The digital bits bit...
(LATE UPDATE - 7/30/07 - 1:30 PM PDT)
Okay. Comic-Con. There's a lot of ground to cover, so let's take it from the beginning.
First though, a quick correction: The Blade Runner press release which we posted on Thursday contained one error - the running time for The Final Cut should be 117 minutes... not 157 as was shown on the press release. We've corrected our text, but we just wanted to let you know.
Now then... our panel. As we noted earlier, DVD Sneak Peek 2007 was one of the first events on the Con schedule on Thursday morning. As it started just an hour after the convention doors opened, Todd and I were a little worried that we'd have a hard time filling the panel room. Turns out we had no need to worry. The 500-seat room was packed when we started and people kept filing in as the hour progressed. By the end, it was standing room only. And we definitely rewarded those in attendance for their time.
After the usual introductions, the panel started out with DVD producer Robert Meyer Burnett talking about his work on New Line's Shoot 'Em Up. Then we surprised the audience with the director of the film himself, Michael Davis, who popped in to say hello and show a funny clip he'd prepared. Davis really got the crowd going. He was very friendly and animated - a great guy (and Michael, if you're reading this, thanks again for dropping by). Robert then talked about another film he's been working on himself, but when we attempted to show the trailer he'd brought, it turned out that there was no audio on the disc. D'oh!
Next up was Javier Soto, who talked a bit about the DVD he's currently working on... Hellboy 2, which director Guillermo del Toro is currently filming in Hungary. Javier spoke about his plans for the DVD and high-def versions, which include the possibility of a short film that will help bridge the gap between the two features and introduce some of the new characters. He also hinted that he's getting ready to start working on an elaborate special edition for the only del Toro film that's yet to receive such deluxe treatment on DVD. He couldn't say what it was specifically, but he gave enough clues for us to guess that it's probably Mimic. So watch for that sometime next year.
Of course, as expected, our panel this year was pretty much set to be the Charles de Lauzirika show. Charlie started by giving the crowd details about the forthcoming Twin Peaks: The Complete Series box set that he's been working on for CBS/Paramount. The set (which will be announced soon for release later this year) will include both seasons of the show as well as both versions of the pilot episode, along with deleted scenes from various episodes and tons of new extras created just for this set. He then gave the crowd the first look at some of the documentary footage he's assembled, which in this case included a few minutes of the cast and crew attempting to answer the question "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" and a bit of a roundtable discussion he put together with David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan and other cast and crew members. The crowd definitely responded with excitement to both the news and the footage.
But by far the biggest response was to what came next: Charlie broke the official news on the long awaited Blade Runner: The Final Cut from Warner. He talked about the FIVE different versions of the film that will be on the release, the different versions of the release itself (2-disc, 4-disc and 5-disc DVDs, along with 5-disc Blu-ray and HD-DVD versions - extras on both high-def versions will be exactly the same - and the elaborate collector's case versions). You can find all the official details and artwork here. He then revealed that over 80 people were interviewed for the set, from Ridley Scott to virtually everyone associated with the production including Harrison Ford and all the major cast members. In terms of footage, he started by showing the Dangerous Days: Making Blade Runner trailer (which you can all see for yourselves on Disc Two of Warner's 300 DVD - it streets tomorrow).
Next, Charlie revealed that the set will also include a whopping 47 minutes worth of deleted scenes, not seen in any previous version of the film. He then proceeded to debut an exclusive clip of some of this deleted footage. Now... Todd and I had the chance to preview all 47 minutes of this deleted material on Wednesday night, before our panel, and I can tell you first-hand that you have absolutely NO IDEA just how cool this material is. It's not just 47 minutes worth of deleted material - it's like getting a 5½ th or a 6th version of the film itself. The material is all edited together chronologically, to create an encapsulated version of the story. It starts with a completely new opening credits scene and new special effects shots of the 2019 L.A. cityscape. Then you get scenes you've seen before... but it's all put together using alternate takes, different camera angles and other completely unused footage. There are also a number of true deleted scenes, including a few that no one outside the production even knew existed before. All of this is set to music from the film and newly-looped sound effects... as well as Harrison Ford's voiceover narration. But get this: This narration is a completely different take than what was in the original theatrical version of the film, and it's just totally different. Different lines, different dialogue. We think it's actually BETTER than what was ultimately used in the film!
