Beyond The Frame: Blade Runner

Jordan Cronenweth, ASC’s work in this sci-fi classic has been a creative touchstone for cinematographers worldwide ever since its release.
David E. Williams

Jordan Cronenweth, ASC’s work in the sci-fi classic Blade Runner (1982) has been a creative touchstone for cinematographers worldwide ever since its release.

One of the many inspired by its exceptional artistry is John Toll, ASC, who — an operator at the time — joined Cronenweth's crew soon after work on Ridley Scott’s difficult production wrapped in Los Angeles.

“Working with Jordan was amazing. When asked to describe his work I could only think of the word ‘elegant,’” Toll told American Cinematographer. “He had an incredible eye and would always light through the lens and could absolutely see the image as film would see it. He would encourage input and was always excited about his work. His enthusiasm was infectious.”

Jordan Cronenweth, ASC checks his frame.
Jordan Cronenweth, ASC checks his frame as Harrison Ford stands by.

To illustrate that point, Toll relates how he and other members of Cronenweth’s crew accompanied the cinematographer to a screening of Blade Runner: “Jordan hadn’t been available for any of the postproduction work and he hadn’t seen the final completed film. [Future ASC members] Bing Sokolsky, Ernie Holzman and I went with him to an afternoon screening in Westwood and bought tickets. It was mostly an empty room, about 20 people, because the film didn’t get a huge reception when first released. So we sat there, watching Blade Runner. And it was amazing. Jordan was so enthusiastic and excited, but it wasn't just his work that excited him. He was almost detached, not just watching the photography, but seeing it as part of the total story and film.

“Jordan became very vocal and enthusiastic about one section or another and it was genuine. No one else in the theater seemed to mind that we were noisy — somehow they figured out that we had something to do with the film. After the lights came up, a very attractive woman came up to Jordan and slightly breathlessly said, ‘That was the sexiest movie I’ve ever seen.”

Quite a review.

Cronenweth's crew sets up coverage on actress Daryl Hannah while shooting the tech-noir classic Blade Runner (1982)
Cronenweth's crew sets up coverage on actress Daryl Hannah while shooting the tech noir classic.

Blade Runner was selected as one of the ASC 100 Milestone Films in Cinematography of the 20th Century.

You’ll find our complete archival story about Cronenweth’s photography here, visual effects here and production design here.

If you enjoy archival and retrospective articles on classic and influential films, you’ll find more AC historical coverage here.

For access to 100 years of American Cinematographer reporting, subscribers can visit the AC Archive. Not a subscriber? Do it today.

Subscribe Today

Act now to receive 12 issues of the award-winning AC magazine — the world’s finest cinematography resource.

April 2023 AC Magazine Cover
March 2023 AC Magazine Cover
February 2023 AC Magazine Cover