Ridley Scott - Biography - IMDb
Ridley Scott Poster


Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trade Mark (15)  | Trivia (72)  | Personal Quotes (66)

Overview (3)

Born in South Shields, County Durham, England, UK
Nicknames R-Scott
Height 5' 8½" (1.74 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Described by film producer Michael Deeley as "the very best eye in the business", director Ridley Scott was born on November 30, 1937 in South Shields, Tyne and Wear (then County Durham). His father was an officer in the Royal Engineers and the family followed him as his career posted him throughout the United Kingdom and Europe before they eventually returned to Teesside. Scott wanted to join the Royal 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.

In 1962, he joined the BBC as a trainee set designer working on several high profile series. He attended a trainee director's course while he was there and his first directing job was on an episode of the popular BBC police series Z Cars (1962), Z Cars: Error of Judgement (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 endeavor, 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: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) inspired Scott's interest in making science fiction and he accepted the offer to direct Dan O'Bannon's low budget science fiction 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 January 22, 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.

Ridley Scott was awarded Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire at the 2003 Queen's New Year Honours for his "substantial contribution to the British film industry". On July 3, 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Royal College of Art in a ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship in 2018. BAFTA described him as "a visionary director, one of the great British film-makers whose work has made an indelible mark on the history of cinema. Forty years since his directorial debut, his films continue to cross the boundaries of style and genre, engaging audiences and inspiring the next generation of film talent."

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Pedro Borges

Family (4)

Spouse Giannina Facio (June 2015 - present)
Sandy Watson (24 May 1979 - 12 January 1989)  (divorced)  (1 child)
Felicity Heywood (2 March 1964 - 15 December 1975)  (divorced)  (2 children)
Children Jake Scott
Jordan Scott
Luke Scott
Parents Scott, Elizabeth Jean
Scott, Francis Percy
Relatives Scott, Frank (sibling)
Tony Scott (sibling)

Trade Mark (15)

His 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, including Sigourney Weaver in Alien (1979), Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis 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), Noomi Rapace in Prometheus (2012), Jessica Chastain in The Martian (2015) and even the female athlete in the Superbowl commercial "1984" for Apple.
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!".
He frequently works with composers Hans Zimmer and Marc Streitenfeld and with cinematographers Dariusz Wolski and John Mathieson.
He begins most films with an info card sequence or montage (Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001)).
He frequently casts Russell Crowe (Gladiator (2000), A Good Year (2006), American Gangster (2007), Body of Lies (2008) and Robin Hood (2010)).
He 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.
He is called the father of "director's cut". Scott was one of the first directors to re-release a director's cut in theaters and, because of the great success of his new version of Blade Runner (1982), made the concept popular among directors and audiences. Since then Scott has released many more director's cuts or extended versions of his films, but mostly on DVD / BluRay.
He does not use wide lenses very often; he tends towards longer focal lengths.
Sweeping landscapes or backdrops - sometimes with a close-up of a character's face in the foreground - for example in Gladiator (2000) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
He often utilizes a light blue tint that contrasts black silhouettes, e.g. G.I. Jane (1997), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001), Matchstick Men (2003) and Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
When showing graphic violence, he tends to use very brief shots that cut away quickly.
He frequently uses fast shutter speeds during action scenes.
Main characters are often on a mission; adventurers; in a foreign land that turns hostile or they are challenged to adapt to the circumstances.
Frequently casts Michael Fassbender, Adam Driver and Jodie Comer

Trivia (72)

