With a career spanning a half-century, Ridley Scott has consistently approached filmmaking with a storyteller's eye, creating memorable films such as "Alien," "Blade Runner," "Gladiator" and "The Martian." For his contributions to British cinema, the filmmaker was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2003.
"Every time you make a film, really, you're making a novel," Scott told The Times in 1992. "It's a pity you can't teach history this way. … There is something very captive about the dramatized act."
Scott first fostered his creative talents at London's Royal College of Art, where he helped found the film department. He graduated in 1961 with a degree in graphic design and got his first break the next year when he joined the BBC as an apprentice set designer. While at the Beeb, he was hired to direct episodes for several series, including "Z-Cars" and "Adam Adamant Lives!"
In 1968, Scott and his younger brother Tony formed their own company to make television commercials and quickly made their names with stylish spots for British products such as Hovis bread.
"I love doing commercials," Scott told The Times. "If I didn't do them, I might not turn over for another year."
He also freely acknowledges he's the filmmaker he is because of the commercials he's made. "Whatever you see [in my movies] comes totally out of commercials."
Scott and his brother ("The Hunger, "Top Gun") were part of a group of successful British advertising directors, including Alan Parker ("Midnight Express") and Hugh Hudson ("Chariots of Fire") who made the leap to movies.
Scott directed "The Duellists," his first feature film, in 1977, and won the Prix du Jury Å la premiÄre oeuvre (jury prize for best first film) at the Cannes Film Festival. His next film, "Alien," was the sixth highest-grossing movie of 1979. The wildly successful picture set a high standard for directors continuing the sci-fi series. James Cameron, who directed the 1986 sequel "Aliens," sat in awe when he watched the original movie.
"What I remember about that night is not my reaction to the movie but my reaction to the audience," Cameron, then a young truck driver attending the movie opening at an Orange County theater, told The Times.
"I thought to myself, 'If I can do that, if I can even come close to doing that ...' "
Scott's early acclaim cooled when the initial release of "Blade Runner" (1982) failed to excite critics or audiences (though it later was recognized as one of the most influential science-fiction films ever made). He continued to direct commercials, including noteworthy adverts for American Express, Nissan and Chanel, and Apple's Steve Jobs hired him to direct the iconic "1984" commercial that launched the MacIntosh computer.
The filmmaker demonstrated his resilience by following the box-office disappointments "Legend" (1985) and "Someone to Watch Over Me" (1987) with the hits "Black Rain" (1989) and "Thelma & Louise" (1991), the latter earning him his first Academy Award nomination for best director.
Another run of under-performing films — "1492: Conquest of Paradise" (1992), "White Squall" (1996) and "G.I. Jane" — was followed by one of Scott's biggest successes, "Gladiator" (2000), starring Russell Crowe. The film won five Academy Awards, including best picture, and was the fourth highest-grossing film of the year. Scott again was nominated for best director, losing to Steven Soderbergh for "Traffic."
The next year, he earned his third Oscar nomination for directing the war film "Black Hawk Down" (2001), about the Battle of Mogadishu. In recent years, Scott has made a steady stream of box-office hits, including "Hannibal" (2001), "American Gangster" (2007) and "Prometheus" (2012). He notched a fourth Academy Award nomination for producing "The Martian" (2015), his biggest box-office hit to date. His lack of a directing nomination was considered one of the season's major oversights.
"I used to get asked, 'Is film an art form?' Of course it's an art form. Taking pictures of food at a high level is an art form," Scott told The Times in the 1992 interview.
"Unfortunately, the film industry doesn't think of it that way. Therefore, 90% of it is not art. Producers and directors don't go into it with that sensitivity, and that's a pity. Film is 20th-century theater, and it will become 21st-century writing."
— Jerome Campbell for the Los Angeles Times
|1991||Best Director||Thelma & Louise||Nomination|
|2001||Best Director||Black Hawk Down||Nomination|
|2015||Best Picture||The Martian||Nomination*|