HOLLYWOOD - Harrison Ford admits he is about to spout a cliche, but goes for it anyway: “It really doesn’t feel like 35 years since ‘Blade Runner,'” he says with a sheepish grin.
Ford was 39 when the film, inspired by Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” first came out, but he was already well established as a Hollywood hero.
“I can still remember, vividly, trading complaints with (director) Ridley Scott about certain plot elements,” Ford, now 75, recalls. “We didn’t have a clue this would become a cult classic, or that there’d be a sequel in, wow, 35 years.” He chuckles a little. “Finally, right? Awfully long time to wait for a sequel!”
Ford reprises his role as Rick Deckard in “Blade Runner 2049,” this time directed by French-Canadian Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Sicario”). The main protagonist is another Canadian, 36-year-old Ryan Gosling, who recently gave an award-winning turn in the film “La La Land.”
This sequel to the 1982 classic is a quest story in which Gosling’s police officer, K (who is a replicant, or bioengineered android) makes a discovery that could have tremendous implications on humankind.
“It’s a fantastic role,” Gosling says enthusiastically. “What’s (this guy’s) story? Who are his people? It’s a wonderful journey of discovery. My character goes through all these emotions and crises, a whole arc of personal evolution.”
Gosling admits to being a bit intimidated heading into the project, considering how influential the original film was and the fact that he was only a year old when it was released.
“But just reading the script, I knew it had potential to become a classic in itself,” he says. “It’s incredible how many people were super-turned on to the news of a sequel. Suddenly everybody was excited and everybody had an opinion.”
Gosling notes that the new film’s credibility undoubtedly gets a boost from the fact that both Scott and Ford were a part of it as executive producer and actor, respectively.
“We were lucky to get Harrison,” Gosling says, twice. “Nobody else could or should play Rick Deckard.”
That 35 years have passed is evident in the number of female characters in the film, one of whom is played by Robin Wright, 51, from the hit Netflix series “House of Cards.”
“My character, Lt. Joshi, is hard and cold, and appears to have sacrificed much of her humanity in taking a sure-track career path,” Wright says. “At first you think she’s a stereotype, but there are other significant female characters, and not so long ago most movies had only one or two female characters with more than a few speaking lines.
“This film has more, and they’re crucial to the action. The chief point is that women are half the population, yet in movies they are usually a small minority. But change that to were and things are headed in the correct and fair direction.”
Wright adds that, representation aside, the film is beautiful and well thought-out. “Fans of the original will be very pleased.”
Ford stresses that you don’t have to be a fan of the original to enjoy “Blade Runner 2049.”
“If you never saw the first one, this one won’t make you wonder what you missed or leave you with questions that you have to satisfy by going back to ‘Blade Runner’ itself,” he says. “What sort of gets me is that if you go back and watch the 1982 movie, it’s sort of a period piece now. Movies about the future can date pretty easily — more so, for instance, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.'”
Another iconic film role that Ford revisited fairly recently was Han Solo, in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” As there’s also another “Indiana Jones” film in the works, does Ford ever hesitate when asked to revist his past roles?
“Hesitation is part of the game. In both senses,” he says. “With time, you learn not to say yes too quickly. Hesitation’s good, it means you’re thinking, considering. And you don’t — well, I don’t — want to be seen as someone who cashes in on their past.
“Returning to a past effort, to any continuation, is so dependent, quality-wise, on the writers and who is held over. Ridley was major in shaping (the new ‘Blade Runner’) and I had a different position, being older … more world- and weary-wise,” Ford says with a laugh. “I was listened to more this time around. Rick Deckard is, for better or for worse, a big part of my profile where fans are concerned, so I did want to have — and I got to have — input.”
At this point, Ford modestly starts downplaying his role in the film and heaps praise on the rest of the cast. “As a participant and a viewer, I’m impressed,” he says.
Although “Blade Runner 2049” is a science fiction film, Wright wants people who aren’t fans of the genre to know that it tackles topics that are incredibly relevant to our own lives. She brings up the idea that while there’s no system of slavery in America today there are still servants and workers who are ignored as human beings and looked down on despite the crucial services they provide.
“Here, we have human characters and replicant characters, and this film in particular makes us question the concept of difference. My character mentions the lack of a soul (in replicants) but, again, what is a soul if it doesn’t extend beyond the inherent selfishness of the self, of one character — of any given character who is only for themselves?
“It’s not something one can often say about a studio movie, but I am proud of this one.”
Gosling echoes Wright’s assessment about sci-fi’s modern-day relevance.
“Sometimes sci-fi uses absolute fiction to make points in a not-so-obvious or veiled way about society, about issues and inter-personal relationships,” he says. “‘Blade Runner 2049’ is definitely commercial, what with everyone looking forward to it and the marketing, but it’s not blatantly commercial. Just look at the ending — it has depth and it’s moving. And you know what? I’m pretty sure it’ll become its own classic. In fact, I’m sure of it.”
“Blade Runner 2049” is now playing in cinemas nationwide. For more information, visit www.bladerunnermovie.com.