Penthouse Retrospective

by Craig Modderno Originally Published: May, 2010

Ridley Scott | 10 Years Ago This Month

How do you and Crowe handle your creative differences?

Russell acknowledges I have a good eye and good taste when it comes to the filmmaking process. We’re friends, but he’s a movie star and I’m a director so sometimes, like pets or predators, we need to establish our territory. [Laughs] Russell will love that answer. His strength is behavioral, knowing how to talk his way through a scene that he may be having difficulties with. My ego is such that I’m always open to better ideas [than mine] on the set. After probably a total of four years making movies together, you could say we have a very volatile at times and almost always exciting creative relationship. To his credit, I’ve never had an “I’ll be in my trailer” moment with Russell. I believe we’ve earned each other’s respect.

Why have you made so few erotic or romantic films?

I’m clearly not the director people think of for those kind of movies. I think I covered both those genres well with Someone to Watch Over Me and A Good Year, respectively.

Why are there so few, if any, sex scenes in your films?

What I don’t like about shooting sex scenes or watching them is the rustling of the curtains followed by doves flying away and then the camera slowly panning down naked, nonsweaty, pretty people supposedly having sex but barely moving. To me a real sexy film is Fatal Attraction, which I saw as near perfect entertainment about the power and weaknesses of both sexes …

Please explain that last comment.

Men are always children, aren’t they, when it comes to women. They want their approval at the same time they want to control them. They basically don’t understand that a pretty woman has the power to dominate any room she enters. Let’s face it — beauty is power! Beauty and brains can get a woman everything she ever wants. With the right story I think I’d like to explore these themes in a movie.

Didn’t you use footage from director Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining in the original theatrical version of Blade Runner?

[Laughs] You’ve researched my films wel I. The first Blade Runner preview was hell. The cards the studio people gave out to the paying public were filled with horrible comments like, “We want Philip Marlowe, dude!” Warner Bros. wanted a happy ending. They decided to have Harrison Ford do a relatively cheerful coda over an aerial shot of him and Sean Young driving away to that unknown land of cinema bliss. But there was no time or money to shoot the extra footage. Stanley somehow got involved and gave us the footage we needed from his then-unreleased picture. Stanley sent me 17 hours of footage shot from a helicopter by one of his assistants, who I thought covered all of Montana at his boss’s behest, from people’s assholes to their breakfast. I don’t know how Stanley could look at over 17 hours of the same footage, but he did define the term “perfectionist.” For the minute and a half screen time that I needed, I looked at over a third of what Stanley sent me … and I got a huge headache!

What’s the difference between a Ridley Scott film and a Tony Scott film?

That’s a good question. [Long pause] I think our approach to filmmaking is different. Plus we’re not attracted to the same type of material. Tony’s style is more rock ’n’ roll and mine is more old-fashioned.

This fall Fox is releasing Alien on Blu-ray as part of an Alien anthology. The John Hurt “bellyache” scene has been parodied a lot. What effect did you think the scene would have when you were shooting it?

[Laughs] The “bellyache” scene? I like that. Back then I thought, If this scene doesn’t work, then the movie won’t work. It’s quite complimentary that the film came out in 1979, and we’re still talking about it and its financier [Fox Studios] still believes people will want to buy another format. I’m working with writers on a prequel to Alien. It would deal with why they ended up on that spaceship and deal more with who the characters were. By the way, can you imagine the “bellyache” scene in 3-D? If I make the prequel, I might do it in 3-D. Back when Alien was shot, filmmakers were encouraged by studios and agents to be experimental, push the boundaries of their creativity. Nowadays you’re lucky to find a studio head or development person who, if you mention Alien, doesn’t ask, why did I make a movie about illegal immigrants? This is a very difficult time in Hollywood to be a creative filmmaker who enjoys watching stories unfold, rather than young people playing with toys that the studios hope to merchandise, and their cardboard characters on-screen.

What’s the challenge for you to keep working?

To raise the bar creatively, like Jim Cameron did with Avatar. To do an Alien picture where the characters and their origins are as fascinating as the action and effects. I’d also like to direct a genre film like Sidney Lu met did in the real-life cop drama Prince of the City, which I think is an undiscovered classic, or The Verdict, which is an excellent, mesmerizing film with a great performance by Paul Newman and a perfect ending. It’s a brave new world out there in terms of stories to tell. Because of my competitive nature, which is as high as any superstar athlete’s, I look more to challenging myself in the future projects I direct and my company, Scott Free Films, produces. Despite my ego and because of my success, I look forward to taking more risks in the films I make.

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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