Artist Scott Pettersen brings Blade Runner characters back to life in action figure form.
After Kenner was burned by their ill-conceived toy line for the R-rated Alien in 1979, American toy companies focused on bright and happy space movies such as Star Wars for future merchandising prospects. When Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner opened in 1982, fans only got a few measly, crude little die-cast toy versions of some of the cars in the movie. But what about the film’s outlandish, iconic characters: Blade Runner Rick Deckard, femme fatale Rachael, and super-powered replicants Roy Batty and Pris? Where was the love for them?
Scott Pettersen is one of those fans who wanted Blade Runner figures for years and finally just developed the skill set to make them for himself. “I always liked the human form,” he says. “When I was a kid I remember getting a model car and not being that excited by the model car but by the figure inside of it. And I remember always wanting the 12″ G.I. Joes when I was a little kid and by the time I was big enough they didn’t make that size anymore. Years later, I outgrew toys but I still liked them aesthetically, and Sideshow Collectibles started making their 12″ figures and they did a Blackbeard figure I thought was pretty cool. One of my favorite movies was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and I thought it would be cool if there was a little figure of Clint Eastwood, so that was the first one I did.”
Pettersen’s 12″ Blade Runner replicants bear uncanny resemblances to the actors’ likenesses — Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah — and they’re clothed in painstaking reproductions of the film’s complex, layered costumes. “I work in wax when I sculpt and you can get a lot of detail in wax,” Pettersen says of the figures’ faces. “The finished heads are made out of resin — the kind I use is a clear, translucent color, so I cast it in a light color and then build onto that with different flesh tones. With all of them I use airbrush and there’s a lot of blending, a lot of thin, thin layers — I think on mass-produced figures all the paint is opaque and nothing is done with layers so it’s not as realistic.”
That’s putting it mildly. While mass-produced female figures often have a lifeless, Barbie-doll look to them, Pettersen’s Rachael and Pris reproductions look remarkably like the actresses in the film, right down to the hairstyles and makeup. “Pris’ hair is just a wig, a doll wig for ball-joint dolls — they sell different-sized wigs and I had to cut it down and become a little hairstylist. On Rachael, her hair is a piece of fabric — long, shaggy fabric that I had to cut down and sculpt so it would lay flat and look like part of her scalp.”
Pettersen takes two to three months to produce one of his reproductions. “The hardest part is getting the sculpt right — I think it looks right and then I come back and think it’s not even close and I come back to it.” He even created “end of the movie” versions of Deckard and Roy Batty, with the characters covered with battle wounds and sweat — a combination of super glue and varnish.
“On all these figures my intent was to capture as realistically as I could the details and essence of the characters from one of my favorite movies,” Pettersen says. “There seems to be a certain sadness to some of the characters so I tried to convey that in the sculpture. I tried to replicate them down to the smallest details like the round, brown laces on Deckard’s shoes or the slight smudging of Rachael’s eye makeup. I spent a lot of hours researching the movie and visiting propsummit.com. Most of my time was spent focusing on the likenesses though. It is difficult to interpret and capture faces that most people would recognize.”
Surprisingly, Pettersen hasn’t yet started pounding on the doors of toy companies offering them his skills. “I feel like I’m not getting this yet,” he says modestly. “I kind of like following my own desires; I think if you worked for a company like that you’d have to do things a certain way. I don’t feel like I have a portfolio good enough for that yet.”
But will he make more Blade Runner figures at least? “I’ve been thinking about it. I would like to make Dr. Tyrell and Gaff would be good — all of them would because the costuming is so cool in that movie. The glasses on Tyrell would be hard, and they’re bifocals, too.” You gotta do it, Pettersen — we need your magic.
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