Ridley Scott

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Sir Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Ridley Scott in 2012
Born(1937-11-30) 30 November 1937 (age 77)
South Shields, County Durham, England
OccupationFilm director and producer
Years active1965–present
Notable work(s)Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, Robin Hood, Prometheus, 1984
Spouse(s)Felicity Heywood
(m. 1964 – div. 1975)
Sandy Watson
(m. 1979 – div. 1989)
ChildrenJake (born 1965)
Luke (born 1968)
Jordan (born 1978)
FamilyFrank Scott (brother, deceased)
Tony Scott (brother, deceased)
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Sir Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Ridley Scott in 2012
Born(1937-11-30) 30 November 1937 (age 77)
South Shields, County Durham, England
OccupationFilm director and producer
Years active1965–present
Notable work(s)Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, Robin Hood, Prometheus, 1984
Spouse(s)Felicity Heywood
(m. 1964 – div. 1975)
Sandy Watson
(m. 1979 – div. 1989)
ChildrenJake (born 1965)
Luke (born 1968)
Jordan (born 1978)
FamilyFrank Scott (brother, deceased)
Tony Scott (brother, deceased)

Sir Ridley Scott (born 30 November 1937) is an English film director and producer. Following his commercial breakthrough with the science-fiction horror film Alien (1979), his best-known works are the neo-noir dystopian science fiction film Blade Runner (1982), the drama Thelma & Louise (1991), the epic historical drama Gladiator (2000), which won a Best Picture Oscar, the war film Black Hawk Down (2001), the crime thriller Hannibal (2001), the comedy-drama Matchstick Men (2003), the epic historical drama Kingdom of Heaven (2005), the biographical crime film American Gangster (2007), the epic adventure film Robin Hood (2010), and the sci-fi film Prometheus (2012).

Scott is known for his atmospheric, highly concentrated visual style, which has influenced many other directors. Though his films range widely in setting and period, they frequently showcase memorable imagery of urban environments, whether 2nd century Rome (Gladiator), 12th century Jerusalem (Kingdom of Heaven), contemporary Osaka (Black Rain) or Mogadishu (Black Hawk Down), or the future cityscapes of Blade Runner. Scott has been nominated for three Academy Awards for Directing (for Thelma and Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down), plus two Golden Globe and two BAFTA Awards. In 2003, Scott was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for his "services to the British film industry".[1] He was the older brother of the late Tony Scott.

Early life and career[edit]

Scott was born 30 November 1937 in South Shields, Tyne and Wear in the North East of England,[2] the son of Elizabeth and Colonel Francis Percy Scott.[3] He was brought up in an army family, so for most of his early life, his father — an officer in the Royal Engineers — was absent. His elder brother, Frank, joined the Merchant Navy when he was still young and the pair had little contact. During this time the family moved around, living in (among other areas) Cumberland, Wales and Germany. He had a younger brother, Tony, who also became a film director. After the Second World War, the Scott family moved back to their native North East, eventually settling on Greens Beck Road, Hartburn, Stockton on Tees, Teesside (whose industrial landscape would later inspire similar scenes in Blade Runner).[4] He studied at Grangefield Grammar School and West Hartlepool College of Art from 1954 to 1958, obtaining a Diploma in Design.

Scott went on to study at the Royal College of Art, contributing to college magazine ARK and helping to establish the college film department. For his final show, he made a black and white short film, Boy and Bicycle, starring both his younger brother and his father (the film was later released on the 'Extras' section of The Duellists DVD). In February 1963 Scott was named in title credits as "Designer" for the BBC television programme Tonight, about the severe winter of 1963. After graduation in 1963, he secured a job as a trainee set designer with the BBC, leading to work on the popular television police series Z-Cars and science fiction series Out of the Unknown. He was originally assigned to design the second Doctor Who serial, The Daleks, which would have entailed realising the famous alien creatures. However, shortly before Scott was due to start work, a schedule conflict meant he was replaced on the serial by Raymond Cusick.[5] In 1965, he began directing episodes of television series for the BBC, only one of which, an episode of Adam Adamant Lives!, is available commercially. (He directed two others, but these have been wiped.)

In 1968, Ridley and Tony Scott founded Ridley Scott Associates (RSA), a film and commercial production company.[6] Working alongside Alan Parker, Hugh Hudson and cinematographer Hugh Johnson Ridley Scott made many commercials at RSA during the 1970s, including a notable 1974 Hovis advert, "Bike Round" (featuring the New World Symphony), filmed in Shaftesbury, Dorset.

Five members of the Scott family are directors, and all have worked for RSA.[7] His brother Tony was a successful film director whose career spanned more than two decades; his sons Jake and Luke are both acclaimed directors of commercials, as is his daughter, Jordan Scott. Jake and Jordan both work from Los Angeles; Luke is based in London. In 1995, Shepperton Studios was purchased by a consortium headed by Ridley and Tony Scott, which extensively renovated the studios while also expanding and improving its grounds.[8]

Early Films[edit]

The Duellists[edit]

Main article: The Duellists

The Duellists (1977) marked Ridley Scott's first feature as director. Shot in Europe, it was nominated for the main prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and won an award for best film. The Duellists had limited commercial impact internationally. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it follows two French Hussar officers, D'Hubert and Feraud (Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) whose quarrel over an initially minor incident turns into a bitter extended feud spanning fifteen years, interwoven with the larger conflict that provides its backdrop. The film has been acclaimed for providing a historically authentic portrayal of Napoleonic uniforms and military conduct.


Main article: Alien (film)

Scott had originally planned next to adapt a version of Tristan and Iseult, but after seeing Star Wars, he became convinced of the potential of large scale, effects-driven films. He accepted the job of directing Alien, the 1979 horror/science-fiction film that would win him international success.

Scott would not return to an Alien-related project for three more decades, when he directed Prometheus. The female action hero Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver), who appeared in the first four Alien films, would become a cinematic icon. Scott was involved in the 2003 restoration and re-release of the original film. In promotional interviews at the time, Scott indicated he had been in discussions to make a fifth film in the Alien franchise. However, in a later (2006) interview, the director remarked that he had been unhappy about Alien: The Director's Cut, feeling that the original was "pretty flawless" and that the additions were merely a marketing tool.[9] (See 2006 – present section, for more on Prometheus.)

Blade Runner[edit]

Main article: Blade Runner

After a year working on the film adaptation of Dune, and following the sudden death of his brother Frank, Scott signed to direct the film version of Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Starring Harrison Ford, Blade Runner was a commercial disappointment in cinemas in 1982, but is now regarded as a classic. In 1991 Scott's notes were used by Warner Brothers to create a rushed director's cut which removed the main character's voiceover and made a number of other small changes, including to the ending. Later Scott personally supervised a digital restoration of Blade Runner and approved what was called The Final Cut. This version was released in Los Angeles, New York City and Toronto cinemas on 5 October 2007, and as an elaborate DVD release in December 2007.[10] Today, Blade Runner is ranked by many critics as one of the most important and influential science fiction films yet made,[11] partly thanks to its much imitated portraits of a future cityscape. It is often discussed along with William Gibson's novel Neuromancer as initiating the cyberpunk genre. Scott has described Blade Runner as his "most complete and personal film".[12]

"1984" Apple Macintosh commercial[edit]

Main article: 1984 (advertisement)

In 1984 Scott directed a big-budget (US$900,000) television commercial to launch the Apple Macintosh computer. The so-called 1984 advertisement was given a showcase airing in the United States on 22 January 1984, during Super Bowl XVIII, alongside screenings in cinemas.[13] Some consider this advertisement a "watershed event" in advertising[14] and a "masterpiece".[15] The advertisement used its heroine (portrayed by Anya Major) to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top adorned with a picture of Apple's Macintosh computer) as a means of saving humanity from "conformity" (Big Brother).[16]


