This week, as determined by GITS readers, the Daily Dialogue has been featuring famous dying words from movie characters. On Tuesday, the movie was Blade Runner and the dialogue quote was simply “Time to die,” as uttered by Rutger Hauer’s character Roy Batty. That inspired this email from GITS reader Paul Sanford:
I was glad to see Blade Runner show up in the Daily Dialogue today, although abbreviating that moment to “time to die” underplays what I believe is some of the most poetic dialogue ever put to film – the “tears in the rain” speech. I’m glad the Youtube clip featured the entire moment. I think it’s an interesting case study in collaboration, in this case between the writers, the actor and the director. If you don’t mind, I wanted to share what I found when I flipped through the different versions of the script that I have…
In Fancher’s July 24, 1980 draft, Batty has no speech at the end. He’s simply shot and killed by Deckard. Batty does say “time to die”, but only to taunt Deckard during the fight sequence.
This version of the speech shows up in an undated draft (which I believe is from Dec 1980) by Fancher/Peoples:
“I’ve known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been Offworld and back… frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound for the Plutition Camps with sweat in my eyes watching stars fight on the shoulder of Orion… I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it, felt it…!”
This version is in both the Feb 21, 1981 & May 15, 1981 Fancher/Peoples draft:
“I’ve seen things… seen things you little people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion bright as magnesium… I rode on the back decks of a blinker and watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments… they’ll be gone.”
And the filmed version, with Rutger Hauer reportedly improvising the “tears in the rain” line:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve seen c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in the rain. Time to die.”
Part of the poignancy of the dialogue is that the dilemma Batty references when he dies (“all those moments (re: memories) will be lost in time”) is something we all face in the end…
As I recounted to Paul in an email, what he did was engage in “textual source criticism,” which is something I studied in graduate school as part of my work on the Gospels in the New Testament. And with the proliferation of movie screenplays online nowadays, it’s possible to compare / contrast various script drafts to speculate how the creative process may have worked. Given what Paul has discovered, here is my conjecture re Blade Runner:
* The first draft – Batty with no dialogue / he just dies – led someone to suggest that the moment needed more. If one of the underlying themes of the story is the ‘humanity’ of robots, what better way to show that than have a ‘dying’ robot recount vivid memories from his past, conveying a deep emotional connection to his life-experience.
* The second draft – representing the longest of Batty’s final sides – is an example of taking the idea of the moment needing more and pushing it out. Too far, as it appears because –
* The third draft pulls back some of the description in dialogue and –
* The version in the movie pulls it back even more.
That dynamic of tightening dialogue, even cutting whole sides, is a common occurrence — I’ve seen it time and time again when reading a script while watching the movie. I think that is in large part due to the fact that once they shoot footage and assemble it, the visuals often make some of the dialogue unnecessary. Also, too, a side may read great on the page, but just doesn’t work on screen. So perhaps Ridley Scott let Rutger Hauer wing the last side of dialogue, maybe telling him to tighten it up, or a writer on-set went through the latest version and cut a few references, but after expanding the side, it contracted by the time the movie was done.
One other thing: Notice how the “Time to die” line was present in the original draft, but used to a totally different effect – to taunt Deckard. So while some writers expanded Batty’s last side, then contracted it, somebody along the way remembered that line – “Time to die” – and suggested that might be a fitting coda for Batty, in essence a case of a line going through its own transformation, from taunt to sad irony.
Thanks, Paul, for taking the time and effort for your analysis. Great stuff.