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Sir Ridley Scott (born 30 November 1937) is an English film director and producer known for his stylish visuals and an obsession for detail. His films include The Duellists (1977), Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Thelma & Louise (1991), 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), Gladiator (2000), Hannibal (2001), Black Hawk Down (2001), Matchstick Men (2003), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), American Gangster (2007), and Body of Lies (2009). His younger brother is fellow film director Tony Scott.


Born in South Shieldsmarker, Tyne and Wear, Scott grew up in an Army family, meaning that for most of his early life his father — an officer in the Royal Engineers — was absent. Ridley's older 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 (amongst other areas) Cumbriamarker, Wales and Germany. After the Second World War the Scott family moved back to their native north-east England, eventually settling in Teessidemarker (whose industrial landscape would later inspire similar scenes in Blade Runner). He enjoyed watching films, and his favourites include Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Kane and Seven Samurai. Scott studied in Teesside from 1954 to 1958, at Grangefield Grammar School, Stockton and later in West Hartlepool College of Artmarker, graduating with a Diploma in Design. He progressed to an M.A. in graphic design at the Royal College of Artmarker from 1960 to 1962.

At the RCA he contributed to the college magazine, 'ARK' and helped to establish its film department. For his final show he made a black and white short film, 'Boy and Bicycle', starring his younger brother, Tony Scott, and his father. The film's main visual elements would become features of Scott's later work; it was issued on the 'Extras' section of 'The Duellists' DVD. 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 the science fiction series 'Out of the Unknown'. Scott was an admirer of Stanley Kubrick early in his development as a director. For his entry to the BBC traineeship Scott remade 'Paths of Glory' as a short film.

He was assigned to design the second Doctor Who serial, The Daleks, which would have entailed realising the famous alien creatures. However, shortly before he was due to start work a schedule conflict meant that he was replaced on the serial by Raymond Cusick. At the BBC, Scott was placed into a director training programme and, before he left the corporation, had directed episodes of Z-Cars, its spin-off, Softly, Softly, and adventure series Adam Adamant Lives!.

In 1968 Ridley Scott and his brother Tony Scott founded Ridley Scott Associates (RSA), a film and commercial production company.Five members of the Scott family are directors, all working for RSA. Brother Tony has been a successful film director for more than two decades; sons, Jake and Luke are both acclaimed commercials directors as is his daughter, Jordan Scott. Jake and Jordan both work from Los Angeles and Luke is based in London.

In 1995, Shepperton Studiosmarker was purchased by a consortium headed by Ridley and Tony Scott, which extensively renovated the studios while also expanding and improving its grounds.

Early career

Scott left the BBC in 1968 and established a production company, Ridley Scott Associates (RSA), working with Alan Parker, Hugh Hudson, Hugh Johnson and employing his younger brother, Tony. After making television commercials in the UK during the 1970s, including most notably the 1974 Hovis advert, "Bike Round" (New World Symphony), which was filmed in Shaftesburymarker, Dorsetmarker, he moved to Hollywoodmarker, where he produced and directed a number of top box office films.

The Duellists

The Duellists of 1977 was Ridley Scott's first feature film. It was produced in Europe and won a Best Debut Film medal at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker but made limited commercial impact in the US. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it featured two French Hussar officers, D'Hubert and Feraud (played by Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel). Their quarrel over an initially minor incident turns into a bitter, long-drawn out feud over the following fifteen years, interwoven with the larger conflict that provides its backdrop. The film is lauded for its historically authentic portrayal of Napoleonic uniforms and military conduct, as well as its accurate early-nineteenth-century fencing techniques recreated by fight choreographer William Hobbs.


Scott's box office disappointment with The Duellists was compounded by the success being enjoyed by Alan Parker with American-backed films — Scott admitted he was "ill for a week" with envy. Scott had originally planned to next adapt an opera, Tristan und Isolde, but after seeing Star Wars, he became convinced of the potential of large scale, effects-driven films. He therefore accepted the job of directing Alien, the ground-breaking 1979 horror/science-fiction film that would give him international recognition. The film was mostly shot in 1978, but Scott's production design and atmospheric visuals, and the film's emphasis on realism over movie heroics have given Alien almost ageless appeal.

While Scott would not direct the three Alien sequels, the female action hero Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver), introduced in the first film, would become a cinematic icon. Scott was involved in the 2003 restoration and re-release of the film including media interviews for its promotion. At this time Scott indicated that he had been in discussions to make the fifth and final film in the Alien franchise. However, in a 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.

