Denis Villeneuve on wanting to cast David Bowie: “He embodied the Blade Runner spirit”

The filmmaker originally wanted the legendary musician to play the film's villain


    Look, no one will ever forget the A-list cast for Blade Runner 2049. After all, it doesn’t get much better than Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, and Jared Leto. But, when director Denis Villeneuve first started dreaming up the sequel for the silver screen, he didn’t initially see the 30 Seconds to Mars frontman – turned – Academy Award winner as replicant creator Niander Wallace. Instead, he saw the late David Bowie for the role, and in a forthcoming interview with Consequence of Sound, Villeneuve digresses on how much the Thin White Duke meant to his original vision and how fortunate he was to have Leto save it.

    “Casting is a very delicate moment and very important. You will choose your main color palette, you will choose the people that will bring souls in front of the screen, and you have to be very careful when you do casting. There was a lot of people that came to mind when I read the screenplay, an idea that came to the table very early on when we started casting was that Wallace could be played by someone like David Bowie. It made so much sense to me. I said, ‘That’s a genius idea! That’s a genius idea!’ David Bowie, for me, was Blade Runner before its time. Probably, the original Blade Runner was inspired by David Bowie. He was so ahead of his time. He’s a sci-fi character in itself. He embodied the Blade Runner spirit.

    “So, I said, ‘If I bring back a new Blade Runner, to have David Bowie in it would make so much sense,’ and he’s a very avant actor, who had a nice theatrical quality, and I needed someone who had that insane charisma. I thought he was perfect. But the truth is, I started to bring this idea to the table in front of everybody, and everyone got excited about the idea, and we reached out to his people to know if he’d be available, just to know. I was afraid he’d be on tour, or busy, or didn’t want to act again, I didn’t know. I don’t know him, never met him, never talked to him. The first thing, as we were doing this process, the news landed one morning — super sad news for the world — that this great artist had gone away.

    “Of course, I was super sad for such a loss, and at the same time, and from a selfish point of view, I was like, ‘Oh boy…’ [Pause.] Jared Leto asked me a question, he said, ‘How come you came to me that late?’ I never told him the answer is because I had to mourn him …. a long time. I needed to find another good idea, and it was a very long process for me to let the passion for Bowie fade away. So, I started to shoot the movie not knowing, and the producers were fantastic, they said, ‘Take your time, we understand. You will find an idea.’ And when the idea of Jared came, then I knew that I’m so grateful Jared accepted because I needed the quality I was looking for, and honestly, I was blown away by his performance.

    Stay tuned for the full interview in the next few weeks.

    Blade Runner 2049 is currently in theaters.