Main article: Legend (1985 film)

In 1985 Scott directed Legend, a fantasy film produced by Arnon Milchan. Scott decided to create a "once upon a time" tale set in a world of princesses, unicorns and goblins, filming almost entirely inside the studio. Scott cast Tom Cruise as the film's hero, Jack, Mia Sara as Princess Lili and Tim Curry as the Satan-horned Lord of Darkness. In the final stages of filming, the forest set was destroyed by fire; Jerry Goldsmith's original score was used for European release, but replaced in North America with a score by Tangerine Dream. Rob Bottin provided the film's Academy Award-nominated make-up effects, most notably Curry's red-coloured Satan figure. Though a major commercial failure on release, the film has gone on to become a cult classic. The 2002 Director's Cut restored Goldsmith's original score.[17]

Subsequent Films[edit]


Scott made Someone to Watch Over Me, a romantic thriller starring Tom Berenger and Mimi Rogers in 1987, and Black Rain (1989), a police drama starring Michael Douglas and Andy García, shot partially in Japan. Both achieved mild success at the box office.

Road film Thelma & Louise (1991) starring Geena Davis as Thelma, and Susan Sarandon as Louise, proved to be one of Scott's biggest critical successes, helping revive the director's reputation and receiving his first nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director. His next project, independently-funded historical epic 1492: Conquest of Paradise, was a box office failure. The film recounts the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus (French star Gérard Depardieu). Scott did not release another film for four years.


In 1995 Ridley and his brother Tony formed a production company, Scott Free Productions, in Los Angeles. All Ridley's subsequent feature films, starting with White Squall and G.I. Jane have been produced under the Scott Free banner. In 1995 the two brothers purchased a controlling interest in Shepperton Studios, which later merged with Pinewood Studios.

Scott and his brother have produced CBS series Numb3rs (2005–10), a crime drama about a genius mathematician who helps the FBI solve crimes, and The Good Wife (2009–), a legal drama about an attorney balancing her job with her husband, a former state attorney trying to rebuild his political career after a major scandal. The two Scotts also produced a 2010 film adaptation of 1980s television show The A-Team, directed by Joe Carnahan.


Scott's film Gladiator (2000) proved to be one of his biggest critical and commercial successes to date. It won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor, for the film's star Russell Crowe. Some have credited Gladiator with reviving the nearly defunct "sword and sandal" historical genre. Scott then turned to Hannibal (2001), a sequel to Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs—the film was commercially successful despite receiving mixed reviews—and then to Black Hawk Down, based on a group of stranded American soldiers fighting for their lives in Somalia. Scott received two more nominations for the Academy Award for Best Director for Gladiator and Black Hawk Down.

In 2003 Scott directed a smaller scale project, Matchstick Men, adapted from the novel by Eric Garcia and starring Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman. It received mostly positive reviews, but performed moderately at the box office. In 2005 he made the modestly successful Kingdom of Heaven, a film about the Crusades. The Moroccan government sent the Moroccan cavalry as extras for some battle scenes.[18]

Unhappy with the theatrical version of the film (which he blamed on paying too much attention to the opinions of preview audiences), Scott supervised a director's cut of Kingdom of Heaven, which was released on DVD in 2006.[19] Asked if he was against previewing in general in 2006, Scott stated: "It depends who's in the driving seat. If you've got a lunatic doing my job, then you need to preview. But a good director should be experienced enough to judge what he thinks is the correct version to go out into the cinema."[20]


Scott teamed up again with Gladiator star Russell Crowe, for A Good Year, based on the best-selling book by Peter Mayle about an investment banker who finds a new life in Provence. The film was released on 10 November 2006. A few days later Rupert Murdoch, chairman of studio 20th Century Fox (who backed the film) dismissed A Good Year as "a flop" at a shareholders' meeting.[21]

