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interview with ridley scott

Empire Magazine - February 2002

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The British edition of Empire Magazine for February 2002 has an excellent interview with Ridley Scott. This is our review of the interview with appropriate excerpts to give you a flavour of what Ridley said. Particularly newsworthy is the little snippet of info on the Blade Runner Special Edition DVD that is to be released this year. Ridley's comments on the making of Blade Runner are also fascinating. We highly recommend you buy this magazine if you can, for the full article and all their other interesting news.

Representing Empire Magazine is Adam Smith. The article starts with some interesting biographical information, such as when he was young and worked for the ICI ammonia plant outside Hartlepool - part of ICI's large chemical works. As you probably know, the sight of all those glittering lights as he went to work for the nightshift had some effect on his vision for Los Angeles 2019 in Blade Runner. The entangled pipework around the plant also lent itself to inpiration for Alien.

Adam continues with a brief review of the films Scott has been doing, focusing particularly on Black Hawk Down which at time of my writing this is about to go on general release in cinemas. The filming for BHD was really tough and schedules were tight, particularly when release was brought forward 3 months after the Sep11 event. The strain is evident, but RS says, "I've never gone loony making a film."

The interesting part for BR fans is that RS is finally free to work on the Blade Runner Special Edition. The Blade Runner part of the interview goes somewhat like this:

Blade Runner is 20 years old...
Is it...? Shit! (Laughs)

Are you planning a DVD re-release?
More than that. We're doing a new print and a new mix. I'm going back to the original negative and reorganising all the elements and then digitally remixing. Skywalker want to mix it, which is great. They heard it and remarked on how good it sounded.

Are you making any big changes?
Well, the voiceover's off, so I may condense some sections that were sustained for the voiceover. There's a scene where Deckard (Harrison Ford)'s reading a newspaper looking up at the blimp and there's a lot of voiceover. So he'll just look like he's staring at the blimp and people will wonder why. So I'll condense that.

It was a difficult shoot wasn't it?
I was the new kid on the block. I'd done The Duellists and I'd done Alien. Duellists hadn't done any business, but anyone who really meant anything at the studios really loved the movie. They made seven prints, I think, for the United States. I thought, "Wow!" I thought this was the normal release pattern, as opposed to now, 3,000. But the film did zero business. They still claim it never made its money back (snorts). Then I made Alien again in the U.K. which was very successful, but now I was arriving in Hollywood for the first time. Of course, Hollywood's strongly union, so I have to use whatever is at hand there. That was tricky, because my methods were by then fully-practised. Don't forget that by the time I'd made The Duellists I'd done 2,000 commercials. The way I made movies was extremely well-oiled I'd already done 15 years of advertising, right? So I expected to work in the way I normally work, and of course it wasn't to be. I wasn't allowed to operate the camera.

That must have been a shock.
That was a real shock, it drove me crazy. I operate on all my films, apart from Blade Runner. I chose a cameraman who I think is one of the best I've ever worked with. But then it's not so much like this now they worked in teams. A cameraman would bring his team with him. And so it's kind of inevitably me against them. I was treading on thin ice all the time.

How do you mean?
It was partly my own fault. I let too many people cross the line too early. I encouraged too much, say. And then when I said, "Woah... it's not going to be like this," that wasn't popular. Eventually I had to re-establish things and tell people to back off. I'm not used to having to answer questions about why is it raining, why is it night? Those are fundamentals, and that's what I want. Questions, questions, questions. Drove me crazy.

And then there was the, "Yes, guv'nor" incident...
I'd done this interview in the U.K. with, I think it was The Observer. And it developed into a bloody profile. the headline was, "Ready When You Are Guv'nor!" I'd said it to the guy as a joke about the difference between working here and in the U.S.. I said, "I guess the difference is that here, because of the time I've spent making commercials, they're more likely to say, 'Ready when you are guv.'" Somebody got that out of context. there were 270 guys in the unit. And there were 270 copies by the coffe one morning when I arrived. So, my producer said, "Right, we have to talk about this." The word was they were going to get a whole bunch of T-shirts made which they did. It was, "Ready When You Are Guv'nor... My Ass!" Michael (Deeley, the producer)'s PR was very bright. She said, "I'll have three shirts made up and caps which say 'Xenophobia sucks!' So we walked out the next morning in these green T-shirts. By 11 all the other shirts had disappeared.

Wasn't Dustin Hoffman originally meant to play Deckard?
We talked for six weeks. Dustin's like that, he loves to talk. It's all for the right reasons. But it can go on... It can be fairly extended. I know he won't mind hearing this, I think he knows what he's like. As he used to say, I'm not Steve McQueen. I'm not Warren Beatty." He said, "Where I come from I've got to have the words. I've got to have the character. I have to have every cannon going for me." He's one of the best actors that we've ever had. And an absolutely magnificent tennis player, which is something you don't expect. But eventually we decided we were going to go on talking forever, so we decided to move on.

So you looked to Harrison Ford.
I suggested him. Because I'd looked at Star Wars and he was Han Solo. I also knew he was doing Indiana Jones. I figured any person that Steven (Spielberg) and George (Lucas) both put in leading roles is going to be a big star. So he was here in London and I called him up on the Indian Jones set and asked if we could meet because there was a film I'd like to talk about. So I met him in a restaurant I used to use a lot, the Meridiana in South Kensington. and he turned up in this leather jacket, wide-brimmed hat and three days of growth. He'd obviously just come from the set. So there was Indian Jones sitting in The Meridiana. He knew the two films I'd done; well, he certainly knew Alien, so there was no problem persuading him to do it.

You clashed on set though.
Well, Harrison isn't exactly outgoing. And of course, at that moment, nor was I. So that didn't work out as a particularly good mix. and because I was so absorbed in creating the Blade Runner world which at that point in my career was as important as the script and the actors in it I think also that didn't go down too well. It was partly my fault, actually. But it'd be interesting to work with him again.

And then it flopped.
It was classified as a giant disappointment. It cost $25 million. and at that moment, the highest-priced movies had been $40 million-odd. 1941 and Heaven's Gate, I think.

But it was a lot of money...
Yes it was. It was the equivalent now of about $90 million. Frankly I was more stricken by faailure then than I am today. These days I'm a bit more pragmatic. It's just, "Next..." But with Blade Runner I thought I'd got it. That it was good. And the audience didn't.

The interview than explores Ridley Scott's early days, what got him interested and how he came to be a director. They talk about his early days at the BBC and then his advertising days. Rifley says his favourites were, "Hovis, Benson and Hedges... Finally I did one for Steve Jobs (Apple Computer), 1984. the ones I remember really fondly were for Strongbow cider. The copywriting and directing team were great fun. It was like making a little film I loved it."

Ridley talks about Legend. Admitting to the huge mistake on the score and other aspects of the film that fans know about. He confirmed that he is trying to fit half an hour back in.

The interview concludes with comment on Scott's visual awarenes when directing, which is something that pervades his whole life. Finally he is asked:

Are you going to keep this pace up?
Yeah. I like it. And anyway, it's only movies. to stop me I think they'll ahve to shoot me in the head.

Great stuff Mr Scott and thanks to Empire Magazine for conducting such an interesting interview. To read the full story, you will of course have to buy the magazine, but hopefully you have enjoyed the excerpts I have put here for you as a "taster".

- Netrunner, 15th January, 2002.

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