EXCLUSIVE: Harrison Ford suggested Ryan Gosling for Blade Runner 2049

William Mullally
William Mullally - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Harrison Ford had the perfect idea of who should play the lead in Blade Runner 2049—Ryan Gosling.

“When I first read the script I thought, ‘what a great fit he would be for the role,’ Ford tells me in Berlin, ahead of the film’s release.

“When I announced with much enthusiasm to the producers that I had the perfect idea for who should play that part, they said, ‘oh, well that’s nice of you, we’ve actually been talking to him for weeks. We’re hoping he’ll finally concede to play the part.’

“I had a similar experience with you too,” Gosling says. “I thought you’d be wonderful in the role of Deckard.”

“Thank you for that vote of confidence,” Ford says.

When Ford first played Deckard in 1982’s Blade Runner, he was already one of film’s biggest stars, with two Star Wars films and one Indiana Jones under his belt. Now 35 years later, his stature has grown remarkably, as those early performances have gone from big hits to the some of the most enduring films in history.

It’s no wonder that everyone that works with him starts off a little intimidated. Even the director of Blade Runner 2049—the Oscar-nominated Denis Villeneuve.

“Being of my generation, I was raised with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Blade Runner, and all those movies, so the first time that I went to his door, rang the doorbell, and heard ‘hey Denis, come inside’—it was a moment for me, I must say.”

His public persona may be to blame, as well. He’s spent years giving interviews where he’s hardly said a word. The emotional wall that made his characters so intriguing—it seemed to be a built-in feature on the man himself as well.

Honestly though, after sitting with him and Ryan, I don’t see what all the fuss was about.

Ana De Armas, who stars opposite Gosling as Joi, was also put at ease after meeting him.

“He is more approachable and welcoming than I thought. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting that, it’s that you idolize someone so much, that you don’t know what to expect. Probably it’s yourself who put the brakes before talking to someone, but then he’s so easy, so funny, that you get used to it and you relax and it’s like normal,” she says.

Maybe it’s just the two of them together. The two of them seem looser together, each sharpening the other’s dead-pan sense of humor, each unable to answer any question without trying to get a laugh out of the other.

“When you began filming, you were imagining what it was like to have Harrison there, as if he was there crossing his arms in front of you. How was it different when he was actually there?” I ask.

“It wasn’t, it was the same. He was just sort of sitting there crossing his arms,” Gosling says as Ford cracks up beside him.

“No, it was a relief. We felt like we were finally making Blade Runner when he arrived, and it was very important for us to begin that collaboration with him and start getting his input.”

Without Ford there, Gosling tells the story a bit more reverently—if slightly tongue and cheek, for some ironic distance.

On the day Harrison first arrived on set, Gosling said, “You couldn’t have staged it better. It happened to be on a day when the light was so low and there was a mist everywhere, and we heard that Harrison was on set. So we were just searching the silhouettes until [we saw] that silhouette that you know is Harrison’s. We were watching for him all day. And then suddenly he appeared—out of the mist.”

Ford and Gosling had never met before filming began. So, after trying to get him casted, was Gosling who Ford expected?

“No. I didn’t know Ryan. I’d seen him in various roles and he was always somebody else—he was always fully centered in that space. I didn’t know who the real Ryan is—and then I found out. I was so disappointed!”

Gosling cracks his head back in laughter.

“No, he’s great,” Ford says. “It was fun to work with him, great to work with he and Denis, and all the other talented actors that were cast in the film.”

This rapport isn’t just for the cameras. Sylvia Hoeks, who stars as Luv in Blade Runner 2049, tells me Ford and Gosling were like this throughout filming.

“They’re both great storytellers and they have a dry sense of humor. They don’t take anything very seriously, which is great, in my opinion. But when the camera is on they’re 200 per cent, definitely. The magic happens. But in between takes, Harrison was cracking jokes all the time, and telling stories, and I just peed my pants from laughing. It was very, very funny.”

It never distracted from the seriousness of the project, however—rather, it elevated it.

“I think humor is a very important thing on set because it opens up your heart. It’s the same as an audience when you go to a film I feel. At first it makes you laugh but right after it makes you cry. Your heart is open to feel all those emotions.

“Humor on set, and having fun, allows people to relax and open up their hearts to creativity and passion—just the feeling that you’re comfortable and you’re allowed to be there. I think that’s a very good thing because then the magic is allowed to happen,” Hoeks says.

For Villeneuve, the chemistry between the two is related to the similarities they share at their cores.

“They have both in common an insane charisma. They are like people that you instantly love when they appear on the screen. They have that capacity for creating empathy that is pretty powerful. Both have fantastic smiles. They are both artists who are very thoughtful and very creative, and have the capacity to bring a lot of strong ideas in order to create their characters. Both of them bring a beautiful melancholia to the screen, I would say.”

They need to work on their timing, however. After our interview is up with Gosling barely speaking a word, Ford apologizes to me as I’m getting up to leave.

“Don’t worry, we’ll fix it,” he promises me. “We’ll get Ryan to voice over the whole interview.”

“That’ll be perfect for the film noir vibe,” I say.

“Exactly!” they say in near-unison.

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