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interview with ridley scott

Mr Showbiz - 1996

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Welcome to the Mr. Showbiz Celebrity Lounge. Today's guest is Ridley Scott, the acclaimed film director of Blade Runner, Alien, and the new White Squall.

Evans from []:
What interested you about White Squall?
Ridley Scott:
It's a generation film, set in 1961, which is my generation. I was approximately this age, in '61, of these characters. The subtext is about rites of passage, from youth into finding out who you are and what you want to be. The script touched me because I felt that today there's an absence of the so-called rite-of-passage film. It gradually dissipated in the sixties and is now evaporated. I thought the story was worth telling. On top of that, it's a true story and there was a tragedy involved. In essence, the script held everything for me.

Doug Cummings from
Your two science-fiction films, Alien and Blade Runner are two of the best science-fiction films ever made. Do you plan on returning to the genre again?
Ben Nugent from
Alien and Blade Runner are possibly THE most pivotal science fiction films in contemporary cinema. Do you have plans to return to science fiction?
Ridley Scott:
Yes, of course. It's just that science fiction is really an opportunity or a stage on which anything goes. The problem is, that's what tends to happen. I think the genre has become abused, with what are essentially weak ideas and screenplays, which are driven by technology rather than story and character. When I find that script, I'll certainly return to the genre.

Arik from
Mr. Scott, what do you think is the most important aspect of directing, and what is the first step you take when you start a new project?
Ridley Scott:
I think the first requirement of a director, now that I've done a few films and maybe over 2,000 commercials, is stamina. Because without the stamina, it's a bit like being a long-distance runner--you don't complete the course. Or if you complete the course, you're wobbling as opposed to coming in with a good finish. I think that's a good metaphor. Once I've committed to a new project, the first step is to really begin the educational process. If I've developed the script myself I've already been through the process of educating myself and therefore am fluent with the material and the subject, in which case the first physical step is location hunting, which in itself is an education.

Corbin from []:
What kind of pre-production do you do? Do you storyboard every shot?
Ridley Scott:
Absolutely, it's not every shot, but a substantial amount is storyboarded, and not just the action sequences. I tend to storyboard them myself because I was an art student for almost seven years. I find, like a writer facing a blank sheet of paper on the typewriter; you just start to type. What I tend to do if I get blocked is I just start to draw. By drawing you suck yourself into the scene and it's a bit like the first pass photographically in your mind. It helps me to think. But of course later it provides an incredibly useful blueprint for all the departments involved in the making of the movie.

mariner from []:
Thelma and Louise was loved by women, but men didn't get it. Did you find it difficult, as a male director, to see things from the female point of view?
Ridley Scott:
No. I was immediately amused by the viewpoint of an extremely intelligent and strong female who was the writer and who qualified everything. Essentially I was forced to agree with it all. I've always believed in the process of strong women. I've never had that problem, ever, either working with them or alongside with them. I've never experienced the insecurity, because that's what it is. I think its very insecure of males to be challenged because it's a female perspective. It almost became academic to me.

David from []:
Ridley, in the total creative process involved in a film, or your films particularly, how much input do you require to be satisfied that the film is truly a Ridley Scott film ?
Ridley Scott:
The viewpoint of an audience looking at a filmmaker and indicating that this is a Ridley Scott film or whoever's movie, so I'm assuming that he's referring to what he considers to be my stamp on a movie. I don't really think about that. I'm sometimes accused of being over-visual. In the recent film, somebody referred to me as a visual-holic, which is odd, because I really tried to pull my horns in on this one. If anything, I try to allow the obvious aspects of what I bring to a film, which I guess is an eye , to overpower the story and the narrative, but I guess it still fits in there. I now realize that's what I do, that's what I bring, that's one of my fortes and so it's something I don't really concern myself about it. I guess that's part and parcel of my stamp.

Dolemite from []:
Your 1984 Apple commercial is a classic. How did this epic advertisement come about?
Ridley Scott:
I was in London working and in 1984 I had already been doing some films, but I was still keeping my hand in commercials because I enjoy the process, it's like a mini film or a very sophisticated sketch book. And I love to shoot, so that's why I keep going on the commercial side. There's nothing worse if you're a filmmaker than the gaps between making movies, where you can drive yourself crazy not being able to shoot, and I like to shoot. There was a new agency called Chiat Day who had an account called Macintosh. Though my companies live and die by the computer, I'm not one of those guys who ever sat down in front of a computer. I don't even know how to use one. I got this commercial for Apple Macintosh, and frankly, I didn't know what it was. I kind of liked the film and the atmosphere, and the fact that one had to show no product was also very attractive. So I basically made the movie, and at the end kind of discovered what it was we were selling later. It aired once, in the Super Bowl.

