In the year of 2017, Blade Runner 2049 (directed by Denis Villeneuve) was released with great expectation, starring left-ear buccaneer earring wearer Harrison Ford revising his iconic role as Rick Deckard first seen in the original Blade Runner, the neo-noir dystopian classic (based on a Philip K. Dick novel) from 1982. It also starred younger buck Ryan Gosling, who made the press junket rounds with his older cast mate Ford who appeared throughout the series of interviews intact despite his frequent plane crashes. Blade Runner 2049 was nominated for several Oscars based on technical merit, indeed scoring a first-time Academy Award for legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, as well as one for the film’s visual effects team. Although it garnered critical praise, the 2017 sequel was a box office dud.
Back in 1982, Blade Runner, directed by present-day Hollywood titan Ridley Scott, also did not set box office records. However, the sexy, visually luscious futuristic flick was hot enough to steadily burn into cult status, and is now regularly included in essential movie lists. Aside from the handsome Ford, the original cast is stellar: Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, famously nutty Sean Young as a gorgeous replicant, and Daryl Hannah as a “basic pleasure model” replicant that could cause skull damage with her crotch and thighs.
But get this: Grace Jones was initially offered a part in Blade Runner! In the event you have not been knocked onto your can by the revelation of such a “what-if” possibility, then reach for a fanny cushion now—legendary Dreamlander Divine (yes, Divine) was asked to audition for a Blade Runner role.
Jones at the time was romantically involved with cultural-image trendsetter Jean-Paul Goude, who helped construct her pop-star image and stage performances, in addition to directing Jones’ music videos and designing her album covers. As Goude was an ambitious advertising film director, Jones anticipated jealous clashes regarding Ridley Scott and turned down the offer. As stated in her autobiography I’ll Never Write My Memoirs:
“Jean-Paul wanted me only to work with him. 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.
“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. 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. I should have made that decision myself, rather than being caught up in Jean-Paul’s rivalry with Ridley Scott in the world of commercials… If I had seen the film Ridley had made a couple of years before, The Duellists, which was fabulous, I wouldn’t have thought for a moment about accepting. I said no without reading the script, which was very stupid of me…”
Ridley Scott personally invited Divine to Hollywood to discuss a part in Blade Runner. Divine’s friend/agent Bernard Jay recounts the events in the memoir Not Simply Divine:
“I was discussing with an important casting agency the possibility of Divine playing a role in an upcoming movie, Blade Runner, to be directed by Ridley Scott, one of Hollywood’s new ‘darlings’ since his success with Alien. Divi was invited to give a private reading for the director at his Hollywood office. We flew to the West Coast—at Divine’s expense—and worked solidly together for many hours on the brief pages of filmscript provided. Divi was terrified. It was the first time he had ever had to audition and, although it had been arranged in privacy and with great courtesy by Ridley Scott’s office, he was a nervous wreck.
“He spent the best part of an hour alone with the director. I waited outside and became as nervous as my client. Divi wasn’t offered the role, but told me Ridley Scott had spent most of their time together talking of the John Waters movies and how great a fan of Divine’s he was. He also asked him to read from a completely different filmscript than the one we had prepared from. Divine was immensely flattered to have been approached and humbled by this experience. Once again, I was impressed and proud of the way he had dealt with it—and delighted to note that he was beginning to be taken seriously within in his own industry.”
Ultimately, Jones moved on with her film career, soon after joining villainous forces with Christopher Walken in the 1985 Bond blockbuster A View to a Kill, and in 1992 as the best part of Boomerang. Divine truly stole the show in 1985’s Trouble in Mind, a sleeper directed by Alan Rudolph, electrifying the screen—out of drag—as a mob boss. Before he died in 1988, Divine acted in the first film of John Waters’ Hairspray (released in 1988) legacy, and in Out of the Dark (released in 1989) a schlocky horror comedy.