Denis Villeneuve noted that he's fully aware of the immense pressure he's under, and how hardcore fans of the original view the prospect of a new film: "I know that every single fan will walk into the theater with a baseball bat. I'm aware of that and I respect that, and it's okay with me because it's art. Art is risk, and I have to take risks. It's gonna be the biggest risk of my life but I'm okay with that. For me it's very exciting... It's just so inspiring, I'm so inspired. I've been dreaming to do sci-fi since I was 10 years old, and I said 'no' to a lot of sequels. I couldn't say 'no' to Blade Runner 2049 (2017). I love it too much, so I said, 'Alright, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.'"
According to one of the film's producers, Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford will reprise his role as Rick Deckard from Blade Runner (1982). Scott talked about the sequel's story and what involvement Ford will have as he went on to say: "We talked at length about what it could be, and came up with a pretty strong three-act storyline, and it all makes sense in terms of how it relates to the first one. Harrison is very much part of this one, but really it's about finding him; he comes in in the third act."
Originally, at the early development stage of the project, Ridley Scott was set to take on the directorial duties of Blade Runner 2049 (2017). By the time the movie was getting close to pre-production, Scott announced he would no longer take the helm but would stay involved as a producer. Specifics weren't given by Scott on why he dropped out of directing the film. Oddly enough, a report came out in August 2014 that Alien: Covenant (2017), a sequel to Prometheus (2012), may be getting delayed because Scott planned to helm Blade Runner 2049 (2017) after The Martian (2015), which was in production at the time. But now, it looks to be the other way around, and Scott's commitment to Alien: Covenant (2017) may have forced him to step away from directing Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
Sean Young does not reprise her role as Rachael from Blade Runner (1982). After being very vocal in her reactions to Blade Runner 2049 (2017), which included a suggestion that fans of the original film should boycott this new one if she was not involved in it, she told The Guardian newspaper: "I saw Ridley a month ago, and not a peep was uttered from his mouth about it, and so I left it alone."
Ever since Blade Runner (1982) hit theaters, there has been a divide among its fans about whether or not Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard is a human or a replicant. It's a question that the film leaves up to the viewer, though director Ridley Scott, Ford, and everyone else has chimed in with their own thoughts on the subject. With the sequel, there will certainly be more fuel on the fire of Deckard's true identity. Denis Villeneuve did go on to say that the mystery will be something they address in the film and that re-contextualizing the original film with any answers they present in the sequel is a concern of his: "The thing I must say is that I love mystery. I love shadows. I love doubts. I would just want to say to the fans that we will take care of that mystery. I will take care of it."
With Ridley Scott having toyed with the edit of Blade Runner (1982) over the years, it is fair to ask which version would be considered "canon" going into the sequel. Denis Villeneuve replied by insinuating the follow-up may not be as much of a straightforward sequel as we thought: "The movie will be autonomous and at the same time there will be some link. The only thing I can say is I was raised with the original cut, the original version that Ridley doesn't like. That's the Blade Runner that I was introduced to at the beginning and that I loved for years, and then I must say that I appreciated the very last cut, the 'Final Cut' version. So between all the different cuts, for me it's the first and the very last that I'm more inspired by."
Initially, Denis Villeneuve was against the concept of a sequel to Blade Runner (1982), as he felt it could violate the original. But after reading the script, which he and Harrison Ford have described as "one of the best" they have ever read, he committed to the project, stating that Ford was already involved at that point: "To be very honest with you, Harrison was part of the project before I arrived. He was attached to it right from the start with Ridley [Scott]. I met him and he's honestly one of the nicest human beings I've met and is one of my favorite actors of all time, so for me it's a lot of pleasure."
Speaking of pressure, Denis Villeneuve admitted that he was initially hesitant to take on such an iconic property: "It's more than nervous, it's a deep fear. I mean when I heard that Ridley Scott wanted to do another movie in the Blade Runner universe, at first my reaction was that it's a fantastic idea, but it may be a very bad idea. I'm among the hardcore fans of Blade Runner (1982). It's one of my favorite movies of all time. It's a movie that is linked with my love and passion for cinema. I'm coming from a small town in Quebec where, at that time, there was no internet and the way to be in contact with movies were those American fan magazines like Fantastic Films and Starlog and I still remember the shock, the impact of seeing the first frames, the first pictures coming out of Blade Runner. Me and my friends were in awe, so excited and the movie was such a strong cinematic experience. A new way of seeing sci-fi."
Ultimately Denis Villeneuve says he signed on, "because I feel that I can do it," and expanded a bit on how he'll be approaching the sequel: "It's a huge challenge, because you don't want to cut and paste, otherwise there's no point. And at the same time you have to respect what was done, so you have to find the right equilibrium between being faithful to the first one and bringing something new at the same time that will make sense to the Blade Runner universe."
Hampton Fancher (co-writer of the original) and Michael Green have written the original screenplay based on an idea by Fancher and Ridley Scott with the story taking place several decades after the conclusion of the 1982 original. Denis Villeneuve said in an interview for Collider on September 11, 2015: "Hampton Fancher, Ridley Scott and Michael Green did a fantastic job on the screenplay. It's a very powerful screenplay. And I felt that it made sense to me and I had the Ridley Scott blessing. But you ask if I hesitated. I hesitated massively. It took me a lot of time to say yes."
European sci-fi magazine Métal Hurlant, considered revolutionary in the comic book art form during the 70s and 80s, has inspired many generations of authors and filmmakers, such as Ridley Scott for Blade Runner (1982). François Schuiten, one of the most influential comic book artists behind Métal Hurlant, acted as production designer on Mars et Avril (2012). This indie sci-fi romance, which pays tribute to Métal Hurlant in many ways, is directed by Martin Villeneuve, the younger brother of Denis Villeneuve who is now directing Blade Runner 2049 (2017).
Director Denis Villeneuve spent the summer and fall of 2016 in Budapest filming Blade Runner 2049 (2017) slated for release next year per Wall Street Journal (September 8, 2016, article by Don Steinberg).