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Roger Deakins and 'Blade Runner 2049:' Beauty, Brutalism

"Denis and I were not constrained but rather informed by the original, which offered one of the first and most stylized views of an apocalyptic future."10/10/2017 2:00 PM Eastern
Ryan Gosling as K in Alcon Entertainment's action thriller 'Blade Runner 2049,' a Warner Bros. Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment release.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the science fiction thriller Blade Runner 2049, sequel to the acclaimed sci-fi film Blade Runner, takes place three decades after the events of the first film.

In the film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K, unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what's left of society into chaos. K's discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

Villeneuve recalls, "I vividly remember seeing Blade Runner for the first time and being stunned by what I think is amongst the most powerful openings in the history of cinema—flying over the Los Angeles of 2019, and seeing that landscape of oil factories. "Ridley Scott presented such a strong image of what could be our future that was at the same time so seductive and so frightening.

"Aesthetically, Blade Runner was a revolution, blending two genres that, at first glance, don't go together—science fiction and film noir. It was something never seen before, and it deeply influenced me. It was part of my film education even before I knew I would become a filmmaker."

Ryan Gosling as K in Alcon Entertainment's action thriller 'Blade Runner 2049,' a Warner Bros. Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment release. Photo Credit: Stephen Vaughan

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Prior to the start of principal photography on Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve spent several weeks with his longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins, BSC, ASC, drawing storyboards and shaping the visual look of the film. "So Roger was an integral part of the cinematic language of the film from the start," says the director.

Deakins says, "It was too exciting an opportunity to miss. Denis and I were not constrained but rather informed by the original, which offered one of the first and most stylized views of an apocalyptic future."

"One of the biggest challenges was to tie both movies together visually— to have the feeling of walking into a future inspired by the past," Villeneuve emphasizes.

Reviewing Blade Runner 2049, Kenneth Turan says, "As shaped by Villeneuve and his masterful creative team, especially production designer Dennis Gassner and cinematographer Roger Deakins, this film puts you firmly, brilliantly, unassailably in another world of its own devising, and that is no small thing." To read the full review, click here

"You set your own kind of challenges, really," Deakins tells Kristopher Tapley. "I could have bounced a light off the ceilings of the sets and just shot, but you kind of want to do something that expresses what's on the page. I looked at a lot of images on the internet and got lighting ideas for different sets.

"It was a big thing to coordinate what I wanted to do with what Dennis [Gassner] wanted to do in terms of the design. And I was probably working with the art directors more than with Dennis, as we got closer to shooting, because it was a practical thing about how I could light a set and where I needed a space — the nitty gritty of design in terms of lighting it.

Ryan Gosling as K in Alcon Entertainment's action thriller Blade Runner 2049,' a Warner Bros. Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment release. Photo Credit: Stephen Vaughan

"The lighting of K's apartment and his building was something I discussed with Dennis early on, about how you build in practicals and what would they look like and could they be slightly unusual but not distracting. It's something that evolves." To read the full interview, click here

Deakins tells Ron Prince that the film "has a wide variety of looks and atmospheres for the many different environments that action plays in. There’s the grey, foggy, smoggy dystopian city by day and night, and all manner of rain and snowstorms. The character Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), who builds the replicants, is blind, and I thought it would be ironically interesting to bathe the massive concrete building where he works with a warm world of moving sunlight, which Denis ran with.

"The sets each came with their challenges. Sometimes we'd be lighting a set with 250 space lights and 32 x 12 light Maxi Brutes, sometimes with 76 ARRI SkyPanels, with 238 x 300W Betweenies, with a bare 24Kw bulb rigged to the bottom of a moving truss, or with just a few 2ft LED tubes supplied by Lightgear in London. We used lines of Colour Blast LED lights or Bad Boy spotlights to create the effect of overhead flying vehicles passing by. One set is lit by a 40’ x 30’ LED screen playing back an image we shot in pre-production. Then there are variously settings where the overall cast is red or orange and for these we needed to gel every light with a specific filter pack.

"There's a scene set in a big stage show, for which we just used theatrical spotlights. That was interesting for me as we spent a lot of time in preproduction, working on a special lighting previz, so we knew exactly how the lighting had to be rigged with only a short time between rigging and shooting. The lighting had to be carefully choreographed and programmed, so that it was both in-sync with the action and repeatable on separate takes. We worked with Light Design Kft., a local company specializing in show lighting, and they did a fantastic job. I've done VFX previz before, and did some for the opening sequence, but doing a 'lighting' previz of a set was a new one for me." To read the full interview, click here.



More Human Than Human: Roger Deakins CBE BSC ASC on Blade Runner 2049

Thinking back to Ridley Scott's original Blade Runner, Deakins tells Matt Mulcahey, "I remember seeing it and thinking it was very stylish. I was a great science fiction fan. I still am. I particularly like Philip Dick so [the original film]  wasn't really what I was expecting. If you read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, it's nothing like the film Blade Runner, really. 

"The things I've always loved about science fiction are not really [present] in the science fiction you see normally. I think Philip Dick actually called it 'futurism.' He didn't like the term science fiction because he felt like he was writing about a possible future. He wasn't writing fiction. He was writing supposition. That's what I like." To read the full interview, click here.



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Blade Runner 2049: Back in the World
In the Blade Runner sequel, filmgoers are put straight into a world where even technology has had to fight for survival. We talk to Territory Studio about creating screen graphics and on-set assets that shaped the look of this unique film.

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