Let me give you just a couple examples of some of the things you're going to see: Turns out Deckard had a wife, who now lives in one of the off-world colonies - you see a picture of her and Deckard together (except that, if my memory doesn't fail me, the picture is set on the same porch as Rachel's photograph of herself with her mother - consider the implications of that). There's also a brief scene, after Batty has killed Tyrell, where he gets back into the elevator and he's shaking - he's clearly disturbed at what he's just done. The elevator announces the floor in a computerized female voice, and Batty looks up at the speaker and says "Mother?" in this sort of child-like daze. Rutger Hauer's performance is just perfect. There's even two alternate endings, in which Deckard and Rachel have dialogue while driving off in Deckard's car. And this is all just scratching the surface. I'm telling you, this stuff is absolutely amazing. If you think you know everything there is to know about Blade Runner, you are in for a REAL shock. Todd and I were just stunned after we finished watching this stuff. And keep in mind, every bit of this footage was shot by Ridley Scott in his prime... so it's just gorgeous. My head is still spinning over it all.
The final bit of footage that Charlie previewed exclusively for the crowd, was a behind-the-scenes look at the infamous reshoot from earlier this year featuring Joanna Cassidy's character Zhora. Now, when news of this reshoot leaked on the Net, it sparked an outcry from fans who feared that Scott was pulling a George Lucas and drastically altering the film with all new effects or something. Turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. The Final Cut of the film itself has been edited a tiny bit, with a couple of new scenes added and a little bit of footage excised. But the new effects tweaks are very minor. For example, in many shots involving the practical, on-set Spinner, you can see the suspension cables holding it in the air. These have been removed. In a couple instances members of the camera crew were accidentally captured on the edges of the frame, so they've been removed. And there's an instance where Harrison Ford's dialogue doesn't match his lip movements on screen (a shot through the glass as he's talking to the snake dealer), so Harrison Ford's son, Ben Ford, was brought in. He was dressed in the costume and was given the same scar on his chin as his father via make-up. His face was then shot (at the correct angle, under matching lighting) reading the same lines, and his mouth and chin were inserted over his father's so the lip-synch now matches. It's absolutely seamless.
But the Zhora reshoot was what triggered the most controversy, so here's what it was about: Back in 1982, actress Joanna Cassidy wasn't allowed to do the stunt where Zhora crashes through the window panes. But if you watch the film closely, especially now in high-definition, it's painfully obvious that it's a stuntwoman in those shots. I mean, it's not even close. The woman has a bad afro-like wig on and it's bouncing around so much in those shots that it looks like Ronald McDonald going through the glass. So Cassidy was brought back in, dressed in her original costume and was given the same snake tattoo on her face. Then she was shot on a greenscreen stage, going through the same movements as the stunt woman. Her face and body angles were matched to the original stunt woman frame by frame, so they're identical. Then, Cassidy's head was digitally inserted over the stunt woman's and it was blended together, color-corrected and matched seamlessly. So now, when you see Zhora crash through the glass, it's actually Zhora all the way through. Charlie showed the behind-the-scenes at our panel, and then at the official Warner panel the next day, he showed the final shot. And again, it's amazing. The first time I saw this finished sequence a few months ago, I was actively looking for the effect... and I completely missed it. That's how good a job the CG team has done on this. It was only after going back and looking at the original shots on DVD that I realized what a big difference there was, and I was just floored.
On the whole, our DVD Sneak Panel was a huge success. We had a few tiny problems with the DVD player that was on hand to show the clips, but fortunately, the Comic-Con people were able to swap a malfunctioning unit out with a good replacement, so we were able to show virtually everything we'd planned to. And the crowd reaction was really terrific. I know that Charlie and his assistant producer, Paul Prischman, were both really pleased with the crowd reaction to the Blade Runner footage they'd brought. They've been working on this release for years now - the project actually first started back in 2000 - and this was the first time they'd gotten to see a public reaction to any of it. And as long as I've known Charlie, Blade Runner has been the one title he's most wanted to tackle as a special edition. I think you guys are going to agree that Charlie, Paul and the rest of their DVD team have really knocked it out of the park. It was really a special hour for all of us. Our thanks again to Robert, Javier, Michael, Charlie, Paul and everyone at Warner, CBS/Paramount and Comic-Con who made the event possible.
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