Education: West Hartlepool College of Art (1954-1958: Diploma in Design 1958, with honors); Royal College of Art (autumn 1958-1961: M.A. in Graphic Design 1961). Two postgraduate courses at the RCA followed. Then he got a traveling scholarship and went to New York, where he gained experience in editing at Leacock/Pennebaker. A year later he would return to England where he worked as an art director for the BBC. His skill in designing sets for television eventually led to designing sets for commercials. After participating in the BBC's directors training course, he quit television. He decided to focus almost entirely on his advertisements and in 1965 he opened his own commercial production company called Ridley Scott Associates.
Family: Brother of director Tony Scott; Father of music video director Jake Scott; Son of Elizabeth Jean Scott; Father of actress Jordan Scott with Sandy Watson.
Whilst working as a set designer at the BBC, Scott was assigned to design the Daleks for the new BBC TV science-fiction series Doctor Who (1963). Scott passed the work on to his colleague 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". The project was filmed in 2008 by Francis Lawrence.
With his brother Tony Scott, he bought Shepperton Studios in 1995 for £12 million.
Estimated in an interview that he operated on roughly 2,700 commercials.
2003: Ranked #25 in Premiere magazine's annual Power 100 List. Had ranked #30 in 2002.
He has dedicated several of his films in memory of his family: Blade Runner (1982) to his brother Frank, Black Hawk Down (2001) to his mother, and The Counselor (2013) and Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) to his brother Tony. Ridley also paid tribute to his late brother Tony at the 2016 Golden Globes, after The Martian (2015) won Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.
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.
He cast his partner in life, Giannina Facio, in nearly all of his films since Gladiator (2000). They finally married in June 2015.
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).
He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007.
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 magazine'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. Some of Scott's regular collaborators slated to work on the film included cinematographer Hugh Johnson and production designer Ken Davis.

Various factors, including the development of the similarly-plotted Outbreak (1995), led to the project being canceled. The very day this happened, Scott was given a copy of the script to White Squall (1996) and decided to direct it.

