Out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, the critically acclaimed Blade Runner 2049 is set to impress audiences all over again with its incredible story and visuals. One of those impressive visuals, was the inclusion of Sean Young – just as she looked in the original. This was achieved thanks to CGI and a double, who was played by UK-based Aussie actress Loren Peta. I caught up with Loren earlier this week to learn more about what it took to bring the Sean’s character Rachel back to life.
A lot has been written already about the production of the sequence that you’re in. Really what strikes me is, A, how late in the production all this came together and, B, how much work went into a two minute sequence. They really made it hard on themselves, didn’t they?
Yeah, well actually I think I was one of the first people to be cast. They were casting a lot of people quite late. Considering I did just have a cameo, and I didn’t film my scene until September, I was cast back in May. I had a good four months to prepare for my role. I felt pretty … The process definitely wasn’t last minute.
That’s interesting you say that, because it’s, I guess, the challenge for them was finding someone who could not only act, but also was anatomically similar to Rachel and to Sean.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, Denis said that they did search far and wide for someone. What’s interesting is I had no idea what I was even auditioning for. I had a couple of auditions and I had to audition at script for Ex Machina where Ava meets Caleb. That was my audition piece. Yeah, I got called back and I didn’t know what was going on. Then, the next thing I know, I’m on a plane to Budapest to meet Denis Villeneuve, and I still didn’t know what was going on. It was so top secret. Nothing was to be put on email or discussed over the phone. I didn’t know until I got there and he sat me down in his office and told me what was going on what I was actually going to be doing and what it was for.
Were you surprised at all once you found that out?
Yeah. I was shitting myself.
What was the scariest part of that proposal? Was it living up to a performance like Sean’s or just the technical nature behind it or both?
Yeah. Absolutely, the performance part of it. Sean is the original Rachel, and she was so brilliant. The fact that … When most people get a role, they get given a character that they create and they make their own. I got given a character that already existed. I had to replicate mannerisms, body movement, facial expressions, emotions. It was a completely different … Yeah. It was so strange. Although it’s probably the smallest role I’ve ever played, it was definitely the role with the most pressure. I had a lot to live up to.
How much interaction did you have with Sean as well? I do understand she was on set and was filmed as well for the performance.
Not a whole lot. We didn’t know she was actually going to be on set until the day we started filming. I think she just did a bit of CGI, and I think it was more of a courtesy thing that she was there. I guess it was nice for her to see what was going on. It was actually great to have her there. It was an absolute surprise. It wasn’t until we’re actually walking on set that people were like, “Oh Sean Young is going to be on set.” It was amazing for me to have her there, and she was a lot of fun. She told me lots of stories from when she played Rachel. Yeah, she was great.
I’m sure she’d have a few.
Yeah, yeah. The main discussion was about the hair, because they did put a wig on me. It was her own hair, but there was a lot of discussion about bobby pins. Yeah.
They actually constructed a wig using her actual hair?
No, no, no. When she played the role, they used her own hair. Then they replicated mine to look like hers, yeah. They had to put a mould on my head and everything and make a wig to get it to look the same.
Yeah, got you. I was going to say that was a little bit … If they had constructed a wig using her hair for you, that might have been a bit excessive.
That would freak me out just a little.
Maybe on a Christopher Nolan film, they really go for that full realism.
*laughs* That would be method at its best, wouldn’t it?
Going back to seeing that film on the big screen for the first time, which is a remarkable, remarkable experience. I got to see it in 70mm and it was just such a beautiful, beautiful film and especially as a fan of the original. What was that experience like seeing sort of yourself on the big screen in that scene?
I mean the whole film was just incredible. Yeah, when I walked on, for me, it was, I guess, it was just all these memories came flooding back. Of course, we filmed it … You film these things so long ago and it’s in the past. Then, it comes back out again, all the memories of being on set. I was so thrilled with the job that they did. The CGI was just absolutely amazing. I mean I could tell it was me and the people who knew me, you can see my facial features and expressions coming through, but I looked like Sean. It was such an amazing job, wasn’t it? I mean I was blown away.
I guess too when you’re sitting there with dots on your face and all those digital cameras capturing your every move that you go, “This could go either way. I don’t know how this is going to work.”
Yeah. I kept forgetting the dots were on my face, of course, because I couldn’t see myself until you’d be just chatting to someone between takes, and you’d just see their eyes wandering to the end of your nose and your forehead.
With the Blu-ray and DVD home release of the film coming out which, I’ve got to say, if anyone waited for the home release, it’s such a pity because this was a film that should have been seen on the big screen. That’s a longer conversation. For the home release, I imagine …
I absolutely agree, yeah.
For the home release, I imagine we’re going to get a little more behind the scenes of some of your sequences.
Yeah, that’s right. I mean they’ll show, well, how it was done really. They flew me to LA right at the beginning, very shortly after I got cast, and I did all sorts of weird and wonderful things. I could sit in this dome full of tens and tens of cameras and do, it was about a 12 hour day actually. It was probably more exhausting than the days on set, because I had to go through so many facial expressions so many times, because they had to capture every tiny movement of my face. Then, go through different sentences and words and then do it again, and then they put me in this infrared light thing. I’d love to give you all the technical terms of everything, but unfortunately I’m not that … My vocabulary doesn’t stretch that far. It was very cool.
If you ever get cast in a video game, you’re going to be ready for it now.
Oh yeah I’ll know exactly what I’m doing.
Or because of the experience, would you go, “You know what? I don’t think I want to do that again.”
No. You know what? I actually loved it. I’ve got quite a rubber face. I’m quite expressive. I really did enjoy it. I got to just be ugly. I had to yell and I had to be angry and I had to pull funny faces. It was actually a lot of fun.
It’s like just a weird day at acting school really.
Yeah, that’s exactly right. Yeah, it was cool.
I know there’s some pre-production and post-production on a couple of projects that you’ve been working on at the moment. Give me a little bit of an insight into what 2018’s holding for you.
I do have a few exciting things coming up, but I can’t talk about any of them. I’m sorry.
Fair enough. That makes them even more exciting and intriguing.
Yeah, maybe. Yeah. We always have these confidentiality things we have to sign at the beginning of everything. Unfortunately, it means it’s a bit boring for everyone in the meantime.
Hopefully this means that we’re getting a fully CGI Sean Young/Loren Peta story from the Blade Runner universe. I’m just going to interpret it as that.
Look, and hey, wouldn’t that be wonderful? Really bring out those two minutes of screen time into something long-form.
Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
There is, I mean after seeing the film, there’s clearly a lot more of her story to be told. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll ever find out everything. But the fun of the film is not knowing everything.
Particularly with Blade Runner, they like to leave a lot to the imagination…
Yeah. I think even in the scene you were in, the scene where Jared Leto is like, “Well you are a replicant or are you?” You’re like, “Oh they’re not going to tell us,” but probably for the best.
Yeah, yeah. I know. Yeah, they do like to do that. I think that’s kind of nice. It’s often so typical of a lot of films to just spoon feed you the answers, and I think it’s nice that they just leave it to your imagination.
That’s exactly right. Thank you so much for your time. I hope you keep surviving the London winter, and look forward to talking to you in the future on your next secretive project.
Oh wonderful. Thanks so much for having me, Larry.
Blade Runner 2049 is out now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD.