Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER, which opened June 25, 1982, has its roots in a 1968 Philip K. Dick novel, but its title came from another book.
The film’s story began with Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, but its title is from Alan Nourse’s 1974 sci-fi novel “The Bladerunner,” a story about underground medical services with no connection to the movie. The novel’s blade runner is selling “blades,” illegal surgical instruments, while the movie’s blade runners are policed out to kill illegal robots called replicants in the future world of 2019 Los Angeles.
Scott bought only the rights to Nourse’s title after considering other possibilities like “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, “Android”, “Mechanism” & “Dangerous Days.” After choosing “Blade Runner,” Scott wanted to change it to “Gotham City,” but couldn’t get BATMAN comic book co-creator Bob Kane to sell him the title rights.
Dustin Hoffman was almost cast as Rick Deckard, who Harrison Ford wound up playing, but Hoffman wanted to take a very different approach to the role. A wide range of other A-List actors was also considered, including Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood & Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Days before BLADE RUNNER was to start shooting, Filmways, which had committed to $15M in production financing, suddenly withdrew and, instead, funded Brian DePalma’s crime drama BLOW OUT. Twentieth Century Fox, United Artists & Universal all passed on making BLADE RUNNER. But producer Michael Deeley, who’d produced 1978 hit THE DEER HUNTER, quickly cobbled together $22M from Jerry Perenchio & Bud Yorkin’s Tandem Pictures, Alan Ladd Jr.’s The Ladd Company, which had distribution through Warner Brothers, and Hong Kong producer Run Run Shaw.
The deal specified, however, that if BLADE RUNNER went over budget by 10% or more, Tandem would pay the additional cost, but would then take complete artistic control. When the picture wound up at $28M, executive producers Perenchio & Yorkin took over. Scott & Deeley were fired, but then, mostly thanks to Ladd intervening, they were rehired by Tandem.
The film’s original release grossed only about $42M worldwide. But 40 years later, it’s become a sci-fi classic with various reissues, including a 1992 Director’s Cut, and a 2017 sequel, BLADE RUNNER 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve. BLADE RUNNER’s misfortune was arriving in the shadow of a bigger sci-fi movie — Steven Spielberg’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, which had opened June 11, 1982, and went on to do nearly $793M globally.
“Deckert’s probably a paranoid, by doing his job, the job he does. So if you’ve got a guy who actually’s constantly hunting down people who look…human and have all the attributes of human reaction…then you might wonder at some point, when working for The Department or The Company, ‘Am I on the files as well?’”. – Ridley Scott