"Crisis in the Hot Zone" was eventually adapted as the National Geographic TV miniseries The Hot Zone (2019), with Scott serving as an executive producer.
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".
Directed 7 actors in Oscar nominated performances: Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Ruby Dee, Matt Damon and Christopher Plummer. Crowe won for his performance in Gladiator (2000).
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 television commercial "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 commercial 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.
Father of Jake Scott and Luke Scott with Felicity Heywood.
Is frequently involved, as producer and director, with historically-oriented projects: The Duellists (1977), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), Gladiator (2000), The Pillars of the Earth (2010).
Was 39 years old when he directed The Duellists (1977), his first feature length film.
In 2012, Scott was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork - The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover - to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires to mark his 80th birthday.
In 2011, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
His hand-drawn storyboards along with personal notes for Alien (1979) were published in the Winter 2014 issue of Directors Guild Quarterly magazine, "Drawing Board: Alien Creature," pp. 58-59.
All of his feature films have at least one Academy Award nominated actor in the cast and 15 of his feature films have even an Academy Award winning actor or actress in the cast [2015].
Honorary doctorate by the Royal College of Art. [July 3, 2015].
Scott had already shot the footage for his first short film while studying at the Royal College of Art in 1961. It was titled Boy and Bicycle (1965). It was funded with £65 (film and processing) and a Bolex 16mm camera (for a month-long free use) by the RCA. The film would finally be completed (with music, soundtrack and titles) and copyrighted in 1965 with a £250 grant from the British Film Institute.
Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6712 Hollywood Boulevard since November 5, 2015.
One of his favorite films is Muriel's Wedding (1994): "I've seen it 6 times, it's really fantastic." [Hollywood Reporter, Roundtable 2015].
Said that Peter Watkins's The War Game (1966), about London being nuclear-bombed had an impact on him: "I thought about it for a week after seeing it." And The Road (2009), based on Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel: "That's really scary. I think there's a degree of uneasy accuracy. (...) We don't want to even consider that." [2016].
He is cited as a major influence by the Canadian director James Cameron, who made the first sequel to Scott's Alien (1979), as well as iconic films such as The Terminator (1984), Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009). Cameron has admitted that he goes to see any new Ridley Scott film because "...he is such an artist, he's such a filmmaker. I always learn from him".
Received a TCL Chinese Theatre handprint ceremony on May 17, 2017. His hands and feet were encased in cement outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. He first set foot on the famous sidewalk in 1960, when he had no intention of entering the movie business. He was 22, fresh out of college and after working in New York for nine months, saved enough money to travel to L.A. on a Greyhound bus. "One of the big deals for me was to come to Hollywood," Scott remembered. "I stayed in a boarding house nearby and walked to Hollywood Boulevard. I remember standing outside and staring at the footprints. Never, ever, would I have thought that this would happen." [Variety 2017].
Considers The Counselor (2013) to be one of his best films.
Presented with a BAFTA Fellowship at the 2018 Awards.
He was the first choice to direct Point Break (1991), but he chose Thelma & Louise (1991) instead.
He was approached to replace Bryan Singer as the director of Bohemian Rhapsody (2018).
He was Joel Silver's first choice to direct Lethal Weapon (1987). Due to Scott's still recent tensions with Warner Brothers during the making of Blade Runner (1982) the studio refused to offer him the job.
He was reportedly set to direct The Hunger (1983), but decided to pass when he heard that David Bowie was in on the deal. It became his brother Tony Scott's directorial debut.
He was considered to direct Jacob's Ladder (1990).
In January 2016, he was in early negotiations to direct the screen version of The Prisoner (1967).
He was offered the chance to direct The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) back when the project was at Warner Bros. with Brad Pitt starring.
He was attached to direct Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) years before production finally began.
He was asked to direct Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), but he was busy working on Black Hawk Down (2001).
He was originally set to direct Dune (1984), but left the production after his older brother suddenly passed away. Scott wanted to start working as soon as possible, but Dune would take far too long to reach production. Scott decided to leave the project in favor of Blade Runner (1982), which was ready to start production immediately.
He was unable to direct Alien 3 (1992), as he was busy working on 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992).
He was said to be helming Blade Runner 2049 (2017) himself back in 2011, but his work on Prometheus (2012), The Counselor (2013), Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), The Martian (2015) and Alien: Covenant (2017) resulted in him taking a step back into an executive producer capacity only.
On 3 July 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Royal College of Art in a ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in London at which he described how he still keeps on his office wall his school report placing him 31st out of 31 in his class, and how his teacher encouraged him to pursue what became his passion at art school.
He was among the directors briefly considered for the sci-fi TV movie Doctor Who (1996) starring Paul McGann.
He was asked to direct Conan the Barbarian (1982), but declined.
He disowned the theatrical cut of Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and named the Director's Cut as the definitive version. During the TIFF press conference for The Martian (2015), he said that re-editing the film was the only regret he's made in his career.
He has directed three films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and Thelma & Louise (1991).
Ridley Scott stated on an interview with Wired magazine that the best science fiction films ever made are 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner & On the Beach.
After his family moved from Tyneside to Hartburn in Stockton where his father became a pilot on the River Tees Ridley spent 3 years at Grangefield Grammar School in Stockton, Teeside. where he was a mediocre student but a brilliant artist. On leaving school he went to Hartlepool College of Art in 1954.
It took him 5 years to set up 'The Duellists' which despite mixed reviews won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
His first directing job was a commercial for instant porridge.
Eventually left the BBC to make commercials directing hundreds including many award winners in 10 years from 1967.
Before his family moved to Stockton He attended Tynemouth Grammar School.
His development and production company is called Percy Main Productions after the place his father came from.

Personal Quotes (66)

