Back in the day, posters were a very important part of promoting a film. Even before you see all the trailer shown before the movie, your first real introduction were the poster plastered all about the place as you enter the theater. As John Alvin put it in the Dangerous Days Documentary, “It’s supposed to be the first introduction, visual introduction to a new subject, a new movie, a new title.” And when it came time to do the poster for Blade Runner, Drew Struzan was the first person chosen to do it. According to Drew, he started out by doing several drawings based on scenes from the movie. Then he went and spent two weeks working on the painting. After he finished it he went and presented it to the studio. They liked it but there were curtain things that they wanted him to change. So he went and made the changes thinking that they would approve it. But in the end they decided to go a different away.
So then they asked John Alvin to do the poster. John was given a photo of Harrison Ford as a reference for his face and for his hand, he had his wife take a picture of him holding a mock gun. For Sean Young he used a photo of her taken during the shooting of the Voight Kampff scene. For the rest of the poster he was given a wide variety of photos of the city and landscapes. And with those reference materials he was able to create a composite of the city. He took all this material and did some drawing to figure out how to compose all of these of things together. Once he figured out the right composition he did the painting. Once he finished it, he turned it in, the studio was happy with it, and it became the iconic poster we all know and love. But then in 2000, John Alvin decided to go back and remake the poster. Its still unclear why exactly this was done, but according to a Blade Zone article, it was sold at an auction for $37,600 and was apparently going to be used for the re-release of the film. Of course as we know that never happened.
As for what happened with the original concept, Drew mention in the Dangerous Days Documentary, “…After a number of years, I started seeing it on book covers, and it’s on the web now everywhere, and it was in magazines. It was used all over the place.” Then at some point, he heard that it was going to be used for The Final Cut DVD release. So he decided to go back to the original poster and see what could be improved. He ended up doing a whole new painting that used the same color scheme but used different pictures of each of the characters and even incorporated some neon as well. He felt it was at lot stronger then the original and enjoyed doing it because as he said, “…This one I did out of love, because it wasn’t a commission. I just did it because the situation arose. I just had to do it.” So in 2007 when the DVD came out, he got to see his concept finally realized. It only took 25 years.
If you would like to read the rest of the story behind John Alvin’s Redesigned poster, click here.