

I hated the idea of Deckard being a replicant. At the climax Batty saved Deckard because his own life was coming to an end and he realised all life is precious. While Deckard, a human being, would have had no qualms shooting dead Batty.

He was a human being with less feelings and emotions than the replicants he was hunting. That irony escaped Ridley Soctt who like you say decided on a Twilight Zonesque "I'm a replicant too!" twist to the tale.

Ridley Scott has admitted never finishing Dick's novel, finding it too confusing. Your honour, I rest my case. :)

Interesting hub Rob, voted Up.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Steve; Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer agree with you. Ridley Scott was going the the unexpected twist. I don't personally think it was necessary but Ridley Scott and Edward James Olmos would say otherwise.

Scott really should have read the whole Phil Dick novel.

Thanks for reading,


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I'm tired of movie makers deciding to change endings of books. It was one thing for Ten Little Indians and Witness for the Prosecution to have different endings because Agatha Christie herself approved those changes. (i.e. the play Ten little Indians was based on the alternate version of the poem and the play was the basis of the film.) If the author doesn't approve it or is dead by that time, leave it alone. I will not be watching the director's cut of this film,you couldn't pay me to watch the director's cut, and quite frankly, if that is the way Ridley Scott thinks book to movie adaptions should be done, I am never watching a Ridley Scott film again no matter who is in it, what it is about, or how many stars it gets.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Flora; While I don't usually mind some changes to a story when it's adapted, I don't like ones that change the whole essence of the story. I think that Scott's view of Deckard as a Replicant was just an ill-conceived "Gotcha!" to end the film on.

Thank goodness we had Harrison Ford to fight for the integrty of the original work. Way to go, Harrison!

Thanks, as always, for reading, Flora.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

I never understood the movie anyway. Star Wars was cooler.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi nicomp. It was a very different film from "star Wars" for sure. I enjoyed "Star Wars" more, too, but I admire the cerebral, film noir style of "bladerunner".

epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...a troubled film right from the start - both behind the scenes and the film itself from a critical point of view - but this is yet another world class job by you Sir - and Anthony Burgess didn't like Kubrick's adaptation of A Clockwork Orange and Stephen King didn't like the adaptation of Kubrick's The Shining. go figure because they're both great films.

lake erie time ontario canada 12:38am

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi epigramman; I've heard that before, about Stephen King not liking Kubrick's 'the Shining'. I remember that he supervised the prouction of a made-for-TV version of 'the Shining' a while back and it wasn't half as good as the Kubrick version.

Thanks for reading,


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

I am on the side of Deckard is human....I know Scott put lots of things in the movie that make it appear to us Deckard is a replicant. But in Dick's book...Deckard is in my sense of things...if the source material says he is human...then I am with Ford....he is Roy saving a human at the end is way more powerful than Roy saving a replicant. Thus proving even a replicant can appreciate life more than some human can..... One of the great movie questions....another question is... Was Bruce Willis character in Twelve Monkeys really a time traveler or just a completely crazy mental patient. Another interesting hub.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi cogerson; I lean toward Ford's side as well. I like Roy the Replicant saving a human's life better than saving another Replicant's life.

Another example of an unanswered question about the nature of a character is 'KPax' with Kevin Spacey.

Always good to hear from you.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

I've heard the name but never knew anything about it. Thank you for bringing all these information.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi H.H.; It's a good film, if you ever get a chance to see it, although there are different versions of it, each with major alterations.

Thanks for commenting,


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States

I watched this movie on netflix recently, so I'm not sure which version I saw. I don't remember a unicorn dream, but it's entirely possible that I forgot about it, thinking it irrelevant information (in which case, Ridley Scott would think I'm a moron). I'll admit that I struggled with the movie. I liked the noir feel, but I really couldn't connect with Deckard. Having not read the book, I wouldn't have been upset by the ending that revealed him as a replicant, but I can understand the argument for the integrity of the source material, as well as the need for a human voice in a story filled with robotic ones. It's definitely a fascinating debate, great hub, voted up!

