Here’s how Blade Runner 2049 created that incredible cameo

Ryan Leston
UK Movies Writer

‘Blade Runner 2049’ has one incredible cameo.

And no, we don’t mean Harrison Ford.

Ever since ‘Blade Runner 2049’ released its first trailer, it was clear that sci-fi sequel would jump off from the original ‘Blade Runner’ in new and unique ways… but the ties to the cult classic are obvious.

Whether it’s the neo-noir visuals or the striking soundtrack, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ frequently pays homage to the film’s roots. And the most obvious way it does that is with its surprising (and completely unexpected) cameo.

Spoiler Warning: Don’t read on if you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049 yet

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If you’ve already seen ‘Blade Runner 2049’…

It’s time to talk about the appearance of Rachael.

That’s right – Sean Young’s character from the 1982 original is back… and she hasn’t aged a single day. Of course, we’ve seen Hollywood de-age its stars plenty of times recently – most impressively in Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’ and ‘Captain America: Civil War’.

But this takes it a step further.

During a scene where Deckard is confronted by the mysterious Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) it turns out that the replicant mogul has created a copy of Rachael in order to get Deckard on board.

It’s incredibly creepy… and the visuals are stunning.

And now, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, visual effects supervisor John Nelson explains how it was done… and some of the pitfalls along the way.

“Digital humans are sort of like the holy grail — they’re really hard,” said Nelson. “I knew it would be one of the hardest things I’ve done in my career. We had many challenges in this movie but this one was definitely the hardest one we did.”

It turns out, that English actress Lauren Peta was cast as the new Rachael.

But a lot of work went into turning her into a young Sean Young – with the original actress actually helping out on set during these scenes.

“It was all very secret — this was our seriously-can’t-talk-about-it thing.”

Essentially, Lauren Peta provided a reference for some heavy-duty CGI work – everything above the neck was digitally recreated, using motion tracking dots on her face to aid with rebuilding Rachael digitally.

And that meant paying close attention to the original ‘Blade Runner’.

“I never thought I would learn so much about makeup but I did,” said Nelson, explaining that he paid especially-close attention to Sean Young’s cheekbones, chin, eyes and head tilts. “It’s one thing to make a digital double look real, it’s another to make them perform and act.”

Of course, it was all very hush-hush.

In fact, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ director Denis Villeneuve directed the scenes with Lauren Peta on a soundstage alongside Harrison Ford.

“But then he got to direct it again when we did all the CG work,” said Nelson. “All of those little moments of the mannerisms that we drilled into from the original movie, we incorporated those into the performance digitally.”

“I’m really proud of those flyaway hairs,” he explained. “Digital hair is really beautiful but sometimes it can be too perfect. So, we made flyaway hair the way it would in real life.”

And to get the facial animation just right, they used a very special technique…

One particular session took place while filming in Budapest, where both Sean Young and Loren Peta were both put in a facial motion capture rig. Then, both actresses acted out the dialogue from the film – helping the animators to capture the way Sean Young would have said those particular words.

“Only a couple of places could do it,” Nelson explained. Visual effects company MPC built Rachael’s face from model to skeleton to human… and it looks absolutely incredible.

But real actors don’t have to worry about being replaced.

At least, not for now.

“Doing digital human work is so incredibly hard,” he said. “To do these shots took an amazing amount of time. I think real actors are safe for a long while.”

‘Blade Runner 2049’ stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Edward James Olmos, and Dave Bautista.

Dennis Villeneuve will direct the movie, based on a script by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green.

‘Blade Runner 2049’ opened in cinemas on 6 October 2017.

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