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Scott, Ridley

Entry updated 24 April 2022. Tagged: Film, People.

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(1937-    ) UK film-maker who has worked mostly in the USA. He began his career as a set designer for the BBC, including work on the adaptation of John Brunner's "Some Lapse of Time" (June-July 1963 Science Fantasy) for the first season of Out of the Unknown (1965). After making a name directing a series of stylish, inventive television commercials, Scott made his feature debut with The Duellists (1977), a period film adapted from a story by Joseph Conrad. He then went on to direct two of the most influential and important sf films of modern times: Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982), the latter an adaption of Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), as well as the Orwell-homaging 1984 sf commercial (1984) for Apple's new Macintosh computer. Between Alien and Blade Runner he also worked extensively on an abortive early version of Dune. However, after these films Scott vanished into the (comparatively well publicized) limbo of Legend (1985), a fairy tale resembling a feature-length advertisement for hairspray, and would make no more sf films until his return to the Alien universe with the grandiose but undernourishing prequel Prometheus (2012), followed by Alien: Covenant (2017). The years between 1985 and 2000 were in any case only intermittently fruitful, despite a tentative Hollywood comeback with Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) and Black Rain (1989), both policiers whose content was more conventional than their style, and one big, if controversial, success with the effective and satisfying Thelma and Louise (1991), a female road movie about two women escaping routine and put-upon lives and revenging themselves against various forms of sexism. It was followed by a trio of flops, 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), White Squall (1996), and G.I. Jane (1997), which were followed by two gruelling years working on a discarded version of what eventually became I Am Legend (2007). When this collapsed, Scott was engaged by DreamWorks to direct Gladiator (2000), which was made with key members of his I Am Legend team. His biggest commercial hit, it won five Academy Awards, single-handedly resurrected the sword-and-sandal genre after a generation of seeming extinction, initiated a longstanding association with leading man Russell Crowe, and propelled Scott back to the top of the A-list for what would prove his most prolific decade, now as a studio favourite entrusted with very high-budget projects and a versatile generic range. Two further big hits followed with Hannibal (2001) and the seminal post-millennial war film Black Hawk Down (2001), as influential in its genre and era as Blade Runner had been in its own. But of his next six films only American Gangster (2007) turned a profit, and the historical epics Kingdom of Heaven (2005) and Robin Hood (2010) were particularly costly disappointments, though the former in particular deserved better. The Martian (2015), which begins as a Robinsonade but turns into a rescue film under the aegis of NASA, describes with extraordinary efficiency the task required of an astronaut stranded on Mars, who must innovate to survive until his rescue; it proved financially very successful.

A non-writing director with a powerful visual sense who sometimes struggles to match his stylistic, dramatic, and tonal vision with scripts to do them justice, Scott's roots in production design have nevertheless given him an unrivalled, at best visionary approach to directorial world-building, and his early sf films conjure up a detailed and utterly convincing future (whose hugely influential style even Scott himself would later be called upon to recycle in television advertisements); Blade Runner is particularly powerful in its design, proved an influence on the Cyberpunk movement, and regularly jostles with 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Metropolis (1926), and Star Wars (1977) for the palm of top sf film of all time. He was knighted in 2003, and inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007.

Scott was the elder brother of the similarly prolific and still more visually kinetic director Tony Scott (1944-2012), whose own directorial début was the borderline-sf film about VampiresThe Hunger (1983) and later directed the slick Time Travel thriller Déjà Vu (2006). In 1995 the brothers headed the consortium purchase of Shepperton Studios, and also formed a production company, Scott Free, which branched additionally into television: series of sf note include the series versions of The Hunger (1997) and The Andromeda Strain (2008), as well as the long-running Mathematics-based detective series Numb3rs (2005-2010). [KN/PN/NL]

see also: Cinema; Horror in SF; Monster Movies.

Sir Ridley Scott

born South Shields, Tyne and Wear: 30 November 1937

about the filmmaker


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