The Walking Dead star Lennie James knows a thing or two about working under the cover of secrecy on the hit zombie show, but even he was unprepared for the tight security on Warner Bros.’ upcoming Blade Runner 2049.
James has a supporting role in Arrival director Denis Villeneuve's sequel to the 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner. He will star alongside Ryan Gosling and original star Harrison Ford, reprising his role as Rick Deckard.
Speaking to Newsweek about his undisclosed role, the British actor says: “I’ve never been on anything more secret than The Walking Dead until I was on Blade Runner.
“They offered me the job—it came out of the blue—and I said, ‘I need to read the script.’ They sent me 20 pages before my character arrived and 20 pages after my character was gone. It was on an app thing that I could only open on one device—I couldn’t take a screenshot, I couldn’t take a photograph, I couldn’t save it.
“They said, ‘You’ve got 36 hours.’ I had 36 hours with it and then it was gone. Then I had to make a decision to do it. When I did [decide to do it], they sent me the whole script.”
Even after signing on for the film, James says he was bound by strict security measures on set in Budapest.
“This has never happened to me before... our [script] sides on the day, you had to sign them out, and they’d give you your sides with your words for that day, and then you had to sign them back in. And they wouldn’t let you get in your car to go home until you’d given your sides back.
“It was frantic. When I finished on the gig, I thought I’d sit down with the script and take it all in. No. Nine hours after wrap that script vanished from my iPad.”
Director Ridley Scott’s original 1982 film is regarded by critics as one of the best sci-fi films of all time. Set 30 years after the original, Villeneuve’s sequel follows the new blade runner—the special forces operative tasked with hunting down illegally manufactured humanoid robots. LAPD Officer K (Gosling) makes a startling discovery that puts him on the hunt to find former blade runner Deckard, who has been missing for 30 years.
Working with Villeneuve, who has directed a string of awards favorites including Arrival, Sicario and Prisoners, was “a gift,” James says. “I say this every time so hopefully he hears it: I will crawl over broken glass on bended knees to work with that man again. He’s a proper actor’s director, a proper storyteller and a real visionary.
“The way that the character I play had originally been written...he said, ‘I think we should do something different.’ And this is a huge movie, and I’ve got two-and-a-half to three weeks of filming in this thing. He said, ‘Stop, we’re going to go and work this out and do it differently.’ It was so exciting.”
Blade Runner 2049 is released on October 7.