Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve had a unique way of motivating his star, Ryan Gosling, on set: using the steely gaze of original leading man Harrison Ford. “Denis would say to me, ‘now every scene you do, imagine Harrison is in the corner, watching you, shaking his head in disappointment’,” Ryan says. “That was effective.”
When discussing his actual scenes with Harrison, who shares top billing in the new Blade Runner sequel, the 36-year-old former Mouseketeer seems chilled and relaxed. You get the impression that if it weren’t for the publicity tempest swirling around his every move, he’d be a great drinking buddy, swapping stories with ease. But as one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, he maintains his guard whenever the conversation veers from the movie – even if there is the occasional flash of those famous dimples beneath the icy blue-eyed stare.
The new film has Harrison’s Rick Deckard, a blade runner assigned to hunt and exterminate synthetic humans known as replicants, returning to dystopian LA 30 years after the events of the first movie. There he encounters Ryan’s Officer K, who has discovered a dark secret that could end humanity as we know it.
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Despite the anticipatory buzz and a cast that also includes Jared Leto and Robin Wright, Ryan admits he’s anxious about how the film will be received.
“I’m always nervous for anything I do,” he says. “This is Blade Runner – there’s a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation, you can’t ignore that completely. Much of that is alleviated by Denis taking this on, he wasn’t fazed by that. And Harrison. You couldn’t do this without him, and so with them, I’m not so nervous. It could have been worse.”
He says there was also some initial trepidation about staring alongside one of his childhood heroes.
“It’s Harrison Ford, he’s an icon for generations; it’s bizarre being in his presence. I never thought I would work with him. He’s a lot funnier than I expected, way funnier. He’s a one-liner machine.
“He is why we all do what we do. He’s inspiring, his work is iconic; he’s the best. Working with him every day on set, I felt reborn as an actor, he replenished my passion for the work.”
Ryan barely even minded when his hero accidently landed a punch while the two were filming a fight scene. “Will I say it was my fault because my face leaned in a little too close to his fist? If it’s going to happen, let it be delivered by Harrison Ford. It was a privilege.”
Although Ryan was just two when the original Blade Runner was released in 1982, he says that film was a huge influence. “I first saw it when I was 12 or 13. Even at that age, I could tell how beautiful and stark it was; it had a lasting effect on me.
“I used to live in downtown LA, where a lot of it was shot, and we used to pretend we were blade runners, so this is a cool job for me. I’m not going to lie, I was excited.
“It was probably one of the first films that made me ponder the meaning, nothing was standout clear. The hero wasn’t obvious, the villain wasn’t obvious, there was an ambiguity I never came across before. There were more questions than answers.”
Next up, Ryan will suit up as astronaut Neil Armstrong in First Man, due for release next year. The film teams him with Damien Chazelle, who also directed him in La La Land. Ryan reveals he was actually in talks with the director about First Man before he’d even heard of the musical.
“That’s what we were focusing on first and then La La Land distracted us, very nicely. I knew he was working on something paying homage to the musicals of the ’50s, which I was brought up on. Anything Gene Kelly, I’m a big fan of.
Despite his diversity of roles, Ryan, who has two daughters with his partner Eva Mendes, can’t seem to shake off his sex-symbol status. He jokes, “I’m not that guy, I’m actually mean”, but insists it’s not something he gives much thought to.
Nor is he much bothered by fans who approach him in the street. “You just have to be OK with that. You’re going to be constantly disappointing people when they meet you because you’re human and the same as everyone else.”
BLADE RUNNER 2049 \ (MA15+) in cinemas now.