burns’ spinner

Police spinner design by Jim Burns
Most of the art in the wonderful Blade Runner Sketchbook is by ‘visual futurist’ Syd Mead, but I remembered that illustrator Jim Burns, whom, like Mead, I do admire since childhood, also did design work on ‘Blade Runner’ (Scott 1982). But his name is neither to be found in the sketchbook nor in the full cast and crew at IMDb. Now I found an interview with Jim Burns which clears the matter up:

[Anthony Brockway:] You did a bit of work on the Blade Runner film back in the Eighties. What did that entail exactly?
    Jim Burns: Here’s the story in brief. Ridley Scott got in touch via my agent. Early days in his film career, Alien under his belt and a new project gestating. That project was Dune. He saw my illustration for ‘Colonel Kylling’ in the joint book project Planet Story I did with the sf writer, Harry Harrison – and thought that this depiction was perfect for the Baron Vladimir Von Harkonnen character in Dune. Shortly before I was supposed to fly out to Hollywood and participate in early concept work on Dune – that project was shelved and Ridley Scott found himself instead with a script based on the novel by Philip K. Dick called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This of course became Blade Runner. The offer to go and work on early concept material for this new film was held open for me – and so I went over to Hollywood for ten weeks and found myself involved mostly on design work for the police spinner and the various city design details. The police spinner found it’s earliest incarnation in a machine I painted for a book a few years earlier called Tour of the Universe – actually a ‘flying ambulance’ in that story. Ridley turned the image upside down and said “Hey Presto – there’s the police spinner!” – or words to that effect. Eventually the hugely talented Syd Mead was taken on and he basically took on the look of the whole film – very successfully indeed. But I like to think that some germ of my original police spinner resides in the version you see on film!

BROCKWAY, ANTHONY AND JIM BURNS. 2004. An interview with Jim Burns. Electronic document. Available online: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/elizabeth.ercocklly/jimburns.htm
SCOTT, RIDLEY. 1982. Blade runner [motion picture]. Burbank: Warner Brothers.
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