BOOK REVIEW – Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon

By Marty Mulrooney

Future Noir The Making of Blade Runner

Future Noir is the ultimate guide to the 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott. Written by film journalist Paul M. Sammon, the book – which is often referred to by fans as the ‘Blade Runner Bible’ – chronicles the adaptation of author Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? from page to screen and beyond, offering a behind-the-scenes guide to a production that, despite being troubled, birthed a thought-provoking classic that is still being talked about today.

I think Blade Runner is a good lesson for all serious film makers to “stand by your guns.” Don’t listen to acclaim or criticism. Simply carry on. Hopefully, you’ll do some worthwhile work that stands the test of time.

Ridley Scott

Future Noir was first published in the UK and US in 1996, with a revised Second Edition – a United Kingdom-only hardcover – published in 2007 to tie in with Blade Runner’s then-25th anniversary and the release of the Final Cut. This revised and updated Third Edition has been published in the US (confusingly, most US readers will consider this their Second Edition!) by Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

This new version includes the majority of the original book (corrected and updated), with selected text from the Second Edition and brand-new copy written for the Third. Some text from the first two editions has been removed due to space/cost considerations, but Paul M. Sammon has promised it will eventually be made available online. This Third Edition also talks a little bit about Blade Runner 2049, although it was published before the sequel’s release and therefore remains somewhat speculative.

Future Noir’s UK First Edition Sixth Impression, 2004  (left) vs. US Third Edition, 2017 (right).

Paul M. Sammon has done a man’s job with Future Noir over the past 37 years. It’s a journey that began with an assignment to write a report on the making of Blade Runner for Cinefantastique magazine in June 1980; his comprehensive production history – compressed into a 125-page manuscript titled “Welcome to Ridleyville” – was published by Cinefantastique in 1982 to coincide with Blade Runner’s original theatrical release. The film went on to receive a lukewarm critical response and face a disappointing performance at the box office.

Yet over the years Blade Runner gained a cult following that just wouldn’t allow the film to die. In 1992 a Director’s Cut was released, transforming the film from a cult classic to a bona-fide one. It was around this time that Paul M. Sammon decided to write a book using over 100 hours of taped interviews with seventy-plus participants and his own personal recollections and observations from the set, which he suggested to his agent in 1993. Yet even Mr Sammon couldn’t have possibly known how much life was still left in Ridley Scott’s dark tale of humanity gone wrong.

Overall I think it’s a remarkable, worthy motion picture, made under very difficult circumstances. To the extent that I am able, I am proud of it.

Harrison Ford

The best thing about Future Noir is the way it is written. Paul M. Sammon is obviously very passionate about – and fond of – Blade Runner, but is also willing to ask his interviewees difficult questions. The result is one of the most frank accounts of Hollywood moviemaking ever written, a detailed narrative with many twists and turns that pulls no punches. This isn’t the sugar-coated PR machine that film fans will be used to; Future Noir openly admits that the making of Blade Runner was extremely challenging for all involved.

The revelations never stop as Future Noir moves from revealing chapters such as ‘Script Wars’ to compelling ones such as ‘”Blood Runner”: Friction on the Set’. Every aspect of Blade Runner’s creation is covered with great warmth and the writing never drags; the mixture of facts, opinions and quotes is perfect. Even the most hardcore Blade Runner fan will discover something new here, whether it’s the planned replicant funeral scene that didn’t happen (much to Ridley Scott’s disappointment), the process by which the special effects team added convincing rain effects to the miniature shots (complete with realistic lighting and depth), or the fact that Scott himself was fired from his own movie because he went over budget, but carried on working anyway.

We worked like hell for months to get the street set right. We must’ve bought every piece of pipe, plastic, steel, and wood in a five-thousand-mile radius. [Then the] day came to show it to Ridley. Larry [Paull] and I were standing there – shaking, of course – when Ridley drove up to the back lot. The set was already way over budget and cost over $1 million. He got out of the car, looked around, took [a] cigar out of his mouth, and said, “This is a great start!” Then he got in his car and drove off. Larry and I stood there in complete silence for five minutes and then said, “What the fuck are we going to do now?”

David L. Snyder

Future Noir’s Third Edition is the same great book that I read over a decade ago, with slightly smaller text and many more pages. The revisions are all welcome; for example, Joe Turkel couldn’t be reached for the First Edition and there were false rumours circulating at the time that he was dead. In this new edition, Joe Turkel has been contacted, is very much alive and well, and is more than happy to share his memories of working on the film. Furthermore, the newly included interviews with Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford, Sean Young and Rutger Hauer are as comprehensive and revealing as the main text, ending the book on a highly satisfying note.

In short, if you’re a fan of Blade Runner – or enjoyed reading a previous edition of Future Noir – you won’t want to miss out on this incredible filmmaking story. The quality of the Third Edition’s cover and pages does dip slightly below the quality of the original UK paperback, but that’s probably because it’s nearly 200 pages longer; plus, the stiff spine of my old copy’s cover cracked despite my best efforts, whereas this new edition practically falls open making it a little bit easier to read. The infrequent printing errors are easily forgiven. Paul M. Sammon has seen things you people wouldn’t believe and it’s never anything less than an absolute pleasure reading about them.

10 OUT OF 10

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