Scott's next film was American Gangster, based on the story of real-life drug kingpin Frank Lucas. He was the third director to join the project after Antoine Fuqua and Terry George. Denzel Washington and Benicio del Toro had initially been cast, both actors having been paid salaries of $20 m and $15 m respectively without the film having gone into production. Scott took over the project in early 2006. He had Steven Zaillian rewrite his script to focus on the dynamic between Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts. Washington signed back on to the project as Lucas, with Russell Crowe co-starring. The film finally premiered in November 2007 to positive reviews and good box office. In late 2008 Scott released espionage thriller Body of Lies starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Crowe once again, which opened to luke-warm ticket-sales and mixed reviews.

Scott directed a revisionist adaptation of Robin Hood, which starred Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian. It was released in the United States in May 2010 to mixed reviews, but a respectable box-office.

On 31 July 2009, news surfaced of a two-part prequel to Alien[22] with Scott attached to direct.[23] The project, ultimately reduced to a single film called Prometheus, which Scott described as sharing "strands of Alien's DNA" while not being a direct prequel, was released in June 2012. The film received mostly positive reviews and grossed $403 million at the box office. A sequel is in development for 2016.

On 6 July 2010, YouTube announced the launch of Life in a Day, an experimental documentary executive produced by Scott. Released at the Sundance Film Festival on 27 January 2011, it incorporates footage shot on 24 July 2010 submitted by YouTube users from around the world.[24]

In 2012, Ridley Scott produced the commercial for Lady Gaga's upcoming fragrance, "Fame." It has been touted as the first ever black Eau de Parfum. This was announced in the informal credits attached to the trailer for this advertisement. Scott directed The Counselor (2013), with a screenplay by author Cormac McCarthy.[25][26]

In November 2012 it was announced that Scott would produce the upcoming documentary, Springsteen & I which will be directed by Baillie Walsh and was inspired by Life in a Day, which Scott also produced. The film will feature fan footage from throughout the world on what musician Bruce Springsteen means to them and how he has impacted their lives. The film will be released for one day only in 50 countries and on over 2000 film screens on 22 July 2013.

In March 2013, Twentieth Century Fox optioned the film rights for the novel The Martian, and hired screenwriter Drew Goddard to adapt and direct the film.[27][28] In May 2014, it was reported that Scott was in negotiations to direct an adaptation that would star Matt Damon as Mark Watney.[29] The film is scheduled for release on November 25, 2015.[30]

On 24 June 2013 Ridley Scott's series "Crimes of the Century" debuted on CNN.[31]

On 25 October 2013, Indiewire reported the opening of Scott's latest film The Counselor stating that, "Before McCarthy sold his first spec script for Scott's (Counselor) film, the director was heavily involved in developing an adaptation of the author's 1985 novel “Blood Meridian” with screenwriter Bill Monahan (“The Departed”). But as Scott said in a Time Out interview, '[Studios] didn't want to make it. The book is so uncompromising, which is what's great about it.' Described as an “anti-western,” [32]

In December 2014, Ridley Scott released the biblically-inspired epic film Exodus: Gods and Kings.

On-going projects[edit]

In October 2008, Scott confirmed that after a 25-year wait for the rights to become available, he was to make an adaptation of the book The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. He was looking for a script writer.[33] The following March, he confirmed that the film would be in 3D, citing James Cameron's Avatar as an inspiration for this. "I'm filming a book by Joe Haldeman called Forever War. I've got a good writer doing it. I've seen some of James Cameron's work and I've got to go 3D. It's going to be phenomenal."[34][35] Another science fiction project associated with Scott is an adaptation of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

In August 2011, information leaked about production of a sequel to Blade Runner by Alcon Entertainment, with Alcon partners Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove.[36] Scott informed the Variety publication in November 2014 that he was no longer the director for the film and would only fulfill a producer's role. Scott also revealed that filming would begin sometime in late 2014/2015, and that Ford's character will only appear in "the third act" of the sequel.[37]

