Known as the “Father of the Director’s Cut,” Ridley Scott recognized the impact of the digital breakthrough as a means to enhance his studio-mangled productions over the years (“Blade Runner” most infamously), releasing DVD Director’s Cut versions sometimes years after a theatrical run in their fully intended visions. Understanding that cinema is both art and commerce, Ridley Scott has earned respect as a filmmaker who succeeds in both aspects of the business. Nominated for three Oscars, director of “Alien,” “Gladiator,” “American Gangster” and older brother to Tony (“Top Gun,” “Déjà Vu” ), Sir Ridley has been at the top of his profession for three decades.
Born in England in 1937, Ridley developed his technical skills for filmmaking as a trainee at the BBC. His short film a “Boy and a Bicycle” was completed in 1958 (and is available for viewing on the DVD of his film “The Duellists”). Directing commercials for UK television and BBC television shows, it would be the late 1970s before Ridley tried his hand at directing features, which was in fact “The Duellists” in 1977, starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel – two unlikely leading men playing French officers during the Napoleonic Era. Failing to garner much attention, the film nonetheless bodes a strong visual aspect, particularly in its attention to lighting, the production design and fluid camera movement. Depressed over the film’s failure, it was “Star Wars” that opened Scott to the idea of big-budget blockbusters as a way to forge his style successfully.
And so came “Alien” in 1979, a film that broke new ground in visual effects, established a hugely successful franchise and cult following, made Sigourney Weaver a star and put Scott on the map. Knowing he was at a pivotal juncture in his career, Scott chose to undertake what would be not only a major risk, but a risk that would become an incredibly grueling process, an epic challenge, and a payoff that wouldn’t have its benefits until well after its completion in 1982. This was the most personal project of his career: “Blade Runner.” Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos and M. Emmet Walsh, the dark vision of 2019 Los Angeles – based on the Philip K. Dick story – was lukewarmly received upon its release. Never completely satisfied himself, Scott cut a “Director’s Cut” in 1992 and released the “Final Cut” in 2007.
In 1984, Ridley directed the Apple commercial introducing the Macintosh. It became an instant classic commercial (airing during Super Bowl XXVIII) and voted by TV Guide as the Best Commercial of all time. While he directed three features in the remaining years of the decade, none of them matched the scope and ambition of “Alien” and “Blade Runner.” In 1991, Ridley surprised his followers, critics and just about everybody else, by helming “Thelma & Louise,” starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis – both of whom received Oscar nominations. Ridley himself snagged his first nod and proved his capabilities at directing strong women characters. He followed with another one of his historical epics, the unfortunate flop “1492: Conquest of Paradise,” with Gerard Depardieu as Columbus and Sigourney Weaver as Queen Isabella. In 1995, Ridley and brother Tony formed Scott Free Productions and at this time he became more hands-on with his productions, serving as a producer on virtually every film he would direct. Following “White Squall” and “GI Jane,” Ridley needed validation that his films could still be both commercially successful and relevant to audiences.
At first laughing off the idea of a sword-and-sandals movie, Scott slowly came to realize the potential of setting an epic in ancient Rome and releasing it in the year 2000 A.D. The 19th century painting by Jean-Leon Gerome of a victorious gladiator standing over his enemy as the crowd motions “thumbs down” inspired Ridley to tackle “Gladiator.” Teaming with frequent collaborator Russell Crowe, the film was (needless to say) huge, bringing Crowe his Oscar, the film Best Picture, and a second directing nomination for Ridley. The combination of awesome visuals and a compelling main character was rejuvenation for the director. Assembling most of the same crew for “Hannibal” and “Black Hawk Down,” Ridley’s films were now box office draws. With still a taste for period pieces and colorful settings, Ridley approaches the end of the 2000s going off in all directions. Knighted in 2003, he has the confidence of an experienced director with a vision that no matter how unpopular or criticized he is willing to see to the end. As he likes to say, he loves “creating worlds,” and we’re lucky to take the tour.
Ridley on the Web
The comprehensive database of Ridley’s contribution to cinema.
TV Guide: Ridley Scott
Photos, bio and news of Juliette.
Fairly detailed biography of Ridley’s career.
Ridley’s page with recent photos, links to fansites and complete filmography.
They Shoot Pictures
Brief vital stats, links, and quotes on Ridley’s status in the pantheon of filmmaking.
Rotten Tomatoes Profile
News on Ridley’s movies, with reviews for more of his recent pictures.
Blade Runner Official Site
Warner Bros’ official “Blade Runner” website with details on the “Final Cut.”
American Gangster Official Site
Listen to music from the film among other things.
Lengthy interview with a chatty Ridley on the new “Blade Runner” cut.
Ridley on the Screen
His feature directorial debut was “The Duellists” in 1977 at the age of 40. “Alien” followed in 1979, “Blade Runner” in 1982, the Tom Cruise fantasy “Legend” in 1985, “Someone To Watch Over Me” in 1987, the Michael Douglas cop flick “Black Rain” in 1989, “Thelma & Louise” in 1991, “1492: A Conquest of Paradise” in 1992, “White Squall” in 1996, “GI Jane” in 1997, and “Gladiator” in 2000, which also won Best Picture later that year. “Hannibal” and “Black Hawk Down” followed in 2001, “Matchstick Men” in 2003, the Crusades epic “Kingdom of Heaven” in 2005, the Crowe comedy “A Good Year” in 2006, and “American Gangster in 2007.”
As he enters his 70s, Ridley shows no sign of slowing down. Apart from overseeing a handful of productions as executive producer, Ridley Scott’s next film as director is “Body of Lies,” starring his man Russell Crowe along with Leo DiCaprio in a drama centered around Iraq, the CIA, and a journalist. He’ll go back in time in 2009 with “Nottingham,” a variation of the Robin Hood story again with Crowe. That same year, he’ll try a western, “Blood Meridian,” based on the Cormac McCarthy novel.
On contemporary cinema:
“I think movies are getting dumber, actually. Where it used to be 50/50, now it's 3% good, 97% stupid.”
“Never let yourself be seen in public unless they pay for it.”