Compiled by Janet Hamilton
From the OrigamiUSA Newsletter Issue 59, Summer 1997
Origami has shown up in the movies as a characterís calling card, toy, or plot device, but you may have to be sharp-eyed to see it (or quick with the VCR pause button). These sightings have been compiled from posts by alert members of the Origami-l email list.
Blade Runner (1982) takes place in 21st century L.A., when
most life on the planet has been killed off by pollution.
A former cop, Deckard (Harrison Ford), is recruited to track down and
kill Replicants (androids) who have mutinied in space and made their way to
Earth. Gaff (Edward James Olmos) is
to ensure that Deckard goes through with his mission.
Through the course of the movie Gaff makes three origami creatures, a
"chicken", a "man" made out of a wooden match, and a
unicorn. The character and his art
are symbolic of mankind taking the sacrilegious leap from simply making
"graven images" of gods work (the origami) to making things nearly
indiscernible from gods creations (the Replicants).
[Not in article: The original Blade Runner unicorn was designed by Mick
Guy, current president of the British Origami Society.] From a July 2007
interview with Ridley Scott: "RS: The unicorn has been in, out, in, out,
and it was always essential to me, because it's essential for the audience to
understand that Deckard is a replicant. And the whole design of Gaff [Edward
James Olmos] and his trail of origami--the paper chicken and the little
matchstick man--and then the origami [Deckard] picks up at the end and it's his
unicorn. And Harrison Ford does a nod in agreement to what he just sees as a
confirmation of the big internalized thought that he has, that he may have
ThinkGeek has put out a t-shirt with the Blade Runner origami unicorn on the lower right. https://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts-apparel/unisex/popculture/c9d5/
In Top Gun (1982), Maverick (Tom Cruise) leaves a folded airplane on the pillow of his instructor in the morning. She unfolds it and there is a note written on it.
Plain Clothes (1988) contains a key scene where the villain is distracted by an origami crane thrown from a height.
Robot Jox (1991) takes place post-World War III. In place of war are matches between large Robots called Robot Jox. The main character, Achilles (Gary Graham), is a pilot in one of the large Robots. The movie has a Japanese scientist who makes and leaves little origami models lying around.
In the film Hardboiled (1992) (directed by John Woo), the character Alan (Tony Leung) plays a cop who's gone undercover as a gang member. He folds a crane for every person he's had to kill, and has them hanging in his boat. He also "sends" a crane to the cop he teams up with (Chow Yun-Fat's character) as a signal at one point. The cranes also figure in the very last scene of the film.
Fist of Legend (1994), starring Jet Li as Chen Zhen, tells the story of the defeat of Master Huo at the hands of the Japanese. There's a scene where Chenís Japanese wife is folding traditional cranes and leaving them on the table.
In If Lucy Fell (1996), Joe (Eric Schaeffer), is a painter who lives with Lucy (Sarah Jessica Parker), his best friend from college, but obsesses over his neighbor Jane (Elle Macpherson). While in college Joe and Lucy made a pact that they would commit suicide if they didn't find love by the time they turned 30. There is an origami swan in the movie. It is only shown briefly, but is in the movie at two separate times.
James and the Giant Peach (1996) has James wishing to escape from his two mean aunts. Alone in his room one night he draws a picture of New York on an old bag of potato chips (found paper!) and then folds it into a waterbomb-base balloon. Using a candle from an old birthday cake he rigs it into a hot-air balloon and sends it out his window. Later the balloon shows up again and is involved with how the peach gets so big and becomes animated.
In The Associate (1996), actress Whoopi Goldberg stars in a comedy about making it on Wall Street. She wears a pin that looks like two fans glued together in an attractive manner. She later works her way through a rolodex, crumpling them and tossing them into the trash one by one. Eventually she folds a paper airplane out of one of them and sails it to the trash (it missed).
The movie Big Night (1996) is about two brothers, Italian immigrants, trying to make a go of a gourmet Italian restaurant. Near the end of the movie, they're having a big, fancy dinner party, and there is a very brief scene where they have all folded a sort of tube out of paper napkins or tissue paper which they light on fire at the tip. As the object is consumed by flames it flies up in the air!
In Romy & Michele's High School Reunion (1997) there is a point where they are driving and the Lisa Kudrow character is playing with a paper "fortune teller".
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