Anatomy of a Director: Ridley Scott
In Anatomy Of A Director, we dig deep down into the back catalogue of a top director and chart their rise, from their raw beginnings, their big break, their finest hour and the bump in the road, as well as their return to form.
With Exodus: Gods and Kings about to arrive in stores, we trace the career of Ridley Scott from his humble beginnings with The Duellists to his latest offering, the upcoming biblical blockbuster.
You can find our full review of the new film here and check out the trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings below, but while you're waiting for the film to arrive next week (April 27th) we've picked out some of the key moments from the director's long and distinguished filmography...
Raw Beginnings: The Duellists
Ridley Scott had already been in the director's chair for a handful of episodes of various TV shows throughout the 1960s, including an episode of Z-Cars, but his debut feature didn't arrive until 1977 in the form of The Duellists. Adapted from the Joseph Conrad story The Duel, the film is set in France during the years of Napoleonic rule, starring Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine as two French officers who begin a lifelong mutual enmity after one of them is insulted by the other.
The film was well received by critics, earning the director the award for Best Debut Film at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival and, perhaps more importantly, opening the door for his next film.
Big Break: Alien
Still considered one of the greatest horror films ever made, Ridley Scott's big break cam in the form of this sci-fi / horror classic from 1979. Featuring the near-indestructible alien life form that has featured in numerous sequels, it all started here aboard the mining ship Nostromo with Sigourney Weaver in the role of Ellen Ripley. Stylish, atmospheric and utterly terrifying, Alien features some fantastic performances from Weaver and the excellent Ian Holm, who appears as the sinister robotic science officer Ash.
Winning a number of awards including a handful of BAFTAs and Oscars, Alien launched Scott's career into the big time and set the scene for the director's greatest achievement yet.
Their Finest Hour: Blade Runner
Based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1982's Blade Runner is arguably one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time and is still held up by many as Ridley Scott's finest work. This dystopian epic stars Harrison Ford alongside a cast that includes Edward James Olmos and Rutger Hauer, with Ford in the role of Rick Decker, who is tasked with hunting down and terminating a particular group of 'replicants' who have gone rogue and returned to earth.
The film's futuristic appearance won the film three BAFTAs for set design, costume design and cinematography, with nominations from a range of others including Academy Awards, Saturn Awards and Hugo Awards, although Scott never won a Best Director award at any of these, which seems like a travesty now. Of the many versions released since the film's debut, the 'director's cut' is still our favourite, but each of them features Vangelis' brilliant score and the film is rightly still considered a classic .
The Bump in the Road: G.I. Jane
The 1990s started well for Ridley Scott with the brilliant Thelma & Louise, but aside from this notable exception the decade was a relatively quiet one, with the director releasing only three other feature films between 1991 and 2000. The last of these was 1997's G.I. Jane, starring Demi Moore as the test subject for the U.S. Navy's plans to integrate women into the armed forces.
Moore puts in an admirable performance as the the tough female officer who is put through some brutal training in a bid to become the first woman inducted into the elite Navy Seals, but it was widely panned by critics and rounded off a fairly uneventful decade for the director. However, the turn of the millennium would soon see Scott back to his best form.
Still On Top: American Gangster
If the 90s weren't the kindest decade to Ridley Scott's career, the 2000s saw the director produce some of his best work in years and we could have picked any one of Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven or the criminally underrated Matchstick Men, but of all these the film that stands out for us is 2007's American Gangster. Starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, the film is based on the true story of notorious heroin dealer Frank Lucas, who famously smuggled the drug into the country by hiding it in the pallets containing the coffins of dead servicemen being shipped back from Vietnam.
This hard-hitting drama sees Washington turn in an as good a performance as he's ever given as the Harlem-based godfather figure and of all the great films Scott directed in one of his most prolific periods, this is still one of his best.