In late 2013, it was announced that Scott will begin casting for the film adaptation of Hugh Howey's Wool in early 2014.[38]

A sequel to Prometheus is in development, scheduled to begin filming in late 2014, for release in March 2016.[39]

Personal life[edit]

Ridley Scott was married to Felicity Heywood from 1964 to 1975. The couple had two sons, Jake and Luke, both of whom work as directors on Scott's production company, Ridley Scott Associates. Scott later married advertising executive Sandy Watson in 1979, with whom he had a daughter, Jordan Scott, and divorced in 1989.[40][41] His current partner is the actress Giannina Facio, whom he has cast in all his films since White Squall except American Gangster."[42] He divides his time between homes in London, France and Los Angeles.

Scott received a knighthood in honour of his substantial contribution to the British film industry, from the Queen at Buckingham Palace on 8 July 2003.[1] Scott admitted feeling "stunned and truly humbled" after the ceremony, saying, "As a boy growing up in South Shields, I could never have imagined that I would receive such a special recognition. I am truly humbled to receive this treasured award and believe it also further recognises the excellence of the British film industry."[43]

His eldest brother Frank died, aged 45, of skin cancer in 1980.[44] His younger brother Tony, who was also his business partner in their company Scott Free, died on 19 August 2012 after jumping from the Vincent Thomas Bridge which spans Los Angeles Harbor. Before Tony's death, he and Ridley collaborated on a miniseries based on Robin Cook's novel, Coma for A&E. The two-part miniseries premiered on A&E on 3 September 2012, to mixed reviews.[45] In 2013 Ridley stated that he is an atheist.[46]

Ridley has dedicated several of his films in memory of his family: Blade Runner to his brother Frank, Black Hawk Down to his mother, and The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings to his brother Tony.

Approach and style[edit]

Russell Crowe commented, "I like being on Ridley's set because actors can perform [...] and the focus is on the performers."[47] Paul M. Sammon, in his book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, commented in an interview with Brmovie.com that Scott's relationship with his actors has improved considerably over the years.[48] More recently during the filming of Scott's 2012 film, Prometheus, Charlize Theron praised the director's willingness to listen to suggestions from the cast for improvements in the way their characters are portrayed on script. Theron worked alongside the writers and Scott to give more depth to her character during filming.[49]

His striking visual style, incorporating a detailed approach to production design and innovative, atmospheric lighting, has been influential on a subsequent generation of filmmakers — many of whom have imitated his style.[citation needed] Scott commonly uses slow pacing until the action sequences. Examples include Alien and Blade Runner; the LA Times critic Sheila Benson, for example, would call the latter "Blade Crawler" "because it's so damn slow". Another technique he employs is use of sound or music to build tension, as heard in Alien, with hissing steam, beeping computers and the noise of the machinery in the space ship. Scott claims to have an Eidetic Memory, which he says aids him in visualizing and storyboarding the scenes in his films.[50]

Scott has developed a method for filming intricate shots as swiftly as possible: "I like working, always, with a minimum of three cameras. [...] So those 50 set-ups [a day] might only be 25 set-ups except I'm covering in the set-up. So you're finished. I mean, if you take a little bit more time to prep on three cameras, or if it's a big stunt, eleven cameras, and — whilst it may take 45 minutes to set up — then when you're ready you say 'Action!', and you do three takes, two takes and is everybody happy? You say, 'Yeah, that's it.' So you move on."[47]

Although Scott is often known for his painterly directorial style, other techniques and elements include:

DVD format and director's cut[edit]

Scott is known for his enthusiasm for the DVD format, providing audio commentaries and interviews for all his films where possible. In the July 2006 issue of Total Film magazine, he stated: "After all the work we go through, to have it run in the cinema and then disappear forever is a great pity. To give the film added life is really cool for both those who missed it and those who really loved it."[20]

Running alongside his enthusiasm for DVD, Scott is sometimes considered the "father" of the director's cut. The positive reaction to the Blade Runner Director's Cut encouraged Scott to re-cut several movies that were a disappointment at the time of their release (including Legend and Kingdom of Heaven). Today the practice of alternative cuts is more commonplace, though often as a way to make a film stand out in the DVD marketplace by adding new material.


