Remember When Grace Jones Turned Down Blade Runner


It’s been 35 years since Ridley Scott released his rainy, dystopian sci-fi classic Blade Runner. The futuristic punk fashion, the smoky, neon-tinged set, Harrison Ford, Sean Young, and Daryl Hannah! The 1982 original has been so culturally and aesthetically impactful that it’s hard to imagine the film coming together any other way, especially now with Blade Runner 2049, the sequel by Arrival’s Denis Villeneuve out earlier this season. But as she revealed in her memoir, Grace Jones—who released Nightclubbing that same year that the film went into production—turned down its title role in 1981. Can you imagine?

“Jean-Paul [Goude] wanted me only to work with him,” Jones, who was dating Goude at the time, recalled. “Especially if I was going to do a film. He wanted me to do a film only with him, before anyone else. I knew he would be adamant that it was a bad move to appear in Blade Runner. I immediately said no, before I had even read the script and before I had even asked him. When he heard about the film, he said what I thought he would say—it would be too commercial, and I would become too Hollywood. I would be a sellout.”

Jones is, of course, about as far as one could get from that. In fact, many cite her singular, androgynous club-drawn style as directly linked to the fashion Blade Runner costume designer Michael Kaplan implanted on the film’s characters. The power suits (see: the cover of Nightclubbing, Young’s femme fatale 40’s look), high contoured makeup and flattop, sense of extremism and delight in dark, gender-fluid statement-making looks—Jones’ style is inimitable and has popped up in the collections of Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace, among others, all the while challenging notions of race and gender. The artist’s boldness—the sense of rebellion, honesty and flamboyant adventure in work and outside it—gave life to the aesthetic.

After turning down the part, Jones finally did give the script a shot: “I still had the script, though, and the night after I had passed on the part, I was flying to Paris. I decided to read it on the plane,” she explained. “I absolutely loved it. It was set in a universe I visited a lot in my work and play. As soon as I landed I decided I would call them back and reverse my decision. I was too late. Overnight they had cast someone else.”

Alas, hindsight is 20/20.

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, a documentary created over 12 years about the artist is out this week.


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