Monday, June 4, 2012


Ridley Scott’s 20th feature film, the sci-fi blockbuster Prometheus, to be released this week, is one of the summer’s most highly anticipated films. It marks a full circle for Mr. Scott, who, a few generations ago directed two of the all time great science fiction films, Alien and Blade Runner, in the late 70s, and early 80s. The fact that Scott is still around making big budget films is a testament to his talent as a filmmaker. He started out shooting short films with his brother, Tony, who has also gone on to become a renowned filmmaker, in England, where they grew up. Ridley Scott began working in advertising in the 1960s and eventually started directing commercials, working his way up to his feature debut, The Duellists with Harvey Keitel, in 1977. Ridley had just turned 40. 

Two years later came his international breakthrough. Alien, starring a then unknown Sigourney Weaver, centered on a space crew that encounters a deadly creature. The film’s heroine, Ellen Ripley, was a landmark for women actors. The film was a box office success, and Scott had his first hit. Three years later, Scott directed Harrison Ford, straight out of Indiana Jones, and Star Wars, in the extremely ambitious, visually stunning Blade Runner. The film took place in a futuristic Los Angeles, and set the standard for sci-fi pictures that followed. Although not a success initially, Blade Runner has since gone on to become a huge cult hit. In 1985, Scott directed a dark fantasy film called Legend, with a young Tom Cruise in the lead. Scott continued to direct smaller fare like Someone to Watch Over Me in 1987, and Black Rain, with Michael Douglas, in 1989.

Ridley got a big break in 1991, when he directed Thelma & Louise, another female-oriented film, this time headlined by Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis. The movie won a lot of acclaim and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Scott followed it up with 1492: Conquest of Paradise, the story of Christopher Columbus, in time for the 500th anniversary of his “discovery” of America. The film flopped at the box office, and Scott retreated once more, away from the film business. He came back four years later with White Squall, starring Jeff Bridges, but the film failed to garner any notice. A year later, Scott directed the controversial G.I. Jane, starring Demi Moore as a woman who enrolls into the Navy SEALS.

Around this time, while Scott’s star was fading, his younger brother Tony was making a name for himself with films like Top Gun, one of the most iconic films of the 80s, True Romance, written by a pre-Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino, and Crimson Tide, which started his working relationship with Denzel Washington. The two have since gone on to make four more movies together. The Scott brothers also started a production company called Scott Free Productions, which produces television fare like Numb3rs and The Good Wife, as well as all of Ridley’s films. 

After the failure of G.I. Jane, Ridley Scott did not make another film for three years, but when he did make his big screen return, it would be the biggest success of Scott’s career. Russell Crowe had already made a name for himself in his native Australia, so it was only logical that he would be granted an opportunity to make it in America. After starring in acclaimed films like L.A. Confidential and The Insider for filmmakers Curtis Hanson and Michael Mann, Crowe was cast as the lead in Scott’s Roman-coliseum-epic Gladiator. In the spring of 2000, the film was released to great acclaim. The movie ended up grossing over $450 million worldwide, and was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including one for Scott as Best Director, and Crowe as Best Actor. The film won 5 Oscars, including one for Crowe. Scott lost out to Steven Soderbergh and Traffic in the Best Director race, but Gladiator won the top prize of the night, the Best Picture Oscar. Scott then went on a directing purge over the course of the next decade, and re-emerged as one of the premiere filmmakers of his time.

He directed the much-buzzed about sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, in 2001, with Anthony Hopkins returning as his most famous character, the eponymous Hannibal Lecter. That same year, Scott visited Somalia in Black Hawk Down, a true story of U.S. Soldiers on a mission to fight renegade warlords. The film won two Oscars. In 2003, Scott directed Nicolas Cage in Matchstick Men, where Cage played a con man with OCD, who learns he has a 14-year old daughter he never knew he fathered. 

In 2005, Scott returned to the battlefield with Kingdom of Heaven, an epic action-adventure film about the crusades in 12th Century Jerusalem. The film received mixed reviews but still packs a punch with an all-star cast. The following year, Scott directed A Good Year, a romantic drama starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard. Scott would continue to work with Crowe on three more films, 2007’s American Gangster, with Denzel Washington, 2008’s Body of Lies, with Leonardo DiCaprio and 2010’s dark fable Robin Hood, with Cate Blanchett as Lady Marion. In all, Scott completed nine films in ten years from 2000-2010. When word got out that Scott was working on a quasi-prequel to one of his biggest hits, fans of the Alien franchise became excited and now that excitement will reach its peak when Prometheus is finally released on June 8th. Now, the 74-year old filmmaker says he will re-visit futuristic worlds and dangerous replicants again with a sequel to Blade Runner

Mr. Scott has been married three times, most recently to the actress Giannina Facio. He has two sons, Jake, and Luke, and a daughter, Jordan, all of whom are filmmakers and work in Scott’s production company. In 2011, Scott received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Over the course of four decades of working in the business, Scott has cemented his position as a marvelous director with a flair for the visuals. Aside from filmmaking, Scott also directed the infamous Apple Macintosh commercial during the 1984 Superbowl, influenced by George Orwell’s classic nightmarish novel 1984.

Prometheus arrives during a time where 3D blockbusters reign over the box office, both domestically, and more significantly, internationally. The film’s cast includes Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, and Noomi Rapace, from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedish version). Scott is also working on a film for 2013 called The Counselor, with Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender. Whatever legacy Scott leaves behind, when his filmmaking days are over, his place as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time has already been etched in stone. 

His body of work has varied from gladiators to road flicks, to space operas, to intimate dramas, and now has completed the full circle from British ad man, to American horror storyteller, along the way picking up three Academy Award Nominations for Best Director, and comprising one of the most unique film resumes in history. Whatever Ridley Scott does next, you can be sure that it will be one of the most talked about movies of the year.

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