Awards and nominations[edit]

Scott was knighted in the 2003 New Year Honours.[1] The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2007.[56] In 2011 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[57] He has been nominated for three Academy Awards for DirectingThelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down—as well as a Golden Globe, BAFTA and 2 Emmy Awards.

1977CannesBest Debut Film AwardThe DuellistsWon
Palme d'OrNominated
1979Saturn AwardsBest DirectorAlienWon
Best Science Fiction filmWon
1983Best DirectorBlade RunnerNominated
2004The George Pal Memorial AwardWon
1991DGABest Director – Motion PictureThelma & LouiseNominated
2002Black Hawk DownNominated
1991Academy AwardsBest DirectorThelma & LouiseNominated
2000Best DirectorGladiatorNominated
2001Best DirectorBlack Hawk DownNominated
2000Golden GlobeBest Director – Motion PictureGladiatorNominated
2006Best Director – Motion PictureAmerican GangsterNominated
1991BAFTABest DirectorThelma & LouiseNominated
2001Satellite AwardBest DirectorGladiatorNominated
2002American Film InstituteDirector of the YearBlack Hawk DownNominated
Movie of the YearNominated
2002Emmy AwardOutstanding Made for Television MovieThe Gathering StormWon
2010Emmy AwardOutstanding Drama SeriesThe Good WifeNominated
2011Emmy AwardOutstanding Nonfiction SpecialGettysburgWon
2014Visual Effects SocietyLifetime Achievement AwardWon

Box office performance[edit]

DateMovieStudioUnited States grossWorldwide grossTheatresOpening weekendOpening theatresBudget
1977The DuellistsPar.$900,000
1982Blade RunnerWB$32,768,670$33,139,6181,325$6,150,0021,295$28,000,000
1987Someone to Watch Over MeCol.$10,278,549$10,278,549894$2,908,796892$17,000,000
1989Black RainPar.$46,212,055$134,212,0551,760$9,677,1021,610$30,000,000
1991Thelma & LouiseMGM$45,360,915$45,360,9151,180$6,101,2971,179$16,500,000
19921492: Conquest of ParadisePar.$47,000,000$7,191,3991,008$3,002,6801,008$47,000,000
1996White SquallBV$38,000,000$10,292,3001,524$3,908,5141,524$38,000,000
1997G.I. JaneBV$48,169,156$97,169,1562,043$11,094,2411,945$50,000,000
2001Black Hawk DownSony$108,638,745$172,989,6513,143$179,8234$92,000,000
2003Matchstick MenWB$36,906,460$65,565,6722,711$13,087,3072,711$65,000,000
2005Kingdom of HeavenFox$47,398,413$211,652,0513,219$19,635,9963,216$130,000,000
2006A Good YearFox$7,459,300$42,056,4662,067$3,721,5262,066$35,000,000
2007American GangsterUni.$130,164,645$265,697,8253,110$43,565,1153,054$100,000,000
2008Body of LiesWB$39,394,666$115,321,9502,714$12,884,4162,710$70,000,000
2010Robin HoodUni.$105,269,730$321,669,7303,505$36,063,3853,503$155,000,000
2013The CounselorFox$16,973,715$70,237,6493,044$7,842,9303,044$25,000,000
2014Exodus: Gods and KingsFox$61,657,736 (as of January 6, 2015)$203,188,736 (as of January 6, 2015)3,503$24,115,9343,503$140,000,000


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