Ridley Scott was born in South Shields, Tyne and Wear (then Northumberland) on 30 November 1937. His father was an officer in the Royal Engineers and the family followed him as his career posted him throughout the UK and Europe before they eventually returned to Teesside.
Scott wanted to join Army (his elder brother Frank had already joined the Merchant Navy) but his father encouraged him to develop his artistic talents instead and so he went to West Hartlepool College of Art and then London's Royal College of Art where he helped found the film department.
He joined BBC in 1962 as trainee set designer working on several high profile shows. He attended a trainee director's course while he was there and his first directing job was an episode of the prestigious BBC series "Z Cars" (1962), "Z Cars: Error of Judgement (#4.40)" (1965).
More TV work followed until, frustrated by the poor financial rewards at the BBC, he went into advertising. With his younger brother, Tony Scott, he formed the advertising production company RSA (Ridley Scott Associates) in 1967 and spent the next 10 years making some of the best known and best loved TV adverts ever shown on British television, including a series of ads for Hovis bread set to the music of Dvorak's New World Symphony which are still talked about today ("'e were a great baker were our dad.")
He began working with producer David Puttnam in the 1970s developing ideas for feature films. Their first joint endeavour, The Duellists (1977) won the Jury Prize for Best First Work at Cannes in 1977 and was nominated for the Palm d'Or, more than successfully launching Scott's feature film career.
The success of Star Wars (1977) inspired Scott's return to sci-fi (he had been a production designer on the cult series "Doctor Who" (1963) while he was at the BBC) and he accepted the offer to direct Dan O'Bannon's low budget sci-fi horror movie Alien (1979), a critical and commercial success that firmly established his worldwide reputation as a movie director.
Blade Runner (1982) followed in 1982 to, at best, a lukewarm reception from public and critics but in the years that followed, its reputation grew - and Scott's with it - as one of the most important sci-fi movies ever made.
Scott's next major project was back in the advertising world where he created another of the most talked-about advertising spots in broadcast history when his "1984"-inspired ad for the new Apple Macintosh computer was aired during the Super Bowl on 22 January 1984.
Scott's movie career has seen a few flops (notably Legend (1985) and 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)), but with successes like Thelma & Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000) and Black Hawk Down (2001) to offset them, his reputation remains solidly intact.
Sir Ridley was knighted in 2003 for his "substantial contribution to the British film industry".
|Sandy Watson||(24 May 1979 - 12 January 1989) (divorced) 1 child|
|Felicity Heywood||(2 March 1964 - 15 December 1975) (divorced) 2 children|
[Stunning visuals] He personally sketches most of his own storyboards, left-handed, with great artistic style (The Duellists (1977), Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Legend (1985), Black Rain (1989), Thelma & Louise (1991), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), American Gangster (2007), Body of Lies (2008)).
[Strong female characters] This includes Sigourney Weaver in Alien (1979), Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon in Thelma & Louise (1991), Alison Lohman in Matchstick Men (2003), all the female characters in A Good Year (2006), Cate Blanchett and Eileen Atkins in Robin Hood (2010), and even the female athlete in the Superbowl ad "1984" for Apple Computers.
Being the actors' director that he is, Scott favors extensive use of the two-camera 'V' set-up, thus enabling his actors to play more fluidly off one another without being constantly interrupted by calls to "Cut!".
Frequently uses music by Hans Zimmer
Usually incorporates snapshot photography into edited sequences (A Good Year (2006)).
Usually casts / works with actors who have a strong theatre background and are graduates of drama school. He likes to be personally involved with the casting of his movies as well.
Does not use a lot of wide lenses; tends towards longer focal lengths
Sweeping landscapes/backdrops - at times, with close-up of a character's face in foreground - as shown in Gladiator (2000) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
Often utilizes a light blue tint that contrasts black silhouettes, e.g. G.I. Jane, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, and Matchstick Men.
Education: West Hartlepool College of Art; Royal College of Art in London, England (Graduated with a B.A. from the Film Arts school); London International Film School (Graduated from the one year master's program where two of his short films won awards).
Whilst working as a set designer at the BBC, Scott was assigned to design the Daleks for the popular BBC TV serial "Doctor Who" (1963). Scott passed the work on to his friend Raymond Cusick, as he was unable to attend the filming at Ealing.
Owns the visual effects company Mill Film, based in London. They did the majority of the effects work on Gladiator (2000).
2001: Ranked #31 in Entertainment Weekly's Power List.
1986: Enya's recording "Aldebaran" is dedicated to him.
1990s: He was developing a film adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel, "I Am Legend". This project was never finished.
Owns Shepperton Studios in the UK with his brother Tony Scott.
Estimated in an interview that he operated on roughly 2,700 commercials.
