Bladerunner: Was Deckard a replicant?

In the beginning of the film after Deckard meets up with Brian Tucker to go over the videos of the replicants of Leon, Roy, Zhora, and Pris... Tucker tells Deckard "you tell me pal, thats what you're here for" after Deckard asks what the Replicants want with the Tyrell Corporation. Watch as Tucker analyzes Deckards reactions as Tucker pans from Zhora to Pris... and watch Tucker's reaction after he tells Deckard that the designers of the Replicants built in a failsafe device or 4 year lifespan. Tucker seemed concerned at first that Deckard might realize that Tucker is also referring to Deckard while talking about the 4 year lifespan, but after seeing Deckard's reaction Tucker is relieved that Deckard didn't get the vibe. Then after Tucker tells Deckard to go to Tyrell to meet up with a Nexus 6 and to put the machine on, Tucker seems surprised at Deckard's reply of "not if the machine doesn't work" which opens the door on whether Deckard realizes hes a replicant too or doesn't.
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For what it's worth, I think it's one of the great pieces of cinema to pose such a question and then not provide an answer. Bit like the spinning top at the end of Inception.

Was Deckard a replicant? Does it matter if there is a definitive answer? As intelligent cinema audience and science fiction readers, we all have our own thoughts, and who's to say that any of us are wrong?

did we enjoy the film? Whether we did or did not, opinion is never wrong!
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I'm not sure if he was. I didn't think so.

Another thing about the film; it's set in 2019. Why wasn't the year something like 2219? Clearly the year 2019 depicted in the film is way, way off.

There's a series called State of Syn (2012) set in 2043. Again, the society depicted is not accurate. Why do Hollywood movies etc. always seem to get the 'future year' so wrong?
It might be said that they didn't get the year wrong. It might simply not be our reality, which considering PK Dick, would be apt.

In this case, it's not so much Hollywood, but Dick himself who described the world. The film is very different to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but the world is very much based on the novel and Dick's ideas. Plus, it was written in 1968, when 2019 was a good way off.

As to Deckard being a replicant - it goes back to the question of whose reality is it? I like the unanswered nature of it.
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In the interview I saw, I remember how Ridley Scot was initially hesitant to answer the question because he was surprised by how this became an emotional issue for so many people. But eventually in a round-about way he indicated Deckard was a replicant. That surprised me completely 'cause it went right over my head when I first saw the movie. But in the end it sorta makes sense & is an interesting twist.

Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty had some amazing & unforgetable moments too. Like when he was on the roof in the rain, after saving Deckard's life:

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe! Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die."
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Even if Scott thought he was a replicant, doesn't the fact that Harrison Ford played him as human mean he was one? Unless Harrison Ford had memory implants too...
I've just watched Blade Runner: The Final Cut (again!) and kept this question in mind. And so far as I can tell, there is absolutely nothing that might suggest that Deckard was a replicant, except for two specific things:

1. Deckard's old photographs on the piano. These are obviously intended to juxtapose with Leon's photo collection. However, this could easily be explained away as people on earth having an obsession for the past because of humanity leaving the earth;

2. The unicorn running scene. But this is such a jarring insert, that occurs while Deckard is seated at the piano, and otherwise seems to have no relation to the film - except to connect with the unicorn origami at the very end.

Here's another thing - throughout the film, replicants repeatedly exhibit a retinal reflection effect, like a cat's eye - Rachel has it in Deckard's apartment, Pris and Roy both clearly show it, and even the owl at the Tyrell corporation clearly exhibits this effect. At no point in the film do I recall Deckard ever displaying the same effect.

You can see that effect clearly in this promo shot:


In my original post I quoted an argument that says that Deckard's eyes also show this effect - if so, then mea culpa. But I never noticed it, so would need a scene reference to look this up.

Also, I'm sure I've seen the suggestion that all of the replications that Bryant mentions at the start are not accounted for but they are - 6 escaped, two were fried, leaving Roy, Zhora, Pris, and Leon.
Bah! Just found the reference to a scene where Deckard's eyes show the reflection effect:


There are a couple of interesting arguments for his being a replicant here:

the fact that Roy knew Deckard's name, yet was never told about it before.

the fact that Gaff, who had shown no sympathy for Deckard throughout the film, tells him "You've done a man's job, sir!" after Roy expires, lets Rachael live and does not intervene when she and Deckard leave his apartment.

