Penthouse Retrospective

by Craig Modderno Originally Published: May, 2010

Ridley Scott | 10 Years Ago This Month

British director Ridley Scott has been making commercials and movies — and casting actors in career-defining roles — for 40 years. You may not know his face, but you know his films.

Penthouse Magazine - May, 2010The Talented Mr. Ridley

It’s damn near impossible to pick favorites when it comes to Ridley Scott films, but let us suggest a few fun debates: the gritty futuristic Los Angeles of Blade Runner or the gritty futuristic confining spaceship in Alien — which is scarier? Alien’s ass-kicking risley or the gun-toting feminist heroines of Thelma & Louise — whom are you more afraid to piss off? Hell, throw all five of Russel Crowe’s Scott characters into a cage match. How would Robin Hood fare against Maximus? (We’d be happy to see either one put the beatdown on Body of Lies’ Ed Hoffman.) Who would fin a foot race between G.I. Jane and the female runner in Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad? And we haven’t even started to discuss weighing the merits of theatrical/studio versions versus director’s cuts of Gladiator, Alien, and Blade Runner. (Director’s cuts all around — duh.) You could even have some fun imagining the doomed soldiers of Black Hawk Down, with their modern weapons, against the crusaders of Kingdom of Heaven, with their self-righteous religious zeal.

Scott has created some of the most iconic images in modern movies, worked with Hollywood’s biggest stars, directed five actors to Oscar nominations (with one win for Crowe in Gladiator), and become the most successful British director in Hollywood history, in terms of box office. He and his brother Tony — whose directing credits include Top Gun, The Hunger, True Romance, Enemy of the State, and Domino-own RSA Films and Scott Free Productions, a soundstage, and an effects company. Still, Ridley Scott is in filmmaking to be creative, not to be a businessman. He’s hands-on with design, sketching his own storyboards; writing, working with the screenwriters on his projects; and even casting. As he was finishing post-production work on Robin Hood, he talked to Penthouse about career, cinema, and Crowe.

When you get a new script, what attracts you to it?

I rarely get a script that immediately engages me. But if it does engage me and I like it, then I move on the script and usually ask for a page-one rewrite. Alien is the only film I’ve ever made which was shot intact. Since I’m not good as a writer, I like to develop the project and work closely with the writer. That’s partly because I’m distant and pragmatic and need to be able to be amused or not shocked at anything for the 20 weeks that it takes to make a movie.

With that in mind, what attracted you to Robin Hood?

Whether you’re a child who’s eight years old or 45 or older, it’s in our masculine DNA to want to do something heroic. Ask a young kid what he knows about Robin Hood and he’ll tell you that he was a character who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor and he was amazing with a bow and arrow. Robin Hood has lived through centuries as Dudley Do-Right. Having made 1492 and Kingdom of Heaven, I enjoy that period. I would have liked to have been born in the eleventh century.

I would have made an extremely benevolent king, but a lousy serf or peasant. A castle would have been fun for me to live in and explore. [Laughs] Living in a hut with a makeshift roof, especially when it rained, would have been like a remote, uncomfortable location shoot.

Does the world today need a modern Robin Hood?

As much or more as it needs another Batman. I think we — the world at large — can do it all to solve our problems but our ethics are evaporating. We’ve got real minute-by-minute problems, but we can’t get them solved or get to the real nitty-gritty of them since the truth isn’t told by our world leaders because they’re uncomfortable doing so. In my film Body of Lies, Leonardo DiCaprio is kind of doing the right thing-by right I mean ethical. But Russell Crowe, whose government agent is the voice of reason and Leo’s boss, does horrible things because he believes it’s good for survival at present, even if it doesn’t serve the greater good now or in the future. The world seems to be ruled now by one fucking wealthy, powerful political party that only tells the truth in TV sound bites if it suits their political agenda. Robin Hood never had TV to worry about or explain his actions to. I would have enjoyed living in his era, where you’d just string someone up in a tree if their evil deeds warranted it. But I would miss going home afterward and turning on my air conditioner and watching a movie.

What can you tell us about Russell Crowe that the public doesn’t know?

He loves his mother and his family. He’s also one of the guys, someone you’d want to share a meal or a drink with. Russell doesn’t suffer fools or accept any crap. On a set, he arrives thoroughly researched and prepared, and enjoys listening to me even when we disagree because he’s always look­ing to improve his performance. He’s extremely intelligent, and that shows in everything he does, except sometimes in his dealings with the press.

If a group of knowledgeable people can get into a lively debate about the artists' best work, then you have proof Ridley Scott has reached icon status. Talented family, those Scott brothers. Holidays must be fun at mom’s house.

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