At the time of writing Blade Runner 2049 has earned $223m worldwide off a budget of $150m. Not a great return despite the critical acclaim the film has rightly earned.
The producer of the original 1982 film, Michael Deeley, has been far from charitable towards the sequel before he’s even seen it. “I’m not looking forward to seeing it,” the Oscar-winning producer told Screen International. “But I will.”
Deeley, produced the classic The Deer Hunter as well as The Italian Job and The Man Who Fell To Earth, and was highly critical of the film’s 164-minute run time suggesting that it was that that potentially blighted the sequels box office takings. ”The picture is very long. It must have been cut-able and should have been. They can’t do better [box office] because they can’t play it more than three times a day because it’s just too long, which is of course self-indulgent at the very least, arrogant probably. It’s criminal.”
The film made $81m in the US and after that it was the UK where it made $21m. The film opened on October 27 in Japan and is due for release in China on November 10, with the two Asian markets key to its final gross and overall success.
Deeley was speaking to Screen to promote a new edition of his memoir the far from catchily titled ‘Blade Runners, Deer Hunters And Blowing The Bloody Doors Off’, and he owned the remake and sequel rights to the original film for ten years but because of the original films mixed critical reception, underwhelming box office and his deteriorating working relationship with executive producers Bud Yorkin and Jerry Perenchio and he refrained from making any sequel. “The film didn’t catch fire for ten years so I couldn’t have made a remake or another version of it and I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway. It was all very sticky,” he said of the production process, which saw original financier Filmways drop out after the film’s budget ballooned.
1982’s Blade Runner Summer’s release was also regarded to be a bad bit of scheduling too. “One of the things that spelled doom straight away was when Perenchio decided that he wanted to release the picture quickly to get his money back quickly,” says Deeley. “That was ignorant and naive. The only time this picture could ever be released sensibly was in the late autumn or in the winter when you could have capitalised on award nominations. Instead, they decided to do it in summer, opposite another little known sci-fi movie – a picture called ET. I wouldn’t talk to Bud Yorkin or Perenchio or have anything to do with them for the rest of my life.”
Fortunately the film went on to become one of cinema’s seminal sci-fi movies. ”Its longevity is partly down to its originality, says the producer. “Its look is a completely fresh look. It also made three interesting prophecies: the widespread deterioration of weather; huge changes in migration; and the ability to clone human beings. Added to which it was the last film of that sort made without CGI. I can see CGI, and I suspect a lot of other people can as well.”
Deeley, who is now 85 years old, then went on to lay to rest some myths about The Deer Hunter, which is 40 years old next year, where he was at loggerheads with the director Michael Cimino rather than the producers. It was a difficult film to make with Deeley among those to struggle with the behaviour of maverick filmmaker Michael Cimino.
“He got into a pickle when he tried to take all the credit for the script himself. That was the beginning of the feeling that this was not going to be an honest relationship between the director and the company. And it wasn’t. He always wanted to do things which were not in his deal.”
In his book, Deeley claimed that the late Cimino was reluctant to include the film’s Viet Cong Russian roulette scene. The scene owed much to star Robert De Niro, the producer told Screen. “That was [Robert] De Niro who did the choreography of that scene.”
And it was De Niro who provided much of the glue during production, according to Deeley, who at the time had his hands full also trying to finish Sam Peckinpah’s Convoy. “De Niro was very involved from before we started shooting. He was the rallying point of the whole crew and he rehearsed by himself with the actors he knew who were mostly suggested by him.”
Despite its five Oscars and widespread critical acclaim, the tough-to-please Deeley claims the 1978 classic under-delivered. “The fact that Cimino came out of it with a very nice picture, a good picture, doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been better.”
Here’s The Deer Hunter trailer…….