Okay, maybe I was wrong, then! :D
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Oh, and some good quotes on that page from those in the film, too:

Hampton Francher (original screenwriter)- During a discussion panel with Ridley Scott for Blade Runner: The Final Cut he cuts Scott off during the replicant talk saying "Ridley's off, he's totally wrong!" and that "[Scott's] idea is too complex" and prefers the film to remain ambiguous saying "So the question [is Deckard a replicant] has to be an eternal question. It doesn't have an answer, and what I always say about that is what Pound says: 'Art that remains news is art in which the question 'what does it mean'' has no correct answer. I like asking the question [about Deckard] and I like it to be asked but I think it's nonsense to answer it...that's not interesting to me."

Harrison Ford- considers Deckard to be human, saying "that was the main area of contention between Ridley and myself at the time. I thought the audience deserved one human being on the screen that they could establish an emotional relationship with. I thoughtI had won ' 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." (end of clip)

Philip K. Dick (author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the book the film is based on)- he wrote the original role of Deckard as a human. "The purpose of this story as I saw it was that in his job of hunting and killing these replicants, Deckard becomes progressively dehumanized. At the same time, the replicants are being perceived as becoming more human. Finally, Deckard must question what he is doing, and really what is the essential difference between him and them? And, to take it one step further, who is he if there is no real difference?"
Ah! I was just coming to reference the scene:

- Deckard's eyes glow (yellow-orange) when he is washing the blood out of his mouth in his bathroom, and when he tells Rachael that he wouldn't go after her, "but someone would". Deckard is standing behind Rachael, and he's out of focus.

This older thread has more evidence both for and against (and it really depends on the version of the film.)

I still think the jury is out on this - which makes it an enduring and cult film. Making a sequel with a Deckard still living after the obligatory six years will pretty much put the argument to bed. It will therefore destroy the intrigue and spoil the original.
I come at it from Dick's viewpoint. Deckard was written as human so he's human. Scott can hint that Deckard is a replicant all he wants, but it doesn't make it so. Dick trumps Scott. End of story.
Dick trumps Scott. End of story.
You miss my point. One reason people still talk about this film, and IMHO the main reason, is the ambiguity. Lose the ambiguity and you lose the film.

In any case, Dick didn't direct the film. Film is different to Books, which is different TV, which is different to Graphic Novel, which is different to Stage.
I've always thought of Deckard as a replicant, although I appreciate that Dick didn't write it that way and Ford didn't play it that way; but that makes sense, as like Rachel, he doesn't know. There's the eyes, of course, but for me the big deal is the unicorn at the end. This is Graff not just giving Deckard the all-clear to escape, but telling him that he knows he's a replicant (because he knows his dream of he unicorn). Deckard's nod there represents an acknowledgement of both points. I'm sure by this point he also suspected.

Having said all that, I'd also be happy with ambiguity. I think it works either way.
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He wasn't a replicant nor was he human. He existed balanced on a knife's edge between the two extremes, traveling in both worlds.

While he was around replicants, he exhibited replicant signs.
But.. While he was around humans he exhibited human signs.

The director told him what he was. Something new.

This is what I remember from the theatrical release version.
IMHO the rest of the reedits worked more to obscure this premise then to exhibit it.
That he was this chimera like creature. A chameleon.
Nope - Deckard is not a Replicant.

6 escaped - 2 were fried trying to break into the Tyrell Corporation building, leaving 4 - Roy, Pris, Leon, and Khora.

The only thing connecting Deckard to the replicants is the sequence of the unicorn - connecting to Graf's origami one at the end.

The photos thing - that was to show to similarity between humans and replicants, and why memories were important to a sense of self-identity.