2003: Ranked #25 in Premiere's annual Power 100 List. Had ranked #30 in 2002.
Black Hawk Down (2001) is dedicated to his mother, who died in 2001.
Directed a Maxwell House coffee commercial that starred Shakira Caine. Michael Caine saw the commercial and was so taken by her beauty, he desperately searched for her. They have been married 30 years.
Of all the professional actors he has hired / worked with for his films, over 50% come from elite drama schools and the theatre, such as the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford Upon Avon, The Globe Theatre, The Old Vic and the National Theatre in London, which he feels brings as large a presence to the screen as the actors do to the stage.
He and Michael Mann have both directed a Hannibal Lecter film. They have also both worked frequently with an actor who has played Jack Crawford. Mann directed Dennis Farina's first film, Thief (1981), and he also used him on "Miami Vice" (1984). Scott cast Harvey Keitel in The Duellists (1977) and Thelma & Louise (1991). Keitel went on to play Jack Crawford in Red Dragon (2002).
April 2005: The most successful British director in Hollywood in terms of box office to date.
Has worked with three Aragorns. His first theatrical film, The Duellists (1977), featured Sir Robert Stephens, who played Aragorn in the BBC radio adaptation. His breakthrough film, Alien (1979), featured John Hurt, who voiced the character in the Ralph Bakshi animated film The Lord of the Rings (1978). G.I. Jane (1997) featured Viggo Mortensen, who played the part in Peter Jackson's live-action adaptation.
His first feature film, The Duellists (1977) is based on a Joseph Conrad story. In his next film, Alien (1979), the spaceship was known as the Nostromo and its escape ship as the Narcissus. Both are names taken from Conrad stories.
2005: Ranked #5 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Greatest directors ever!".
2005: Ranked #28 on Premiere's Power 50 List. Had ranked #32 in 2004.
While in college at the Royal College of Art, he was a contributor to the college magazine ARK. He also helped establish a film studies department at the school.
In 1994, he was slated to direct "Hot Zone" from a screenplay by James V. Hart based on the 1992 New Yorker article "Crisis in the Hot Zone" by Richard Preston. The film was to star Robert Redford and Jodie Foster and was based on the true story of the discovery of the deadly Ebola virus. Various factors, including the development of the similarly-plotted Outbreak (1995), led to the project being canceled. The very day this happened, Scott read the script for White Squall (1996) and decided to direct it.
Suffers from claustrophobia, a condition he actively sought to instill in his Alien (1979) cast by making their Nostromo living quarters as cramped as possible.
Coming from an army and fine arts background, he is an inveterate stickler for detail who tackles each movie project with the vehemence of a general with a battle plan. His persistent scrutiny of minutiae on the Alien (1979) shoot prompted Sigourney Weaver to complain that he cared more about his props and sets than he did about his cast.
Divides his time among his homes in Hampstead (UK), France and Los Angeles.
Like his brother Tony Scott, he is an avid smoker of Montecristo Cuban cigars.
In late 2005, he was preparing to direct "The Invisible World" from a screenplay by Dana Stevens based on a treatment by Washington Post correspondent David Ignatius. The film was to star Angelina Jolie, and was based on the abduction of a female journalist in Iraq. However, Jolie's pregnancy at the time halted production, putting off the project altogether. This sudden opening in Scott's schedule allowed him to direct American Gangster (2007) the following year.
Ranked #35 in the 2008 Telegraph's list "the 100 most powerful people in British culture".
He was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 2003 Queen's New Years Honors List for his services to the Film Industry.
The famous Superbowl TV ad "1984" Scott directed for the launch of Apple's Macintosh was filmed on Stage H at Shepperton Studios where Scott had earlier filmed his exterior landscapes for Alien (1979). Apple paid an estimated $1m for the one-off telecast of the ad during Superbowl XVIII where the Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins 38-9. Scott estimated a budget of approximately $350,000 for the commercial.
The 2009 Sunday Times List estimated his net worth at $172 million.
Was 39 years old when he directed The Duellists (1977), his first feature length film.
[on why his movies don't have sex scenes] Sex is boring unless you're doing it.
I'm a moviemaker, not a documentarian. I try to hit the truth.
A friend of mine says, "Art's like a shark. You've got to keep swimming, or else you drown." Keep bouncing around. People always ask me, "What's the plan?" There is no plan. I go to what fascinates me next.
When I first said I wanted to make a film about Rome and cast Russell Crowe, everyone had a good old snigger. I thought, "You wait." They've done the same with Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Orlando Bloom. I now say, "Take a look at this".
Balian [Orlando Bloom's character in Kingdom of Heaven (2005)] is an agnostic, just like me. I am not fighting another holy war here, I am trying to get across the fact that not everyone in the West is a good guy, and not all Muslims are bad. The tragedy is that we still have a lack of understanding between us, and it is 900 years since the Crusades. We have never truly resolved our differences.
