EXTRA: Interview With a Replicant

HOLLYWOOD, July 11, 2000 Finally, the truth is out there: The android-hunting antihero Rick Deckard Harrison Ford played in 1982’s “Blade Runner” was – unbeknownst even to himself – actually a “replicant,” a catchy name for a genetically engineered humanoid android. But this revelation – straight from the mouth of Ridley Scott, and divulged in a recent British TV documentary – is hardly as Earth shattering as the director may have expected. As it just so happens, a lot of people figured it out for themselves during the past 18 years.

Like, all the actors.

“We knew about [Deckard being a replicant] all along. That was supposed to be the original idea, but they didn’t cut it that way because the studio said that we couldn’t have the hero not being human,” actress Sean Young, who played Rachael, the lovely android femme fatale, tells Hollywood.com in an exclusive interview.

“[Ridley Scott] wanted Deckard to be a replicant that didn’t know he was a replicant, but it got nixed cause the studio guys said the hero’s got to be human.”

Sean Young as Rachael “The Director’s Cut [re-released in 1992 with additional footage] was [Ridley Scott’s] original vision, but there were things that prevented him from releasing that version [in 1982].”

For the uninitiated, the sci-fi classic – with Young, Edward James Olmos and a pre-Indiana Jones Harrison Ford – was liberally based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.” The flick takes place in a dystopian future and follows Ford, a “blade runner” (a cool-sounding term meaning “bounty hunter”) as he attempts to track down and “retire” (translation: terminate) six renegade replicants.

So, if she knew all along, how come Young never piped up and settled the “is-he-or-isn’t-he?” debate for die-hard “Blade Runner” fans?

Young tells us she didn’t because 1) viewers should be able to infer from the 1992 Director’s Cut that Deckard was a replicant, and 2) in her words, “Well, it’s show business. You have 50 people and they all have their own opinions.”

How true.

And like, the film experts

Ask practically anyone who knows “Blade Runner” backward and forward and they’ll tell you: If you’re a die-hard fan of the film, you should already know Deckard was a replicant.

“People have problem [figuring it out] because it’s presented as an allusion, and it’s very subtle,” Paul Sammon, author of “Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner” (HarperCollins), tells Hollywood.com. “Ridley wanted to do it this way than to come right out and say it. But in Ridley’s mind, there was no doubt that Deckard was not human.”

Sammon says the Deckard debate probably began around in 1982, immediately after the original theatrical release. In the original cut, there was but one small hint pointing to the Deckard’s genetic identity at the time of its original theatrical release – a scene wherein Deckard’s eyes were glowing (the film has established that replicants have glowing eyes).

But the debate became full-blown after the Director’s Cut of “Blade Runner” was released in 1992. Deleted scenes, most importantly the “unicorn reverie” that suggests Deckard has an implanted memory, were restored; the (often derided) monotone voice-over also was nixed. All these new elements threw open the whole question of Deckard’s identity.

Still, the question remains: Why did Scott feel it necessary to settle the debate now, after all this time? Sammon thinks it’s partly because the 20th anniversary of “Blade Runer” is only 18 months away and the director is finally reflecting on the film.

“I think … it’s only recently that (Scott) has become aware of the cult response surrounding the film. I think it’s slowly dawning on him to look backward and comment on his legacy. The documentary [where he revealed the secret] is the first ever professional, sustained documentary done on the film, I think Ridley just thought that he finally has an opportunity to talk about it and he did.”

And then there’re the fans

Most of them claim they’ve always known. No surprise there.

“I knew it all along … I thought it was pretty obvious he was a replicant,” says Shirley LeVasseur, staff writer for The BladeZone (www.bladezone.com).

LeVasseur adds, “I’m [more] surprised that [Ridley Scott] came out and said definitely one way or the other whether he intended Deckard to be a replicant.”

So, 18 years after “Blade Runner” first came out, and eight years since the Director’s Cut fueled the debate, it looks like Ridley Scott’s Deckard declaration won’t end the debate.

“I think the dialogues and different interpretations will continue anyways … That’s one of the things about fandoms,” says LeVasseur.

And Sean Young, who’s getting ready to make her next movie, “Random Acts,” doesn’t think Scott’s revelation news will change the way “Blade Runner” still resonates with its audience.

“When it came out in the early 80s, there were people who sent me theses and dissertations they wrote on the film. It was a vision of the future that’s very bleak, and I think the realistic generation was responding to that vision. It taps into people’s anxiety about the future of society.”

“It’s still my favorite film after all these years.”

Now we know why.