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi MT Dremer; You most likely saw the theatrical release, without the unicorn dream, because that's the one which is shown the most often. Did it have voice-over narration? If it had a voice-over, it was the theatrical release. The director's cut didn't have the narration.

I come down on Ford's side of the argument because I think the story loses more than it gains if Dekard is a replicant.

Thanks for reading,


jeanine 4 years ago

Rob, how do you all remember so much about this film... how many times have you all seen it and oh my.... I got lost reading it a few times but then seemed to understand... this is amazing that you can remember the details... quite impressive... enjoyed the read...

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Jeanine; I'm an encyclopedia of useless movie knowledge.

Thanks for reading and commenting,


M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer 4 years ago from United States

There was a voice over, so you're right, it must have been the theatrical version. Even though it alters the story, I'd still like to see the directors cut. That way I'd be able to speak more about which storyline I favored.

Marlin 55 profile image

Marlin 55 4 years ago from USA

I'm not sure if he was a replicate or not. I didn't get that the first time I watched the movie and that has been many years ago. I'm going to get a copy and watch it again. Thanks Rob for another outstanding hub. Your articles always leave me intrigued and with information that I didn't have. Always a pleasure.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Hi Marlin; Glad you liked it. When you watch the film again, let me know what you think.

Good to hear from you,


Marlin 55 profile image

Marlin 55 4 years ago from USA

I will do that!

Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 4 years ago from Essex, UK

Hi Rob;

I have mixed feelings, and can't comment with authority on the debate because I haven't seen this film for a long time. I don't much like the idea of an actor interfering and 'going over the head' of the director. On the other hand, I'm not overly keen on Ridley Scott's style (too dark literally and figuratively for me) and not overly keen on directors or script writers tampering with the original story. To my way of thinking, a great director or writer should be able to stay faithful to the original and make it work on film.

Interesting hub though about this, and I think I'll have to watch it again to see if I can pick up on the points you make! Voted up as interesting and useful. Alun.

Music-and-Art-45 profile image

Music-and-Art-45 4 years ago from USA, Illinois

First off this film was great, and the article you wrote about it to was also good. I'm on the Harrison Ford/Deckard is a Human side of things. I can't believe Ridley Scott, who is a really good director most of the time, thought that making Deckard a replicant was a good idea. I just don't get that logic, it takes so much from the story, themes, and ideas about how the machines ended up being more human than the actual humans if Deckard is a replicant. Anyways that's my two cents.

Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 4 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY Author

Greensleeves; I agrre that directors should try to stay true to the creators original vision. I never like it when the adaptation strays too far from the source.

Thanks for stopping by,




I agree with you, music-and-art; The film loses a lot more than it gains if Deckard is a replicant.

Thanks for reading,


Adam Stocker profile image

Adam Stocker 3 years ago

The replicant element was key and relevant to me.

Actually if your really clever you can work out he is a replicant from the original cut.

How? When Deckard is first on screen he is reading a newspaper with a large neon pink sign behind him. The sign is the kanji symbol for 'origin'. The same sign appears throughout the film at least once in the background for each replicant while they are on screen.

Thereby, they all 'originate' from the same place.

Lee Carrowick 2 years ago

Deckard be a replicant was one of the most meaningful twists I've ever seen in a move. Sometimes a movie can have more meaning than a book.

rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 4 months ago from Irvine

Nice job of framing the controversy. I'm something of a purist and would have to side with the author's original intentions and designs, which coincide with those of Harrison Ford vs. Scott. Scott can sometimes be a bit too clever for his own good. He (Scott) seemed to be given carte blanche on the making of "Prometheus" and what a bomb that turned out to be. Scott can be great and he can be awful. But, just as a general rule, if a film is based on a novel, a director is better off staying as close to the source material as possible. Let the people (the writers) who are gifted with a true imagination, lead the way. If you think you can improve upon the initial storyline, well, good luck.

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