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Of the 116 films M. Emmet Walsh has been in over the years, he is asked to talk about Blade Runner more than any other. He finds it amusing since he didn’t really understand the movie when he first saw it. None of the cast and crew really understood it, save for one person: director Ridley Scott.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, days after the release of the trailer for Blade Runner 2049, the actor who played Capt. Harry Bryant in the 1982 cult favorite shared some insights into the production of the pic, how a bet he made held up postproduction and his thoughts on the sequel 34 years in the making.
For most films Walsh has worked on through the years, it has been customary for a cast and crew screening before the premiere so everyone is able to see the fruits of their labor in an intimate setting. Calling it a “homer audience,” the 82-year-old Walsh said there typically is a lot of laughing and celebrating after a film ends. But Blade Runner was different.
“We all sat there and it ended. And nothing,” he said, laughing hysterically. “We didn’t know what to say or to think or do! We didn’t know what in the hell we had done! The only one who seemed to get it was Ridley.”
Walsh, who played the hard-nosed LAPD captain who drags Deckard (Harrison Ford) out of retirement to hunt down fugitive Replicants, said Scott approached him to play the role while he was working on Cannery Row.
“We shot down in Union Station [in Los Angeles],” Walsh said. “They set it all up in a little office over in a corner, and we had to be out by five in the morning because commuters were coming in for the train. I don’t know if I really understood what in the hell it was all about.”
It was during this time that Ridley had a special request for Walsh, which would ultimately cost him another job, he said.
“We were on the set for my office and at one point, Ridley says, ‘Can you smoke?,'” Walsh begins. “And I told him I am not really a smoker, but he wanted me to try it. So I smoked. Now, Ridley shot a lot back then. We did a lot of takes. And I kept getting sicker and sicker and sicker, and at one point, I said, ‘Ridley should be hung by his balls off the ceiling,’ and one of the people there was [former 20th Century Fox president and producer] Alan Ladd Jr. I didn’t know. I had been hired to be in another Michel Keaton movie where I was going to play his father-in-law or something, and Alan took offense to my behavior and had me pulled off of that film.”
Production finally wrapped, but Walsh said his work was far from over. He kept getting called in for looping sessions with Scott because the exposition gone over in his character’s office, including the number of Replicants that escaped to Earth, kept changing.
“Then a couple months after that, I get a call from Bud Yorkin, who was one of the producers on it, to come in and loop some more because they kept tweaking,” Walsh said. “So I am looping with Bud, we finish up and I said, ‘I’ll be back. This is not the end of it.’ And Yorkin said, ‘No, no. This is it. There is no more.’ So said I will bet you 10 bucks and he said he would take me up on that. So a couple of months later, I get a call from Ridley and he said, ‘What the f— is going on with you and Bud Yorkin? I need you in. I have to change something and Yorkin says I can’t do it. What the hell is all this about?!’ This $10 bet was holding up his multimillion-dollar movie. Finally I went in and looped and there was $10 there for me.”
As for the voiceover in the original cut that Ford reportedly hated, Walsh said he was not a fan, either.
“It was a much better film without the voiceover,” he said. “What you saw was telling the story. I have looked at three or four of the different cuts, and I think Ridley was forced to have the voiceover in the first one and for the second cut, he had gotten enough control he could take it out.”
Walsh has seen the trailer for Blade Runner 2049, which was released last Friday, but wasn’t overly enthused by it.
“I though the trailer looked interesting,” he said. “If you look at the original Blade Runner, it is considerably slower than that trailer. I thought Harrison looked good in the shots I saw of him. I don’t know who the kid [Ryan Gosling] is. If someone sends me a free ticket, I would probably go see it, but I don’t know if I would spend 11 dollars or whatever it is to see it.”
His final quip, “It’s sad to know they can make a film without me.”
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