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 and featuring an acclaimed soundtrack by Vangelis, Blade Runner was a disappointment in theatres in 1982 and was pulled shortly thereafter. Scott's notes were used by Warner Brothers to create a rushed director's cut in 1991 which removed the voiceovers and modified the ending. Scott personally supervised a digital restoration of Blade Runner and approved the Final Cut. This version which was released in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto cinemas on 5 October 2007, and as an elaborate DVD release on 18 December 2007. Today Blade Runner is often ranked by critics as one of the most important science fiction films of the 20th century and is usually discussed along with William Gibson's novel Neuromancer as initiating the cyberpunk genre. Scott regards Blade Runner as his "most complete and personal film".

"1984" Apple Macintosh commercial

In 1984 Scott directed the television commercial 1984, written by Steve Hayden and Lee Clow, produced by Chiat/Day, and starring Anya Major as the unnamed heroine and David Graham as "Big Brother". It was released for a single airing in the United States on 22 January 1984 during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. It introduced the Macintosh for the first time and is now considered a "watershed event" and a "masterpiece".

1984 used the unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top with a Picasso-style picture of Applemarker’s Macintosh computer on it) as a means of saving humanity from "conformity" (Big Brother).

These images were an allusion to George Orwell's noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a fictional "Big Brother".


In 1985 Scott directed Legend, a fantasy film produced by Arnon Milchan. Having not tackled the fairy tale genre, Scott decided to create a "once upon a time" film set in a world of fairies, princesses, and goblins. Scott cast Tom Cruise as the film's hero, Jack, Mia Sara as Princess Lily, and Tim Curry as the Satan-like Lord of Darkness. But a series of problems with both principal photography, including the destruction of the forest set by fire, and post-production (including heavy editing and substitution of Jerry Goldsmith's original score with a score by Tangerine Dream) hampered the film's release and as a result Legend received scathing reviews. It has since become a cult classic thanks to a DVD release that restores Scott's original, intended vision.

1987 - 1992

Hungry for a real box office hit and also for respect from the press which considered him a commercial filmmaker devoted only to fantastic visuals without much substance, Scott decided to postpone further incursions into the science fiction and fantasy genre, in order to avoid being typecast, by focusing more in down-to-earth, mature, suspense thrillers.

Among them came Someone to Watch Over Me, a romantic police drama starring Tom Berenger, Lorraine Bracco and Mimi Rogers in 1987, and Black Rain, a 1989 cop drama starring Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia, shot partially in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan. Both met with mild success at the box office.

Again, Scott was praised for his lavish visuals, but was still being criticised for making films that were little more than extended versions of his glossy TV commercials, which he kept directing due to the lucrative nature of the advertising business.

Thelma & Louise (1991) starring Geena Davis as Thelma, and Susan Sarandon as Louise, proved to be a success and revived Scott's reputation as a film maker. However, his next project was less successful. He oversaw the making of an independent movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise. It is a visually striking film about the story of Christopher Columbus. However it is considered to be his slowest-paced movie. Scott would not release another film for four years.

Recent career

In 1995, together with his brother Tony, Scott formed the film and television production company Scott Free Productions in Los Angeles. All of his subsequent feature films, starting with White Squall and G.I. Jane starring Demi Moore and Viggo Mortensen, have been produced under the Scott Free banner. Also in 1995 the two brothers purchased a controlling interest in Shepperton Studiosmarker, which were later merged with Pinewood Studiosmarker. Scott and his brother have produced, since 2005, the CBS series Numb3rs — a crime drama focused on a mathematical genius who helps the FBI solve crimes.

Gladiator and subsequent works

The huge success of Scott's film Gladiator (2000) has been credited with the revival of the nearly defunct genre of the "sword and sandal" historical epic. Scott then turned to Hannibal, the sequel to Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs. 2001 also saw the release of Scott's war film Black Hawk Down (2001), which further established Scott's position as both a critically and financially successful film maker and went on to earn two Oscars.

In 2003 Scott directed Matchstick Men, adapted from the novel by Eric Garcia and starring Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman. It received mostly positive reviews and performed moderately at the box office.

In 2005 the director made the internationally successful Kingdom of Heaven, a movie about the Crusades which consciously sought to connect history to current events. The Moroccan government also sent the Moroccan cavalry as extras in the epic battle scenes.

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. In an interview to promote the latter, when asked if he was against previewing in general, 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."

A Good Year, American Gangster and Body of Lies

Scott teamed up again with actor Russell Crowe, directing the movie A Good Year, which is based on the best-selling book. The film was released on 10 November 2006, with a score by Marc Streitenfeld. Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp and Subsidiary studio 20th Century Fox (who backed the film) dismissed A Good Year as "a flop" at a shareholders' meeting only a few days after the film was released.