mumu from
Did you think Brad Pitt would turn out to be such a big star?
Ridley Scott:
Yeah, you get a good idea, a sense of it, when you're working with actors, that they've got what it takes or have a cut above some of the others. Brad was always very smart and inventive from the very first time I met him at a casting session. I figured, this guy is a must for this particular role and it was a terrific start for him, obviously. In what was essentially a cameo role, it had everything in there for him.

wiley from []:
I'm sure you've been asked many times about doing a Blade Runner sequel. How do you feel about sequels in general? James Cameron's Aliens is one of the few that really seems to have worked.
Ridley Scott:
It's always a tough job to follow a successful film into a sequel film. Particularly in the instance of a film which is essentially driven by a fairly horrific character. I always regard the Alien as the eighth character. It can never be as frightening. You've seen it. Therefore what I think Jim's film is was an excellent action piece. It's difficult, like doing the Exorcist II. I think what they're going to have to do now, when they do Alien 4, is to reinvent what it is. They've got to make it fresh. Because I think [director David] Fincher was really pushing uphill on the third one. He's very efficient and creative and everything else, but he was still stuck with the old Alien. It can't be frightening; you've seen it. In the original, like the shark in Jaws, you don't see much of it. There is a book and a CD-ROM sequel to Blade Runner happening. The book stands to be very interesting. He's been working on it for almost two years. My involvement was granting interviews from time to time. He's a smart writer, so I think its going to be quite an interesting book.

Rich66 from
Do you think violent films or television have a negative on the viewer? What effect do they have on you personally?
Ridley Scott:
I think the answer to the first part of the question is "absolutely." We've gone into overkill. Just by characterizing and showing a killer or an area of violence in a way is condoning it, and to a certain section of an audience, maybe even makes it kind of heroic, particularly to the younger generation. I think there's been a very negative effect by being slammed over the head with violence; and it has escalated in the last fifteen years. We discovered that violence and blood baths sold tickets. I think we've now overdone it.

David from
Vangelis has done a number of soundtracks for movies. Was he considered for White Squall? Do you plan to work with him in the future?
Ridley Scott:
Both answers are yes. Our dates conflicted with an album he was doing, so we had to pass on White Squall. I would work with him again. I think what's good is that he doesn't do too many movies, and therefore each time I've worked with him, he's always brought something original to the process, without sensing that sometimes you can get something that came out of the filing cabinet. He really gets inside the film and watches it. He is very much driven by the visual and will watch the film without sound, even without dialogue sometimes. Then I think he works in silence. It's an interesting way of working.

Jill Gurr from
Do you find that you "compete" with your brother, Tony Scott?
Ridley Scott:
Up to now, no. We tend to do different movies. I've never thought about it that way. We don't compete. We are partners and have been for the last twenty years on the commercial side. We're in partnership.

Sean from
Your son Jake has done some very good work on music videos. Do you think he will move into directing films?
Ridley Scott:
Yes, as soon as possible. In fact, we're actively developing two things with him now at my production company. I guess it pays off when you give your kids a good education. Jake is quite literary, which becomes useful, because the mode of his direction, in terms of what he wants to do first, tends to be very story and actor oriented, which is interesting. I think he realizes that being in control of a lower-budget movie is more important than going in on a high-budget movie where you're essentially a cog in the wheel.

Doug Cummings from
Do you think there's a possibility there would ever be a director's cut of Legend released?
Ridley Scott:
Yes, there was always a regret that because we didn't preview well, we cut out almost a half hour. I'm always passionate about my work and the idea of doing a live-action fairy story, which in a way is like Beauty and the Beast; I loved the Cocteau film. I felt it might work. Now of course there are a lot of films being made live action, such as 101 Dalmatians. And there's been a revival of animation movies, which have become very successful, like The Lion King. I think we were on target at the time to do a film which, in a way, was A) for everybody, and B) really quite different. It was a step away from a period film, a step away from the science-fiction genre. So in that sense, I thought it was quite fresh. But they didn't get it. I doubt there will be a director's cut, but I am curious how it would do if it were released today.