Audiences are less intrigued, honestly, by battle. They're more intrigued by human relations. If you're making a film about the trappings of the period, and you're forgetting that human relationships are the most engaging part of the storytelling process, then you're in trouble.
[August 2005] We're suffering from saturation, overkill. The marketplace is flooded by demand, and there are too many films, so everything gets watered down. Demand is the boss and everything bends to that will. Bigger and not necessarily better shows seem to be the order of the day. I can't watch most of them.
The digital and theatrical markets are two different marketplaces. I think the digital marketplace - thank God for it! - is like having a book on the shelf: so you can actually go to that book and if it's four hours long, you can put it on pause, you can have a beer - no one's counting.
[October 2006] [William Monahan] is maybe one of the two best writers I have ever worked with and I am developing something with him now that will take us back to Muslim countries next year. It's called "Tripoli", is set in 1805 and is about the bad behavior of Pasha of Tripoli, who was kidnapping ships, particularly American ships, and demanding ransoms while Jefferson was broke, having emptied his coffers of $11 million to complete the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon, who needed the money to feed his army. It is a fascinating period.
The fundamental of anything as a director is material, material, material - script, script, script - once you have the script everything else is straightforward.
The person that probably stopped me in my tracks as a child - because I used to love to go to the cinema - was David Lean with Great Expectations (1946). I thought everything was somehow better than most of the other movies in terms of the way it looked - the way it was dramatized and the way it was photographed. In fact, he was detailed from corner to corner and that is what I picked up with John Ford and then Kurosawa [Akira Kurosawa], then Carol Reed, Michael Powell - those were all the fundamental characters at that time - and Orson Welles, of course. There are Frenchmen, too, of course, who will be remembered as well, but I wasn't open to the French cinema at that point, so it was American and English film directors. So those were the influences.
I think it's remarkable that people will give you $10 million to go and get your rocks off.
Never let yourself be seen in public unless they pay for it.
I think movies are getting dumber, actually. Where it used to be 50/50, now it's 3% good, 97% stupid.
I'm not criticizing Hollywood because I work there, I partly live there. But I'm saying this is the way it is, commerce is taking over art. Commerce has become the most important thing in the film industry. Hollywood is an industry, it's not an art form, therefore they have to address the bottom line. But in a way it's sad when you get a remake, isn't it?
I think I have less patience, mainly because I'm so experienced. Because I'm so experienced I need the very best people around me. Because people say, "Well you don't need a terribly good camera" or, "You can go and do this," and I say, "No, no, no, no, you don't understand. I want the Earth. And I want the Earth in 10 minutes."
I think Russell [Crowe] did brilliantly in A Good Year (2006). He and I loved that film and Fox loved it and then they didn't know what to do and we got beaten up. Russell got beaten up mercilessly, which I thought was disgraceful because I genuinely thought we had done a good movie about a man in transition which is also quite funny. And what's really irritating and annoying is that I kept getting told later by actors, journalists, people outside of the industry, how much they enjoyed it. So anyway, fuck 'em. It was a good film.
I used to agonize over what to do next, but now I make a movie a year.
[on recreation of the trench sequence in Paths of Glory (1957)]: Yes, I made this...this was in the 60s with the BBC. Of course it was never aired, Kubrick would sue me, but I've always had tremendous respect for him.
Avatar (2009), when you think about it, is almost a completely animated movie.
[on Prometheus (2012/I)] When the first Alien (1979) movie and Blade Runner (1982) were made. I thought that in the near future the world would be owned by large companies. That's why we have the Tyrell Corporation in Blade Runner (1982) and Weyland-Yutani in Alien (1979). They sent the Nostromo spaceship. The Prometheus is owned by an entrepreneur called Peter Weyland, who is played by Guy Pearce. That's the connection between the two films, and nothing more.
It almost bears no relation at all. I met with Philip and he was angry, because I told him I couldn't get through the book. I thought I'd better repair this, so I invited him to see rushes and he was absolutely stunned by them. (On the source novel of Blade Runner (1982), Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
I'm curious about doing a sequel. There's something in the android that lived. (On Blade Runner (1982))
Like watching the film as it should have been 25 years ago in the theatres but with a better sound mix. (On Blade Runner - The Final Cut)
I've never spent so much time with a writer. That was the real evolution of the story. (On Blade Runner (1982))
I'm a yarnteller. My job is to engage you as much as I can and as often as I can. I love the process and still continue to adore the process, actually. I don't get attached to anything. I'm like a good antique dealer. I'm prepared to sell my most valuable table.
(May 2009) Mayfair, London, England
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