[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.
[in 2006, about screenwriter William Monahan] [He] 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 the 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 his recreation of the trench sequence in Paths of Glory (1957) as a student] Yes, I made this . . . this was in the '60s with the BBC. Of course it was never aired, [Stanley 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)] 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" and Weyland-Yutani in "Alien". 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.
[on the source novel of Blade Runner (1982), Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"] 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 Blade Runner (1982)] I'm curious about doing a sequel. There's something in the android that lived.
[on Blade Runner (1982)'s Final Cut] Like watching the film as it should have been 25 years ago in the theatres but with a better sound mix.
[on Blade Runner (1982)] I've never spent so much time with a writer. That was the real evolution of the story.
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.
People say a good score is when you don't notice it. I say bullshit. I'm very conscious of a good score and I'm very conscious of a bad score. And anyone who says that simply doesn't know music.
[on Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)] I can't mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such. I'm just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn't even come up.
[in 2015] I don't really stop. Whatever I do, I'm on. But it's life, isn't it? We're not here for that long. I don't feel vulnerable in any way. I'm lucky in that I'm in good health and the brain's still going. No, seriously! A lot of it is how you look after yourself, but a lot of it is also luck. Flat out luck. So working, in a funny kind of way, is a health factor. I think it's healthier. My dad retired five years younger than me. Retirees are retiring at 50, 60. What the hell are you going to do? I don't know. Pff! It's unthinkable for me to retire. That's why I love [Clint Eastwood], who's in his 80s and has already finished his next movie. God, he's faster than I am!
[in 2015] Blade Runner (1982), was a disaster. It didn't play. People didn't get it. I was way ahead, is what I think it was. I knew it was really good. I just thought, "What the hell? They just don't get it." That was when I learned to move on and not read press. Don't read press. You can't read press--it'll destroy you.
[in 2015] I like the competition. You create a competition with yourself. I'm very competitive. Very. I look around and think, "I've got to raise the bar". That's what we do. If we can all raise the bar in everything we do, isn't that better? I try and raise the bar every time I do a movie, and a part of that is not to repeat yourself. It's an internal ego, not an external ego.
[in 2015] I think I'm blessed by the fact that I can draw. I've got an inner eye, definitely. At first I wasn't aware of it, and then after 2,000 commercials, there was a reason I was so busy. I was the most visual of all directors. That's why I was so flat-out successful, frankly. That's why I never did a film until I was 40. I didn't start filming until I was 40. I certainly appreciated what I had, and I started to acknowledge it, embrace it, and use it. I think visually. But I'm good with words, and I'm helpful with writers because I'll talk to them visually when I'm working.
[in 2015, on fear of death as a constant topic in his films] I think The Counselor (2013) is particularly stressful, but that's the point. It's one of my favorite movies. I'm not like that. I can do it, and Cormac McCarthy is a little like that. But it's the best screenplay I've ever had, in a way. Other than this one [The Martian (2015)]--but this one's different. This is optimistic. Cormac is the real dark side of the moon. It's about loss, tragic loss. You pay for everything.
[[in 2015, being interviewed while he draws] As we speak I'm literally drawing: I'm doing storyboards for the film in January . . . I'm one of those people who can multitask--I'm drawing the bridge of the next spaceship . . . I do the sketches and then I bring in the chaps to make it. It almost becomes industrial design, which these things ought to be because you need that strong sense of reality [on set] . . . When you do these films that are so big, the manner of designing them is enormous.
[in 2015] I was very, very happy with The Counselor (2013). I think it was very cynical and too nihilistic for some people, but I like nihilistic.