LaVampyress from
I know that Scott Wolf has a fear of the water, what was it like for you working with him on a film that was shot mostly on the water?
Ridley Scott:
I didn't know that. He put up a pretty good job of hiding it. He must have used his fear to help him in the scenes, because I had no inkling he was afraid of the water. He only threw up once in South Africa.

butterking from []:
John Frankenheimer recently said he's still striving to remove the sentence "best remembered as the director of Manchurian Candidate" from his future obituary. Do you feel the same way about Blade Runner?
Ridley Scott:
No. Next case and move on. I'm glad I did it. It ended up in the Library of Congress, so it will be around forever. It's amusing. It's nice that people finally got it. It's a bit late financially, but life's like that. It's nice at the end of the day to know that certain films have held their ground.

Corbin from []:
There are so many stories floating around about the different cuts of Blade Runner. For the record, how many versions of the film exist?
Ridley Scott:
I think the one that's certainly carrying the directors cut is the laserdisc. I'm almost certain there is a tape, too. The one to get, if you can, is the disc, because then you get it letterboxed; that's the way to watch it. The number of cuts that were done, my God, I can't remember now. Cuts are never dramatically different, they still remain in the A to Z assembly, but you just start to maybe remove D, G, W, or just shorten them. It's a process of gradually thinning it down and distilling it to where you think the bottom line of the film is. Sometimes you go past that point and it can kill the movie.

Charles from []:
What was it like filming the storm sequence on White Squall? Was anybody injured?
Ridley Scott:
No. The storm sequence is one of those things which you put on the back burner--knowing that the horrible day will arrive where you have to go into these tanks and make the storm work. When you're in forty-foot seas on a sunny day in South Africa where the seas are absolutely monumental--it was even more daunting to go into the tank and cook up something much worse. That was the biggest doubt in the whole process of making the movie.

marc gaffen from
Do you have a dream project or have you already done yours?
Ridley Scott:
No. I consider myself a filmmaker and the first project you do, as a filmmaker , is probably the dream project. Thereafter you decide you're going to become a professional filmmaker, so you really either have to have the passion and carry the passion for each film to carry you through that marathon. But the first one is actually the one you are most passionate about.

Simon from
There has always been a lot of discussion/argument over the question of Deckard in Blade Runner being a replicant. Your directors cut of Blade Runner adds more to these questions (the symbolism of the unicorn, etc.). Was your intention, whilst making the film, for Deckard to be seen as a replicant or not ? And now, after all the arguments for and against, has your opinion changed at all ?
Ridley Scott:
As it was really a film noir, the ending of film noir tends not be "And they lived happily ever after." I think the director's cut, which represents the film where I wanted the film to be when we released it, was to infer most definitely that Deckard was a replicant. That was one of the reasons behind having Eddie Olmos in the film as the visitor--wherever he visited, he left little pieces of origami. Therefore he had clearly visited the apartment of Deckard and decided to leave her [Sean Young] alive, because he was a departmental, bureaucratic perverse character. Because he hated Deckard, he couldn't resist leaving his calling card, which confirmed to Deckard one of his private dreams, which was about unicorns. And it's only Eddie Olmos who could know that dream from a file on Deckard. And if Deckard was in fact a creation of the department, then it would be in the file. It's all subtext, but by the Olmos character leaving the origami unicorn--Deckard stoops and picks it up, and if you watch him, he stares at the unicorn and he imperceptibly nods his head in agreement. Now, you then go back into the film where Deckard was looking at all those photographs on his piano, and he was a little drunk and he was playing the piano; he's staring at all this history. He has a kind of daydream, either alcoholic haze or whatever, and the daydream is a beautiful green park a nd misty lake, and the unicorn gallops by. It's very simple, very brief. And he snaps out of that reverie and gets on with the scene. Prior to that he has a scene with Sean Young and he talks to her about her own private thoughts. They're not real thoughts. They are thoughts put into her mind by the Tyrell Corporation. He proves this point by telling her little things she may have remembered as child, which strikes a chord. She gets tearful and leaves. Those three scenes link up. One is talking about private thoughts and how no one can know but yourself, and he proves to her that she's a replicant by revealing her private thoughts, which he knows because he looked in the file. And all that happens at the end is that Eddie Olmos does the exact same thing to him.

little from []:
Have you achieved what you wanted when you were starting?
noble from []:
Are there any books that you would love to make into a movie, but are chicken to attempt?
Ridley Scott:
First, you never achieve what you've wanted. Because if you do, it's all over. I like to put mountains in the way to climb--that's what keeps me ticking. There are several books I would like to make. Whether I ever get a shot at them, I don't know. One of them could be Perfume. One of them I think has now been made into a script, which is Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The next one may be a period film, I can't tell you what it is because it will create a competition.

The Moderator
We'd like to thank Mr. Scott for joining us today.

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