Scott's next directorial work was on American Gangster, the story of real-life drug kingpin Frank Lucas. He was the third director to attempt the project after Antoine Fuqua and Terry George. Denzel Washington and Benicio del Toro had been cast in the initial Steven Zaillian-scripted project under the working title Tru Blu, both actors having been paid salaries of $20m and $15m respectively without doing any production on the film. Following the departure of George, Scott took over the project in early 2006. Scott brought Zaillian back on board to rewrite the script to focus on the dynamic between Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts. Washington signed back on to the project as Lucas and Crowe signed on to play Roberts. The film finally premiered in November 2007 to positive reviews and good box office. In late 2008 Scott released the espionage thriller Body of Lies again starring Crowe, and Leonardo DiCaprio and which opened to luke-warm ticket-sales as well as mixed reviews.

Planned projects

Scott is set to direct an adaptation of Robin Hood called Robin Hood which will be starring Russell Crowe as Robin Hood and Cate Blanchett as Maid Marian. Mark Strong is also set to star as Sir Godfrey along with William Hurt, and Eileen Atkins.

In April 2008, Scott announced his new project The Kind One, a period drama set for release in 2010. The film will star recent Academy Award nominee Casey Affleck. Also, he will be making his first science fiction movie since Blade Runner, an adaptation of the novel The Forever War, which he has been trying to pursue the rights for since the early 1980s. Another science fiction project to which Scott has been attached is an adaptation of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, with DiCaprio also attached.

In January 2009, it was announced Ridley, along with his brother Tony, would be producing the film adaptation of the 1980s TV cult classic The A-Team.

On July 31, 2009, news of a prequel to Alien surfaced with Ridley attached to direct., the movie is developed from 20th Century Fox.

It was announced on 15 October 2009 he will direct the remake of the Trilogy from Red Riding.

Personal life

His current partner is the actress Giannina Facio, whom he has cast in all his movies since White Squall except American Gangster. He divides his time between homes in London, France, and Los Angeles.

Like his brother Tony Scott, he is an avid smoker of Montecristo Cuban cigars.

Approach and style

Scott was not initially considered an actors' director , but he has become more receptive to ideas from his cast as his career has developed. Examples include Susan Sarandon's suggestions that the character of Louise pack shoes in plastic bags in one scene of Thelma & Louise, and another where her character exchanges jewellery for a hat and other items, as well as Tim Robbins' collaboration with Scott and Susan Sarandon to rework the final scene with a more upbeat ending. Russell Crowe has commented, "I like being on Ridley's set because actors can perform [...] and the focus is on the performers." Paul M. Sammon, in his book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, commented in an interview with that Scott's relationship with his actors has improved considerably over the years.

On the other hand, he can be a demanding and difficult director to work for. He was nicknamed "Guvnor" in the Blade Runner production. Several crew members wore protest t-shirts with slogans such as "Yes Guvnor, my ass" and "Will Rogers never met Ridley Scott" in reference to Will Rogers' most famous quotation, "I never met a man I didn't like". This was mainly in response to the way that Scott directed his first American crew, which some considered too harsh.

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 simply imitated his style. Scott commonly uses slow pacing until the action sequences, which are characterised by frequent, rapid edits. 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 commonly employed technique is his use of sound or music to build tension, as seen in Alien with hissing steam, beeping computers and the noise of the machinery in the space ship.

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."

Although Scott is often known for his painterly directorial style, other techniques and elements include:
  • Strong female characters.
  • Some of his movies feature strong conflicts between father and son that usually end with the latter killing the former intentionally (Blade Runner, Gladiator) or accidentally (Black Hawk Down), or witnessing the event (Kingdom of Heaven). The Lord of Darkness in Legend also mentions his "father" on a few occasions. As part of the conflict between father and son there are some repetitive scenes: in Gladiator, the son hugs the father seemingly as an expression of love but this embrace turns into the suffocation and death of the father. There is a similar sequence in Blade Runner.
  • In Gladiator, Blade Runner and Kingdom of Heaven, a son gets to know his father when he is grown up. Other common elements are that the mother is not seen, and that the son or father is seen performing his last actions. For example, Roy Batty is dying when he saves Deckard, Maximus dies after killing Commodus and Godfrey of Ibelin kills some enemies after he has been mortally wounded by an arrow. In addition, the hero is saved from death before attaining his greatest deeds: Deckard is saved by Rachel, Maximus is saved by a slave and Balian is saved by a Muslim enemy. Similar situations can be seen in Tony Scott's Man on Fire.
  • Military and officer classes as characters reflecting his father's career, such as in G.I. Jane and Black Hawk Down and Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Storyboarding his films extensively. These illustrations, when made by himself, have been referred to as "Ridleygrams" in DVD releases.
  • Like Stanley Kubrick, Scott was once known for requesting a great many takes. This was evident on Blade Runner: the crew nicknamed the movie "Blood Runner" because of this.
  • He often makes use of classical music (the Hovis advertisements, Someone to Watch Over Me).
  • Extensive use of smoke and other atmospheres (in Alien, Blade Runner and Black Rain), plus fans and fan-like objects (Blade Runner, Black Rain and the large Boeing jet engines in the 1984 TV advertisement). Fans are also used in Hannibal, for symbolic purposes.
  • Consistency in his choice of composers, using Jerry Goldsmith (Alien and Legend), Vangelis (Blade Runner and 1492: Conquest of Paradise) or Hans Zimmer (Black Rain, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down and Matchstick Men). Scott has also twice used songs by Sting during the film credits ("Valparaiso" for White Squall and "Someone to Watch Over Me" for the movie of the same title).

