“What can I say? I chose a rock star and he just blew us away.”
Blade Runner 2049 (arriving in theaters on Oct. 6), has been dubbed by critics as a “modern-day sci-fi masterpiece.” Coming off a polarizing performance as The Joker in last year’s Suicide Squad, Oscar-winner Jared Leto now portrays Niander Wallace, whose soft-spoken manner thinly veils his ruthless ambition, in Columbia Pictures’ futuristic action-thriller. It’s highly awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1980s original classic, Blade Runner 2049 is directed by Academy Award-nominee Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival).
In a nutshell: Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.
Niander Wallace’s obsessive quest to create the perfect replicant — totally compliant and unquestioning of human authority—resulted in the creation of the latest model, the Nexus 9. Wallace sees replicants as necessary to the survival of humanity, but he can only make so many. Years before, his breakthroughs in genetically modified foods had brought the planet back from the brink of irrevocable global famine. Trading on that debt, he was able to barter for the end of the replicant prohibition and, in the process, gain incalculable wealth — and untold power.
“I maybe have a different perspective on Niander Wallace than others would. He is the guy who saved the world from starvation, so I don’t think his ego is too far out of control for someone who literally saved the planet. He is someone who willed himself to power through really hard work and rigorous study. Wallace is a genius and he’s also a bit of a madman, which he’d have to be. He’s so fascinating and complex. It was a really seductive role,” says Leto, who has played a geniuses and madmen before. It’s really the kind of role you would imagine him being drawn to, but his approach toward Niander Wallace — not a caricature of an villain, but a character of many layers and motivations — is a departure from portrayal of The Joker.
Leto reveals his connection to the “Blade Runner” universe: “When I was very young and saw it on VHS. There are films that come along and, for one reason or another, strike a chord. They affect you in some way and change how you see the world. Blade Runner was a film that had a big impact on me and has always stuck with me. There was something about it that spoke to me as a kid that I couldn’t let go of. So it’s always had a special place in my heart and it’s something I’ve looked to for inspiration over the years.”
“Niander Wallace is a tough part to play because you have to deal with a lot of difficult dialogue. It required an actor who could embrace those speeches and bring them to life with a strength and poetry. And what can I say? I chose a rock star and he just blew us away,” states Villeneuve, who adds that he appreciated Leto’s total immersion in every facet of the role. “I had heard how Jared embodies his character and I wondered what he would do about Wallace, with regard to him being blind. He came in and he was blind…he acted blind.”
In researching that aspect of his role, Leto spent time with people who were visually impaired, observing things like how they navigate a specific space or interact in conversation. “I could feel that Jared was someone who was deeply passionate and very serious about what he was doing,” says Villeneuve. “He was 100-percent committed.”
Correspondingly, Leto had nothing but praise for Villeneuve, commenting, “Denis is a rare artist. What I love about him is that he’s eternally fascinated and enthusiastic and curious by nature. He’s completely in the moment with the actors and there’s a sense of discovery and excitement around him that’s very compelling. I found him to be just an incredible director and I’m truly thankful that I had the chance to do this film with him.”
Opening in Philippine cinemas and IMAX on Friday, October 6, Blade Runner 2049 is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.