Over a career spanning 30+ years, Sir Ridley Scott has amassed an enviable and varied filmography, ranging from the historical epic Gladiator to the sci-fi classics Blade Runner and Alien. The three films mentioned are considered to be some of the greatest films of all time and as the famed director has recently has recently had his 80th birthday, he has a clot to celebrate. Thankfully, Scott has no intention of slowing down; his next directorial effort, All the Money in the World is due for release this coming 22nd December, he acts as a prolific producer on pictures such as Blade Runner 2049 and is continuing to develop the Alien franchise into the foreseeable future. Scott’s age may be increasing, but his appetite for storytelling has definitely not lessened.
Born shortly before the Second World War in the North East of England, the majority of Scott’s family were part of the army, including his father. As a result, Scott’s mother Elizabeth raised him and his two brothers largely on her own and Scott claims that this upbringing presented his mother as his first feminist role model, “She laid down the law and the law was God. We just said ‘Yup, okay’ – we didn’t argue. I think that’s where the respect has come from, because she was tough.” Later in life, Scott studied at the Royal College of Art in London where he made a black and white short film titled Boy and Bicycle, the central element of which was reused in Scott’s infamous Hovis advert of the 1970s. The advert was voted the UK’s favourite commercial of all time in a poll conducted in 2006. In 1977, he finally made his feature film debut with The Duellists which won the award for Best Debut Film at the Cannes Film Festival.
Like many directors, Scott has cited Stanley Kubrick as a major influence and inspiration, particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey, “The design on 2001…that’s the threshold for everything being real. Stanley’s design influenced everybody. I’ve never shaken it off.” That influence is transparent in Scott’s lauded Blade Runner as both films share deliberately ambiguous endings and are subsequently classics of the genre. Another film that proved to be monumental in Scott’s life was Star Wars: A New Hope of which he commented, “To me, it was an absolutely perfect rendition of a great serial comic.” The success of George Lucas’ creation inspired Scott to accept the job of directing Alien as he realised the vast potential of effects-driven films – and thank God he decided to pursue the project as Scott was the one to change the lead character from a male to a female. He says of the decision, “I never thought about it. I never had a problem.” And so, the icon of Ripley was born, and she still holds the title as one of the best female characters in film of all time. Susan Sarandon, co-star of Thelma and Louise, praised Scott for treating their collaboration and the film’s narrative in the same manner as he would approach a story involving male leads, “it could have been a little story and we might not have seemed so heroic, and we might not have earned that liberation at the end, if it had been filmed as a tiny movie. But he put it against John Wayne’s backdrop – I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Scott has found himself and his upcoming film All the Money in the World dominating entertainment headlines – after the revelations about Kevin Spacey came to light, Scott made the unprecedented decision to recast Spacey in his already completed film where the actor portrayed Jean Paul Getty with Christopher Plummer. Scott commented to Entertainment Weekly regarding his decision, “You can’t tolerate any kind of behaviour like that. And it will affect the film. We cannot let one person’s action affect the good work of all these other people. It’s that simple.” Not only has the director changed the game in terms of his film-making prowess, but his admirable action will hopefully encourage others in the business to not reward or facilitate abusers. All hail Sir Ridley Scott.
• Alien (1979)
• Blade Runner (1982)
• Thelma and Louise (1991)
• Gladiator (2000)
• American Gangster (2007)
• The Martian (2015)
By Evie Brudenall