Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

An Oral History of Blade Runner’s 2019 Los Angeles

Recognizing that this month marks the time in which 1982’s Blade Runner was supposed to take place, Mike Roe of LAist interviewed many of those responsible for designing and building what was then a vision of the future. Art director David Snyder:

This is the first film that Ridley did in Hollywood, L.A. So he had this idea, the most brilliant idea of all: we would go night-scouting in downtown L.A., which was really treacherous, really tough.

And so, Ridley said, “Look — there’s 1920 on this building, and then they put a layer of 1940 on the building, and then they put a layer of 1960 on the building,” and it was a stratification thing.

So when it was decided that we were going to shoot on the Warner Brothers backlot — the buildings that were built on the backlot started in 1924. And then went through all those periods, from 1924 to 1980.

When we were in pre-production, Ridley took us into the screening room and we ran the film Logan’s Run. And at the end of the film, he said, “Do you see that? We don’t want to do any of that, at all. This is exactly what we don’t want to do — the Earth is leveled, and you start over again.”

Blade Runner and its sequel remain two of my all-time favourite films — the latter surprising me by just how good it was. While towers might not be as tall as the film predicted and we’re not all travelling through the air in Spinners, it holds up remarkably well: we are in an age of bleak climate crises, aggressive policing, and unthinkable technological advances.