Exploring how Ridley Scott turned footage from the beginning of ‘The Shining’ into the end of ‘Blade Runner’
Ridley Scott’s 1982 science-fiction classic, Blade Runner, was initially greeted with mixed reviews from audience and critics alike. It was claimed, at the time, that the project did not fit the action-adventure genre it was marketed for and, with hindsight, there’s a strong case to be made that the film was simply ahead of its time.
Even with a starstudded cast which boasted Harrison Ford in the leading role, Scott was well aware that the film was facing an uphill battle at the box office. During production, he was quoted as saying: “The fact is, if you are ahead of your time, that’s as bad as being behind the times, nearly.” He continued: “You’ve still got the same problem. I’m all about trying to fix the problem.”
One of the major issues with the film’s reception was the film’s ending, a situation which Scott tried to ‘fix’. Screen murmurings left people cold and somewhat unsatisfied and, at a time when studios were churning out family friendly epics, Blade Runner wasn’t quite fitting the bill. In a bid to turn the tide, the cast and crew headed out to Big Bear Lake and shot a new sequence of Ford and his co-star Sean Young escaping into the mountains.
The inner shots of Decker’s flying car cruising through a lush forest came out in satisfactory fashion but the wide-angle shots captured at a greater distance were ruined by cloudy weather. The director was at a loss, left without a tangible end-shot to finish off a sci-fi cult classic. That was until Scott remembered one of his favourite films, Stanley Kubrick’s now-iconic film The Shining. In the 1980 horror classic, Kurkrick had used a similar mountain terrain in its scenery. Scott recalled the brilliant opening of the Jack Nicholson film and how it had employed the expert use of an overhead shot—Scott would use the same technique to end his sci-fi masterpiece.
According to Scott, he called Kubrick to discuss the issue he was facing with the ending to his film then, without thinking twice, Kubrick delivered the goods: “The next day I had seventeen hours of helicopter footage; it was stunning,” Scott once said. “So the end of the film in Blade Runner, that’s Stanley Kubrick’s footage…”
The day after, as Scott was trying to get his head around the mountain of new footage, he got a phone call: “It’s Stanley. One other thing. I know you’re going through my footage right now. If there’s anything I used, you can’t have it. Got it?”
The crucial difference, however, is that Kubrick’s driving scene allowed the audience to explore the setting of the story and the infamous Overlook Hotel in an unfamiliar way, while Scott’s effort allowed the audience to explore the possibility of a future outside the dystopian world Decker had managed to escape.