And as for the red eye thing - that's just retinal reflection due to the lighting, and doesn't indicate a replicant. The shot below is when Deckard is doing testing Rachel at the very beginning - if red eyes was an indicator of her being one, he'd have got that straight away. Instead, he had to ask her over a hundred questions to determine she was one.


Conclusion? Deckard was never scripted to be one. But Ridley Scott wanted to suggest it, and the only way he could do that was with the unicorn shot - which always looked completely out of place in the film.
There are several additional signs that no one has pointed out:

1. As a symbol, none of the replicants wear hats, glasses or have any physical flaws. Every person in the film that isn't old, fat, wrinkled, bespeckled, ugly, wearing a hat or a dwarf is a replicant. Even in the club scenes, the nicer looking women have hats or vails on. Gaff has a cane, Tyrell glasses, etc. All the healthy people are off planet, so when you do see a good looking person who doesn't care about getting their head wet in the rain, watch out. (Which is a symbol more than a replicant behavior.)

2. Deckard doesn't just survive one beating, but three. You can see the frustration on Zora's face when she beats his head repeatedly without any effect. He's like a rubber toy.

3. Holden looks and especially acts like Deckard. Watch his expressions and listen to his voice talking to Leon - it is like they hired a guy to do a Harrison Ford impression. No glasses, no hat, nice looking and is also a Blade Runner. You'll also note that Leon has to use that devastating gun on Holden twice - you can see Holden trying to draw his own pistol after the first shot. Blade Runners are very, very tough. And they have similar looks and personalities.

4. "Have you ever put that machine on yourself?" -Rachel.

5. The intimate scene with Deckard and Rachel is just plain weird - Deckard acts strange by any yardstick, and the music is foreboding, not romantic as it becomes later. Deckard is dealing with unfamiliar emotions.

I don't think the glowing eye thing means anything. Eyes are a repeating motif throughout the film. Eye factory, weird glasses and lenses, etc.

As far as Harrison Ford goes, Ridley told his star what he needed to get the performance he wanted out of him. Deckard believes he's human, so Ford was told he was playing a human. Ford doesn't want to feel duped, so he sticks with what he was told.
Replicant or not, I don't really care - I think it's evident that Scott wanted to suggest Deckard might be a replicant, but I'm not sure he ever wanted the audience to know for sure. That being said:

Nope - Deckard is not a Replicant.

6 escaped - 2 were fried trying to break into the Tyrell Corporation building, leaving 4 - Roy, Pris, Leon, and Khora.

Sorry, but all it means is that Deckard is not one of the NEXUS-6 that the police are after - it does not imply that the police do not use even more advanced replicants to track down those runaways (which would make far more sense than hiring a real human being by the way). Rachel is very much a replicant too, so where does she fit in your calculations?

What seems clear to me is that there are many replicants on Earth, regardless of their legal status. The only replicants who are not allowed to set foot on Earth are those who are aware of their true nature. The Nexus replicants have short lifespans, higher strength and other skills that make them a desirable property for manual labor or sex. They are basically slaves. Nothing ever states that all replicants belong to the Nexus class however so Rachel might well be something else entirely, with a normal human life span and access to Earth + higher functions. But she is not programmed to know what she is.

For all we know, everybody left on Earth is a replicant.

If red eyes was an indicator of her being one, he'd have got that straight away. Instead, he had to ask her over a hundred questions to determine she was one.

Except the red eye thing is not an in-universe telltale sign that someone is a replicant, but a 'non-diegetic' clue from the filmmakers to the audience.

It is never stated in the film that replicants can be recognised by the red glow in their eyes when the light hits them at a certain angle. However it is implied by the filmmakers' use of the gimmick that only replicants have red glowing eyes.

Conclusion? Deckard was never scripted to be one. But Ridley Scott wanted to suggest it, and the only way he could do that was with the unicorn shot - which always looked completely out of place in the film.

And the red eyes. And Gaff's final line, 'You've done a man's job, sir!" which in the context of the plot is a deliberately ambiguous choice of words (in an earlier version of the script, Gaff added the somewhat less subtle "But are you sure you are a man?" before flying off.
it'll be interestingto see how Blade Runner 2049 handles this debate.

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