By Brooke Smith (suggested edits by Noel T. Manning II)
Born in South Shields, United Kingdom on November 30, 1937, Ridley Scott showed an interest in the film industry beginning at a young age. As a young child he would find himself immersed in stories of escape and adventure, and film was his medium of choice. His explorations into worlds far and near, inner (the mind) and outer (beyond the galaxy) would pave the way for stories he’d eventually craft into feature films, and earn awards, and thrill audiences in the process. (Sir Ridley Scott Biography, 2013)
Early on, Ridley Scott wanted to follow in his brother’s (Frank) footsteps and join the Merchant Navy, but Scott’s father strongly discouraged this, as he saw potential in Ridley’s artistic talents and encouraged him to pursue them. (Ridley Scott 2015).
After receiving a creative design degree from West Hartlepool College of Art in the United Kingdom, Scott went to London’s Royal College of Art (England), where he honed his skills in filmmaking. After college, Scott worked with the BBC (British Broadcasting Company), designing sets and working on BBC TV, film, and commercial production. It was during this time he gained opportunities to learn the art of directing, and he attained his first directing job on the BBC’s series Z Cars in 1962 and Z Cars: Error of Judgment in 1965. (Ridley Scott Biography)
Scott was truly developing as a filmmaker, and it became obvious to many, but Ridley felt his talents were not appreciated from the BBC. So, he decided to go into advertising with his brother Tony in 1967. Together they formed their own production company; the next ten years proved to be very successful for Ridley Scott Associates, as the two Scott brothers made some of the best know television advertisements on British television. (Sir Ridley Scott Biography, 2013)
In the 1970’s, Scott met and began working with producer David Putnam, and together they began working on long-form film ideas. The Duellists, a 1977 film, was Scott’s first feature film, and it won Jury Prize for Best First Work at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also nominated for the Palm d’Or (the film festival’s highest prize). This attention to Scott’s work really launched his career, and became a game-changer for him. (Ridley Scott 2015).
After viewing the blockbuster, Star Wars, in theatres, Ridley Scott was inspired to explore big time budgets and effects that would impact audiences; he also wanted to develop his own brand of Star Wars that would inspire others. This led Scott to take on the directing of a gothic horror film set in outer space with the tagline … “In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.” This film Alien (1979) launched a franchise, memorable characters, and the career of actress Sigourney Weaver. The 1979 film also became a classic on its own merit, and transcended the sci-fi genre. The Alien film series that Scott built has continued to produce spin-offs and sequels almost 40 years later. (Ridley Scott Biography, 2018)
In 1982, Scott introduced the world to another sci-fi classic, Blade Runner, a film that at first was not widely appreciated by viewers (yet had a cult following), but in the following years became accepted as one of the most cerebral and best sci-fi films ever created, and it also helped solidify Scott’s reputation for precise technical detail, unique story, and experimental narrative. In 2017, Scott brought the characters and story narrative back to the big screen with the Oscar-winning sequel, Blade Runner: 2049. (Manning, 2017)
In 1984, Ridley Scott went back into commercial television production after a dialogue with a genius by the name of Steve Jobs. Scott became the director of the first ever Macintosh Apple Computer commercial. It aired during Super Bowl XVIII, and was set in a George Orwell-inspired “Big Brother-type” society where everyone is a carbon copy of the other except for one person breaking out of conformity (world-class athlete Anya Major wearing a white tank top with a Macintosh computer logo on). This commercial challenged minds, engaged viewers, and launched Apple as the alternative to the cookie-cutter computer crowd (Ridley Scott, 2015).
Scott has gone on to be recognized throughout the years for a variety of films and genres (sci-fi, action, drama, historical epics, adventure, biopics, etc.). Films like Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, Robin Hood, American Gangster, Hannibal, Blackhawk Down, The Martian, and All the Money in the World have all continued to add to his impressive resume of developing and creating art that inspires, narratives that are innovative, and characters that are memorable.
From the minds of serial killers (Hannibal), to 2nd Century Rome (Gladiator), to a road-trip with female bandits (Thema and Louise), to the solitary loneliness of Mars (The Martian), Ridley Scott knows how to paint stories visually with light, actions and sound. He creates landscapes and characters that feel authentic and yet unimaginable at the same time. Pure and simple, he’s a genius.
As a director, Scott has been complimented on his willingness to listen to his actors and take their suggestions for character enhancements and backstories or character development when warranted. His careful detail to lighting and design has been called innovative, and many directors who admire his style have imitated him. Scott also has a style that seems like a slow burn, or offers slow pacing until the major action scene, producing a greater thrill to the viewers. Scott also uses sound to cause a rise in tension and a buildup to the climax. This is not only accomplished with music, but also with atmospheric or ambient sounds that complement a particular scene. Ridley Scott is also known to sometimes work with a three camera set up per scene, to aid in a faster filming process. (Sir Ridley Scott Biography, 2013)
Several other trademarks represent his style in films: These include, but are not limited to, themes of artificial intelligence, alien races, corporate greed, character vs. God conflict, strong female characters, father and son conflicts, and characters searching for meaning and purpose beyond self. Scott also includes extreme levels of lighting, intriguing camera angles, urban environments, vast visual cityscapes, classical music, extensive atmosphere shots, and smoke-filled or foggy scenes. (Ridley Scott, 2015)
Scott has earned many awards and recognitions over his career. Not only was he knighted by the Queen in 2003, but he was also inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011, and was honored for lifetime achievement from the British Academy in 2018. Scott has been nominated for four Academy Awards for directing (Thelma and Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, The Martian), won two Emmy Awards (The Gathering Storm and Gettysburg), was nominated for six other Emmy Awards (Killing Kennedy, The Good Wife, The Pillars of the Earth, Into the Storm, The Andromeda Strain, and RKO 281), won a British Academy of Film and Television Award (Thelma & Louise), and nominated for three others (Gladiator, American Gangster, The Martian), won three Hugo Awards (Blade Runner, Alien, The Martian) and was nominated for four Golden Globes (Gladiator, American Gangster, The Martian, and All the Money in the World), just to name a few. Over all, by 2018, Ridley Scott has earned 39 major awards while being nominated 91 times during his five-decade career in major film & television production (Rovi, 2015) (Ridley Scott Awards, 2018)
According to Ridley Scott, “Art’s like a shark. You’ve got to keep swimming, or else you drown… you’ve got to keep bouncing around. People always ask me, ‘What’s the plan?’ There is no plan. I go to what fascinates me next.” (Ridley Scott Quotes, 2015)
Biography of Ridley Scott. (2015). (GradeSaver LLC) Retrieved February 10, 2015, from
Grade Saver: http://www.gradesaver.com/author/ridley-scott
Manning, N. T. (2017, December 12). The scott papers. Meet me at the movies [Shelby, NC], p. 19.
Ridley Scott. (2015). (The New York Times Company) Retrieved February 10, 2015, from
The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/movies/person/1548246/Ridley-Scott/biography
Ridley Scott Awards. (2015). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from IMDb:
Ridley Scott Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000631/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
Ridley Scott Quotes. (2015). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from IMDb: http://m.imdb.com/name/nm0000631/quotes
Ridley Scott Biography. (2015). (A&E Television Networks) Retrieved February 10, 2015, from Biography.com: http://www.biography.com/people/ridley-scott-9477021
Rovi. (2015). Ridley Scott Awards. Retrieved March 18, 2015, from Fandango: http://www.fandango.com/ridleyscott/awards/P110579
Sir Ridley Scott Biography. (2013). (AETN UK) Retrieved February 10, 2015, from The
Biography Channel: http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/biographies/ridley-scott.html