|Blade Runner character|
Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard in the 1982 film
|First appearance||Novel: |
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)
Blade Runner (1982)
|Last appearance||Novel: |
Eye and Talon (2000)
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
|Created by||Philip K. Dick|
|Portrayed by||Harrison Ford|
|Voiced by||James Purefoy|
|Occupation||Police officer / bounty hunter|
|Affiliation||San Francisco Police Department (Book)|
Los Angeles Police Department (Film)
|Family||Ana Stelline (daughter, with Rachael)|
|Spouse||Iran Deckard (Book)|
Rick Deckard is a fictional character, the protagonist of Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Harrison Ford portrayed the character in the 1982 film adaptation, Blade Runner, and reprised his role in the 2017 sequel, Blade Runner 2049. James Purefoy voiced the character in the 2014 BBC Radio 4 adaptation.
Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who becomes a specialist plainclothes police officer with the San Francisco Police Department in the early 21st century, responsible for killing (euphemistically, "retiring") androids that escape from off-world colonies. In the film adaptation, he was/is with the Replicant Detection Division (i.e. Blade Runner unit) of the Los Angeles Police Department. In both novel and film versions, he begins the story as a selfish, self-involved cop who seemingly sees no value in android life. In the novel, his experiences cause him to develop empathy toward androids and all living things. It is implied in the film that he had already begun to undergo this change prior to the start of the film, causing his original resignation some time (around May 2019) before its opening.
Deckard is married to Iran, one of the more empathetic characters in the novel. She descends into a depression over the state of humanity, and is able to find the empathy necessary to care for an electric toad at the end of the novel.
Harrison Ford portrayed Deckard in the 1982 film. In the film, the bounty hunters are replaced by special police personnel called "Blade Runners", and the androids are called "replicants", terms not used in the original novel. The novel depicts Deckard as an obsequious and officious underling who is human and has a wife, but because of the many versions of the film and because of script, the backstory of the movie version of Rick Deckard becomes unclear. Viewers have to make up their own minds as to whether Deckard is a human or replicant and therefore has a past. The voice-over in the theatrical release indicates Deckard is divorced, as it mentions an ex-wife. However the voice-over has been removed from subsequent versions and so this detail is not mentioned. If the viewer takes the perspective that Deckard is a replicant then the "ex-wife" only becomes an implanted memory.
Blade Runner 2049
Ford reprised the role for the sequel, portraying an older Deckard who is hiding in the radioactive ruins of Las Vegas, violently resisting intrusion. Prior to the events of the film, Deckard’s replicant lover Rachael became pregnant with his child but died in childbirth. Deckard was forced to leave the child, a girl, with a replicant freedom movement and scrambled the child’s birth records to protect her before disappearing. The pursuit of the child by different groups is the main driving force of the plot. At the end of the film, Deckard finally meets his daughter Ana Stelline, a scientist who designs memories for replicants.
Deckard: human or replicant?
In the Director's Cut and the Final Cut, there is a sequence in which Deckard daydreams about a unicorn; in the final scene, he finds an origami unicorn on the floor outside his apartment, left there by Gaff, suggesting that Gaff knows about Deckard's dream in the same manner that Deckard knows about Rachael's implanted memories. Scott confirmed this interpretation was his intent in the unicorn daydream.
However, while memory implantation for replicants is established elsewhere in the movie, it is unclear if daydreams work in the same way. Even without considering this scene, there is other evidence and hints that allow for the possibility of Deckard being a replicant but does not eliminate the possibility of Deckard being human:
- That Deckard's apartment is full of photographs, none of them recent or in color. Replicants have a taste for photographs because it provides a tie to a non-existent past.
- The scene in which Rachael asks, "You know that Voight-Kampf test of yours? Did you ever take that test yourself? Deckard?". By the time she calls out his name, Rachel finds that she had not received an answer because the injured, exhausted Deckard has fallen asleep.
- His fellow detective Gaff shows no sympathy for Deckard throughout the film and tells him "You've done a man's job, sir!" after Roy expires.
- Deckard's eyes glow briefly in one scene, which was used in the film to subtly suggest his replicant identity. However, Ford denies this was an intentional effect and he may have caught some of the light intended to fall on Sean Young's eyes.
Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick wrote the character Deckard as a human in the original novel in order to explore the increasing similarity of humans and replicants. However, the film significantly diverges from the book, e.g. the book states explicitly that Deckard passed the Voight-Kampff test. Screenwriter Hampton Fancher has said that he wrote the character as a human, but wanted the film to suggest the possibility that he may be a replicant. When asked, "Is Deckard a replicant?", Fancher replied, "No. It wasn't like I had a tricky idea about Deckard that way." During a discussion panel with Ridley Scott to discuss Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Fancher again stated that he believes Deckard is human (saying that "[Scott's] idea is too complex"), but also repeated that he prefers the film to remain ambiguous.
Harrison Ford considers Deckard to be human. "That was the main area of contention between Ridley and myself at the time," Ford told an interviewer during a BBC One Hollywood Greats segment. "I thought the audience deserved one human being on screen that they could establish an emotional relationship with. I thought I had won Ridley's agreement to that, but in fact I think he had a little reservation about that. I think he really wanted to have it both ways." Scott suggests that Ford may have since changed his view, although Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve claimed that Ford and Scott argue about the issue to this day. Other people involved in the movie's production who have expressed the view that Deckard is human include: David Snyder (art director), M. Emmet Walsh (who portrayed Bryant) and Rutger Hauer (who portrayed Roy Batty).
Ridley Scott stated in several interviews that he considers Deckard to be a replicant, but admits to the disagreement with Harrison, stating on the July 2019 CNN documentary series The Movies that "Harrison's in full denial, today, that he is a replicant", stating that he intended the unicorn origami from Gaff as proof that this outside party knows about Deckard's most private dream. Syd Mead, the film's visual futurist, agrees with Scott that Deckard is a replicant. The disagreement among the people involved in making Blade Runner raises interesting questions about authorial intent, including who, if anyone, can make authoritative pronouncements about a film's interpretation.
The film's visual effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull stated that he doesn't know Deckard's true nature and that the issue is an enigma; similarly, Villeneuve also noted that in 2049, "Deckard [...] is unsure, as we are, of what his identity is".
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- Adam White (2 October 2017). "What is a Blade Runner? And other questions you may have before seeing the sequel". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
[RIDLEY SCOTT] Gaff, at the very end, leaves an origami, which is a piece of silver paper you might find in a cigarette packet, and it’s a unicorn. Now, the unicorn in Deckard’s daydream tells me that Deckard wouldn’t normally talk about such a thing to anyone. If Gaff knew about that, it’s Gaff’s message to say, ‘I’ve read your file, mate.
- Greenwald, Ted. "Interview with Ridley Scott in Wired magazine". Wired.com. Archived from the original on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2012-05-23.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
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