The movie Blade Runner has, over time, become one of the most enduring and iconic science fiction films ever made. Starring Harrison Ford, it’s based on a Philip K. Dick novel about a bounty hunter tracking down a bunch of androids. Of course while that obviously makes for a pretty badass movie, and was no doubt easy to sell to movie studios based on the plot alone, it’s not a big surprise that they scoffed at the title of the book.
After all, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” doesn’t exactly sell the tone of the film or the book itself. So where the hell did the title Blade Runner come from? An entirely different sci-fi novel, as it turns out. Titled The Bladerunner, the novel was written by Alan E. Nourse. Like the movie Blade Runner, it takes place in a Dystopian society, only it revolves around black market medical services.
The book by Nourse was actually optioned to become a movie, and William S. Burroughs, who authored the book “Naked Lunch” which, as Nelson Muntz once pointed out involves neither nudity nor lunch, and was a founding member of the beat generation alongside Ginsberg and Kerouac, wrote the script. So basically, his treatment for the movie based on Nourse’s novel may have been a bizarre, beautiful thing to behold after he finished writing it in 1979. Obviously, the movie never actually made it to film.
So how did the Harrison Ford classic wind up taking the title? Turns out that one of the screenwriters for the movie that would become Blade Runner had a copy of the Burroughs script and suggested they just use his title instead of something generic like “Android.” And if you’re hoping to see the Burroughs film eventually, you may be out of luck, at least under its original title. Ridley Scott purchased all rights surrounding the title “Blade Runner” thus preventing any attempt at basing a movie off of the Nourse book or Burroughs script to maintain its original title.
Everyone borrows from everyone in fiction and movies, it seems. Even if it means taking the title of a book that has nothing to do with anything in your film and shoehorning the much cooler title to fit your own story.