I applied to the Royal College of Art after my first degree at West Hartlepool College of Art [1954-58]--the RCA was top of the list as the most acclaimed art college at that time. I had realized I would never make a painter--there were arguments about whether or not my paintings were paintings or illustrations. The RCA had a particularly strong Graphic Design Department, which would give me a more specific creative target and a broader canvas. I was thrilled to be accepted, starting autumn 1958 and finishing in 1961 duating with an M.A. in Graphic Design]. "Television and film design" and photography were just beginning to happen, and America was becoming a big influence. I was struck by the level of professionalism and the highly competitive nature of Graphic Design at the RCA. All students were of a very high standard. Putting us all together was the beginning of my being aware of the competitive nature of my chosen profession. I realized from very early on that I would have to fight hard and do very well if I was going to make it. One was pretty well left to it. The mood of the College at the time was rebellious and politicized, [as well as] studious and introverted. It could be very competitive, with not much being given away and everything kept close to your chest. You observed all the time, watched what everyone else did and tried to do better and be the most original. During the Richard Guyatt era of Graphic Design, it wasn't easy for a student to work with type and photomontage. Nothing was easy. Nothing worth achieving ever is.
[in 2015] I'm blessed with a great eye, and I always have been. It even got in my way because I used to be criticized for being too visual. I would say, "Well, hold on. I'm not making a bloody radio play! I'm making a movie." What I have is an advantage, and I'm constantly looking for a way of evolving and avoiding what I've done before.
[in 2015] The truth is that technology is moving so quickly that the high-end 2D [high-dynamic range] nearly makes 3D redundant. We shot and edited The Martian (2015) on 3D and it was pretty straightforward if you've got the right team, and [cinematographer] Dariusz Wolski is great. From my point of view, I can just have fun making 3D pictures. But now with 2D becoming so great, you really have to ask yourself if you need it.
[in 2015] I learned years ago that a great script ain't gonna land on your desk. When I'm not working I'm also constantly developing material. But this [The Martian (2015)] came to me in one of those rare occurrences. I've been with Fox more than 12 years now, and there's a first-look deal. They came to me and said, "Look, we've got this script and you might want to look at it." I read it and was highly entertained and also impressed that it covered all four quadrants of emotion.
[in 2015, on test screenings for The Martian (2015)] I have to sit in on the test screenings. It's part of the process. We did five, actually. In the five screenings we had we rated in the 90s, which is almost unheard of. That usually happens with riotously funny comedies, but we're a drama with some amusing stuff. It was an indication that we were in good shape.
[2015] I cast carefully. If I cast very well, the actors are going to help me on the day we shoot and I'm going to help them. It becomes a partnership. I don't do days and weeks of rehearsal. What I tend to do is when we walk on the floor, I literally shoot the first rehearsal and rehearse on camera. Because then you get the energy of coming in prepared but not rehearsed, and then you get a reality. If you over-rehearse it goes dead when you shoot, and you spend time getting back to what you found in rehearsals. I'm not unusual that way. Clint Eastwood does it, and so does Martin Scorsese . . . more actors like it than they care to admit. If it's well written, you don't have to rehearse. In this case, we had a great script from a great book.
[2015, in "Variety"] I was out of the era of Mad Men (2007) [ . . . ] We were really inventing modern advertising and modern communications. The big question always to me when making a movie now is, "Am I communicating?" And if you're not communicating you won't have a film do business and our business is about commerce, not art [ . . . ] People at that time said TV commercial breaks were better than the programs [ . . . ] In doing that, I learned to address the most basic question: Am I communicating, or am I going over your head? And that's what all filmmakers face. [ . . . ] I stayed in it for 20 years because I just loved it. [ . . . ] I was working in film, working on celluloid, I was working in quick time. They were very competitive days. Today you're considered busy if you're doing 12 bits a year; in those days I would be doing, personally, 100 commercials a year, averaging two a week. And they were big. [ . . . ] I was obsessed with commercials. And the ones we made 30 years ago are pretty good today. They don't age. I would obsess over details, not just who the actor was, or how beautiful the model was. [ . . . ] But I also learned about process, which is everything. [ . . . ] You can talk yourself blue in the face at film school, you can talk yourself blue in the face at drama school, but you'll never learn [until] you go out and do it. You can converse all you want about the mountain, but [until] you get on it, and start climbing, you don't know shit. [ . . . ] At that time we were influencing the way feature films looked, but I was always criticized for being too visual. [ . . . ] They said it was too beautiful, too image-driven. And I thought, "What the fuck does that mean?" Just because I could shoot better than most people--which is what made me such an employable commercial director--didn't mean I wasn't interested in story. I still feel that way. I'm not making a radio play, I'm making a movie.