DVD format and director's cut

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.

The special edition DVDs of Scott's films are often well regarded for their high quality picture and sound, as well as comprehensive documentaries and commentaries, produced by his longtime DVD producer, Charles de Lauzirika.

Running alongside his enthusiasm for DVD, Scott is sometimes considered the "father" of the director's cut, a description which is somewhat ironic considering that the impetus to produce such versions has sometimes begun with other parties. 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.


Scott has been nominated for three Academy Awards for Directing: for Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, as well as a Golden Globe, BAFTA and Emmy Award. He was knighted in the 2003 New Year honours.

Ridley Scott box office

Date Movie Studio United States gross Worldwide gross Theatres Opening weekend Opening theatres Budget
2012 Untitled Alien Prequel Fox N/A
2010 Robin Hood Uni. $130,000,000
2008 Body of Lies WB $39,394,666 $115,321,950 2,714 $12,884,416 2,710 $70,000,000
2007 American Gangster Uni. $130,164,645 $265,697,825 3,110 $43,565,115 3,054 $100,000,000
2006 A Good Year Fox $7,459,300 $42,056,466 2,067 $3,721,526 2,066 $35,000,000
2005 Kingdom of Heaven Fox $47,398,413 $211,652,051 3,219 $19,635,996 3,216 $130,000,000
2003 Matchstick Men WB $36,906,460 $65,565,672 2,711 $13,087,307 2,711 N/A
2001 Black Hawk Down SonR $108,638,745 $172,989,651 3,143 $179,823 4 $92,000,000
2001 Hannibal MGM $165,092,268 $351,692,268 3,292 $58,003,121 3,230 $87,000,000
2000 Gladiator DW $187,705,427 $457,640,427 3,188 $34,819,017 2,938 $103,000,000
1997 G.I. Jane BV $48,169,156 2,043 $11,094,241 1,945 $50,000,000
1996 White Squall BV $10,292,300 1,524 $3,908,514 1,524 $38,000,000
1992 1492: Conquest of Paradise Par. $7,191,399 1,008 $3,002,680 1,008 $47,000,000
1991 Thelma & Louise MGM $45,360,915 1,180 $6,101,297 1,179 $16,500,000
1989 Black Rain Par. $46,212,055 $134,212,055 1,760 $9,677,102 1,610 $30,000,000
1987 Someone to Watch Over Me Col. $10,278,549 894 $2,908,796 892 $17,000,000
1986 Legend Uni. $15,502,112 1,187 $4,261,154 1,187 $30,000,000
1982 Blade Runner WB $32,768,670 $33,139,618 1,325 $6,150,002 1,295 $28,000,000
1979 Alien Fox $80,931,801 $104,931,801 757 $3,527,881 91 $11,000,000
1977 The Duellists Par. $900,000


Year Film Oscars
Nominations Wins
1977 The Duellists
1979 Alien 2 1
1982 Blade Runner 2
1985 Legend 1
1987 Someone to Watch Over Me
1989 Black Rain 2
1991 Thelma & Louise 6 1
1992 1492: Conquest of Paradise
1996 White Squall
1997 G.I. Jane
2000 Gladiator 12 5
2001 Hannibal
Black Hawk Down 4 2
2003 Matchstick Men
2005 Kingdom of Heaven
2006 A Good Year
2007 American Gangster 2
2008 Body of Lies
2010 Robin Hood
2012 Untitled Alien Prequel

Music video

  • Avalon, Roxy Music (1982) (co-directed with Howard Gard)


TV shows (as producer)

  • NUMB3RS (2005–present) (producer, with Tony Scott)
  • The Good Wife (2009–present) (producer, with Tony Scott)


External links

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