Ridley Scott Reveals The Day Vangelis Found The Sound Of Blade Runner

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the original "Blade Runner" film? Tears in the Rain? The great "Is Decker a replicant?" debate? Harrison Ford's hilariously disinterested voiceover narration? All of these answers are perfectly valid, but for many there's nothing that sums up the 1982 Ridley Scott-directed classic like the unforgettable soundscape of the movie. Set in the (alarmingly recent) year of 2019 and depicting a society that has functionally collapsed into a cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic world, Scott needed to come up with a wholly unique visual and auditory language that would define "Blade Runner" for decades to come.

Luckily, the director had help from some of the most talented folks in the industry to accomplish that intimidating task. Sadly, a few of those staggeringly invaluable contributors have passed away this year. Douglas Turnbull, for example, played a significant role in selling the look and feel of "Blade Runner" through his groundbreaking visual effects work. Most recently, the Greek electronic musician and film composer Vangelis passed away, leaving behind an unimaginably vast legacy that forever changed the film industry — not least of all because he discovered the legendary sound for "Blade Runner."

Ridley Scott talked with Empire to eulogize the late musician and reminisce about the precise moment that he realized what Vangelis had clued into. Unlike the musicality that he had anticipated, Vangelis revealed an array of haunting and immediately distinctive sounds that blew Scott and his editor Terry Rawlings' temp score out of the water.

The subtext of sound

Too often, we take the impossibly complex process of creating music in a film for granted, underestimating just how much time and effort and creativity go into the tiniest details that most audiences may not even notice. The always detail-oriented Ridley Scott made no such mistakes on "Blade Runner," recruiting the best of the best to add their own little piece to the whole that would ultimately add up to one of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made ... even if it took general audiences and critics a little more time to catch up to its brilliance. Vangelis' immeasurable impact on the sound of the film is the stuff of filmmaking legend.

It all started when Scott met up with his composer at the end of another long day of editing, only to be met with an "exhilarated" Vangelis who announced, "I think I've found the sound of your film." According to Scott:

"On the large, black screen in front of me came up legends and descriptions of replicants and blade runners. The subtext was sound rather than music. Even a ship's bell rang distantly ... inexplicably. I never questioned it, but simply loved it. Finally, the subtext of sound became a quiet overture to the explosion and wave of music and sound that washed over me, revealing Los Angeles [2019], and I was taken into the future."

To nobody's surprise, the storyteller makes this memory come alive as if we were right there when it happened. There are a few moments in Hollywood history where the perfect elements just happen to come together at the right time and place, combining to create something unforgettable. This was certainly one of them. As Scott perfectly encapsulates himself, "Vangelis' score was the heart and soul of 'Blade Runner.' He will be missed."