[2015] I was academically a disaster, honestly. [ . . . ] It wasn't because I was lazy; I'm inherently a multi-tasker, but I could not grasp or retain the information that was coming at me. [ . . . ] The saying then was that those who can, do; those who can't, go to art school.
[in 2015, on Alien (1979) and the Xenomorph] We're getting closer and closer to the creation of the beasts--how and why they were created--and the first "Alien" film that I made over 30 years ago
[in 2015] I've got no plan. I go from pillar to post randomly. I have this childlike fascination and thrill of doing it. I was going to be doing what will be called Alien: Covenant (2017), which starts shooting next February, and we were struggling then with the screenplay there and then there was a phone call, somebody saying, "Listen, we've got this thing which is completely written called The Martian (2015)", and I said, "Huh." And I speed-read it in an hour and by mid-afternoon, I talked to Fox and said, "I need to talk to Drew Goddard".
[in 2015, on editor Pietro Scalia and The Martian (2015)] The important thing for the editor is coverage. That's why I always have multiple cameras, so I can shorten the scene. Half the time it's about shortening and refining. Drew Goddard's script was very well done. But if you have a scene that's four minutes and you think it's got to be two minutes, you can't do that unless you've got cuts. Pietro understands the process. He has brilliant instincts.
[in 2015, on cinematographer Dariusz Wolski] Dariusz has a great eye and great taste. He is a great camera operator. I think any cinematographer should operate the camera occasionally; if you don't, you don't understand the frame. Dariusz likes the storyboards; he loves to know what we're doing, because he has to prep it. We always work with multiple cameras. With Dariusz, it's usually four, but if it's complicated, it's five to eight cameras. It's knowing where to place them. We shot The Martian (2015) in 72 days. Normally it would be 100 to 110. Part of that is multi-camera, part of it is knowing what you're doing. You can't walk in every morning and say, "Let's talk about this scene." Are you kidding me? You can't do that.
[in 2015, on production designer Arthur Max and The Martian (2015)] The key is to always kick off a creative conversation on what each scene can be. Then Arthur will go away and research it with the digital artists; they'll come back with a digital representation of the set. That also happened for the spacesuits. They're tricky; they're industrial design because they have to breathe. I didn't want to repeat Alien (1979) or Prometheus (2012). I never want to repeat anything. We also set up 30 GoPro cameras inside the habitat. Those took the form of being a buddy or companion to Mark Watney [Matt Damon]. So there was Matt talking to the camera--what I called ship's log, like Captain Kirk. We wanted to avoid voice-over because it's tricky. It's better to have Matt talking to himself. To represent NASA, there was a building on the edge of the Danube, the most modern building in Budapest. I would drive past it and think, "We better look at that, because I can't find NASA." It was perfect--a giant space, used for events, with a giant tube roof.
[in 2015] The Martian (2015) was made for the most part, 94%, in a Budapest [Hungary] studio. With green screen, I now can't tell what was studio and what was shot in Wadi Rum [desert in Jordan].
[2016] I'm from the generation that climbed trees, fell out of trees, broke my arm, my foot, my fingers, fell in the sea, nearly drowned. To design a catapult was high-tech. Today, kids don't do that. They probably play soccer but for the most part they're button-pushing. I just hope they have as much fun as I did.
[in 2016, on directing] You prove how reliable you are. Which I am, I always have been--it's part of my thing.
[in 2016, on The Martian (2015)] Buried in the film is a life lesson: God helps those who help themselves. It's a tremendous example of effort and ingenuity and courage in the face of imminent death. It's as tough as climbing Mount Everest, really. In a slip you can die.
[in 2016, on directing blockbusters] You want big films and stories to keep people going to the cinema. It's up to us to keep the bar raised. That's the trick. I've always done that. [ . . . ] It is brain surgery! It is bloody brain surgery! You're putting together a whole group of people, you're trying to budget as accurately as you can and, at the end of it, you've got to sell a lot of tickets. That's more complex than banking--but a few of us manage to pull it off. [ . . . ] I'm not kidding myself: I love the challenge. If you don't, don't do the job.
