Tagged: Jordan Cronenweth

Production Design in BLADE RUNNER (1982)

It’s the One Year Anniversary of Eldest & Only!

To celebrate, here’s a piece on one of my most favorite things ever:


Directed by Ridley Scott, 1982

BLADE RUNNER is film art pornography. It is. So. Beautiful.

I’m completely obsessed with this film, and its behind-the-scenes documentary, DANGEROUS DAYS (2007)

Model maker, with the EXT. TYRELL CORPORATION model piece

Director Ridley Scott started his career in the art department, as an art director in the UK. Generally speaking, this isn’t a typical background for a Hollywood, big-budget director. His art director background definitely helped him create BLADE RUNNER, which is hailed as one of the best films for production design.

“Ridley really knew how to appeal to the art department, he was very wise about it. What he would say, up in the art department : ‘If you build it, I’ll shoot it.’ And who could resist the temptation of that? Because we’ve all suffered, making films with gigantic sets, and beautiful sets,  and [all that is shown/shot are] talking heads. And that was disappointing. But because [Ridley] was an art director, he knew he could hook us with that bait. And he did it – if we built it, he shot it.” – Lawrence G. Paull, Production Designer


“…it was said that when Ridley takes out a pencil [to draw], it would cost hundreds of dollars. When he used a pen, it would cost thousands of dollars.” – David Synder, Art Director


Syd Mead, a futurist illustrator, did the initial concept illustration for the film. Per Ridley Scott’s direction, Mead drew inspiration from the sci-fic comic magazine HEAVY METAL and artist Moebius (who was offered a position by Scott, which Moebius declined and later regretted). Limited by time and budget, Scott steered Mead to retro-fit traditional buildings with futurist machinery and material. Adding pipes, neon, moulding and other exterior decor was something the BR production could do to the existing Warner Bros. backlot buildings, instead of building new facades and structures.

The Voight-Kampff test machine/prop:

Mead also designed many of the vehicles.

Syd Mead with the Police Spinner vehicle:

Syd Mead’s illustrations, an army-sized art department led by designer Lawrence Paull and art director David Snyder, Ridley Scott at the helm of the art department, and the Actors’ Strike of 5 months (providing 5 months of prep / set building) – all of these elements contributed to the immense, incredible production design of the film. BLADE RUNNER was the first of its kind – no other movie or show looked like it before. Trail-blazing is often a grueling task, and this film production was no exception. The crew faced nearly-insane obstacles and difficulties during the film shoot.

“This is the column day.” – Lawrence Paull, Production Designer


Reverse; Deckard’s POV.

The short but sweet version of this story: It’s Day 1 of Principle Photography. For some reason, Ridley Scott hadn’t walked through the Tyrell Office set before this day. Scott turns to his PD and Art Director, and basically says:

“It looks great. But the columns are upside down. Could you flip them over?”

Scott later insisted that he had passed this note about the columns numerous times, prior to the Day 1 set walk-through/opening. Whatever happened, the art department suddenly had to flip over 10-20 huge, heavy columns that day, on top of a glossy, smooth floor. Thus delaying shooting for about 6 hours. On Day 1. And that was just the beginning:

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