“Blade Runner 2049” Editor Talks Cut Scenes

At 163 minutes, Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” is a long film with one of the few criticisms at it being the film’s length. It’s a movie that takes its time with its pacing certainly, but even its sizable final cut is nothing compared to the nearly four hour first assembly cut.

Editor Joe Walker recently sat down for a long interview with Provideo Coaliton and discussed some of the excised footage which he admits likely won’t end up on the disc release:

“Denis doesn’t like deleted scenes on BluRays and I tend to agree. There’s a reason why you chop scenes out and although I respect the fact that there’s some fan interest out there, we wanted to make one definitive cut of Blade Runner 2049.

In reality, there weren’t so many whole scenes to cut because it’s a story that develops piece by piece – remove any substantial piece and the edifice collapses. So we had the challenge of bringing down the length but if you merely cut things faster so that they’re just ‘fast’ then the whole film motors on without the audience.

The right version is the one that allows you time to peer into the souls of the character, interspersed with some very dynamic moments of destructiveness. We were also trying to create a dreamlike quality. There are takes where Ryan walked through the desert faster but the shots that sang this song more clearly were the ones where K slowed his pace.”

He goes on to say a major aerial sequence when K and Joi fly to Las Vegas was cut, while dialogue was whittled down to “the minimum amount you could get away with”. Despite shooting practically whenever possible, the final film still boasts over 1150 VFX shots. He also says the hardest sequence to edit was the hologram-filled Las Vegas showroom:

“This is the scene where Deckard traps K in the nightclub and flips a switch that summons a broken hologram show to life. To gauge the scale of the operation, on that scene alone there were 21 fine cuts, just of the pre-viz. That gave us a solid idea of music for playback and a template for Roger to design his lighting. Denis and the main unit then filmed the scene for real with Deckard and K, with Ben Thompson in the background as Elvis.

They shot old-school without a motion control rig. Then we had a weekend to frantically fine cut this material and then break everything down again so that we could go back to set with the 2nd unit and shoot all the holograms: the Folies Bergere, Elvis’s band, Cowgirls, Gogo dancers, Liberace, Marilyn Monroe, you name it.

We had to get it right because when you cut from one angle to the other, the dancers had to do their high kicks on exactly the same beat whilst staying in sync with lighting effects already shot by Roger. That’s a really complicated thing to achieve, technically. I ended up with dozens of video tracks running for each shot and my temp team set about creating more polished versions.

So when we got back to Los Angeles, soon after Thanksgiving 2016, we sat and watched the First Assembly. Denis said, everything is fantastic, it’s going to work, except one scene: the Hologram Funhouse. We’d been toiling on that on and off for six months so it was disappointing, but I knew he was right. Tonally it didn’t fit, it didn’t feel like Blade Runner.

Denis’ point was that the last time Deckard met a Replicant, it was Roy Batty, who nearly killed him. So this should be full of fear and tension. A manhunt, not a variety act. Deckard turns on those holograms because it gives him an advantage, he knows where and when the light will fall. So Denis and I recut the scene to maximize this and we dumped a lot of the layers of holograms. Really great footage of pole dancers spinning down from the ceiling, all had to go.

I wanted to emphasize the spookiness of this broken machine and I dug around and found some golden moments before “action” where the dancers were waiting for the playback music to start – just breathing, standing by, lit heavily from above. These ended up in the cut. We tried to put in as many dead and broken holograms as living ones.

The big transformation was dumping the music almost entirely. We just had this idea it would be creepier if just one little speaker somewhere in this vast room would suddenly spit out some audio. Theo Green our sound designer worked with me the entire length of the project. He came up with this amazing track of all the lighting units shifting and the crackling of bulbs firing up. That absolutely nailed it. Denis loved the new sequence and it was back in, but at one stage it was so far from the ‘Bladiverse,’ its head was on the guillotine and we were reading it last rites.”

Click the link above for the full interview which has much more. “Blade Runner 2049” is now playing in cinemas everywhere.