[[interview with Rob Carnevale, IndieLondon, on his movies] I think a landmark would have to be The Duellists (1977) because it got me going and everybody was surprised that I could make a two-hour movie. It was criticized, but that's when I stopped reading all my press because they said it was too pretty . . . I was like, "Fuck you!". It rained for 58 days and that's why it looked like it was gauze. It wasn't gauze at all. It was a very beautiful film but I took that criticism on board and started to question what I do well. But eventually I just thought, "Fuck it, I'll do what I have to do and that's that" and I will evolve in my own time. I think Alien (1979) was a landmark--it's one of the really good science-fiction movies. Blade Runner (1982) was pretty fucking good, too. I've done pretty good! Legend (1985) I thought was [good] but I jumped the gun and simply started doing fantasy 25 to 30 years too soon . . . White Squall (1996) and Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) are, I think, both really nice little movies. I think it came off someone saying in my office, because "Legend" didn't work [at the box office] and "Blade Runner" didn't work [at the box office], "Why don't you make something about ordinary people?" So, I went off and made these two smaller movies, which I think, actually, turned out pretty well. But gradually I realized that what I do best is universes and I shouldn't be afraid of that. That's what I do great. So, the universe of Black Hawk Down (2001) is still, for me, the best war film coming out of that region. [interview with Rob Carnevale, IndieLondon]
[in 2017, on Alien: Covenant (2017)] . . . we discovered from it [Prometheus (2012)] that [the fans] were really frustrated. They wanted to see more of the original [monster] and I thought he was definitely cooked, with an orange in his mouth. So I thought, "Wow, OK, I'm wrong". [ . . . ] The fans, in a funny kind of way--they're not the final word--but they are the reflection of your doubts about something, and then you realize "I was wrong" or "I was right". I think that's where it comes in. I think you're not sensible if you don't actually take [the fans' reaction] into account.
[in 2017, on Blade Runner (1982) getting initially negative reviews ] I know, but I knew it was good. This goes on to what I learned from getting beaten up. Pauline Kael [ . . . ] spent three pages destroying "Blade Runner" and me. Even to the fact that I had a beard [ironic]. I couldn't believe it, it was personal. I never met her in my life and it was really distressing. But after that moment, I never, ever read press again. Even if it's glowing, best not read it, because you think you own the world. If it's killer, best not read it because you think you've failed. You have to be your own critic.
[in 2017, on casting Alien (1979)] I cast Ripley really late. Two weeks out, we still hadn't found her. Then somebody came up, I think it was Warren Beatty, and said, "There's this woman, on off-Broadway, on the theater boards called Sigourney Weaver, you should meet with her. Interesting". So I called her, went to New York, she walks in, she must have been 6ft 6in, with an afro, so she's 7ft 2in. And I was like a midget, and I had dinner with her. That was it!
[in 2017, on Alien: Covenant (2017)] I wanted to really scare the shit out of people. Totally, that's the job. It's like if I'm a comedian, I want to make you laugh like hell. My day job is to be an entertainer. Some of it is art, but fundamentally I entertain--never forget that.
[in 2017] Franchise always sounds like a vaguely not-very-nice word, because it means making money. And there's nothing wrong with making money in the film industry--in fact. it's what it's all about. If there's a big film that's a disaster, it's bad for everybody. If there's a little film that's a huge success, it's good for everybody. That's the industry we're in.
[in 2017, on the feminist undertones in several of his films] It's gratifying when people mention that. I remember reading Thelma & Louise (1991) and the executives were saying, "Well, it's two bitches in a car . . . " And I said, "Actually, it's a little bit more than that". Originally I was supposed to produce, and I offered it to four directors. One said, "I've got a problem with the women". And I said, "That's the point, you dope! Clearly, you have big problems with women".
[in 2017] It all comes full circle to starting out as a painter. You walk in the room in the morning, where you spent all day yesterday by yourself. You stare at the canvas and you go, "Bloody hell, I hate it". Painting is all about what you did yesterday, how you're going to re-correct it, improve it, or go, "Holy shit, I got it". It's being your own critic, that's it. That's the most important thing.
[in 2017, on directing his first short film Boy and Bicycle (1965)] My brother, Tony Scott, was the actor and chief equipment carrier. I remember it cost £65, and I took six weeks to bugger about on Redcar and Hartlepool beach to make this movie. Tony must have been 14, 15 and I ruined his summer holiday, but it was sinking in to him, so we were doing a thing that would inject lifelong dedication to making films.
[in 2017, on struggling in school and probably being slightly dyslexic] After being bottom for five years, I decided that I wasn't academically sound--for anything, truly. And I was really trying. I wasn't lazy. I just couldn't retain anything that I wasn't interested in. If I'm interested, I've got a photographic brain. I could walk out of this room and in a year, I could draw it right down to the paintings on the wall.
[in 2017] It drives me crazy that an actor can do four movies in a year and I can't.
I'm a big painter. I resumed painting 10 years ago. My whole grounding is in art school. I paint all the time. [2020]
[onn House of Gucci (2021)] I didn't want to make it into a thriller drama because it's not. I saw it more as a satire.

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