Childhood & Early Life
Ridley Scott was born on November 30, 1937, in County Durham, England, UK, into a highly respected military family. His father worked for the British armed forces. As he was born immediately before the beginning of the Second World War, his father mostly remained absent from his life. As a result, his mother took care of him and both his brothers.
He had two siblings: his elder and younger brothers. His elder brother decided to serve the ‘British Merchant Navy’ and left home while Ridley was still a toddler. Thus, Ridley had a lonely childhood. Ridley also faced persistent stress regarding the well-being of his father.
Ridley studied at the ‘Grangefield Grammar School,’ where he started reading science-fiction short stories written by various authors. This seemed to be the best way to keep himself distracted from the loneliness and problems in his life. With time, he became addicted to dystopian stories with solid existential themes. This shaped his future career as a prolific storyteller in the same genre.
After receiving a diploma in design, Ridley enrolled at the ‘Royal College of Art,’ a highly prestigious institution in London. This was Ridley’s attempt to retain his artistic side, and this was the place where he had his first brush with filmmaking and immediately fell in love with the art of motion pictures.
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Growth as a Filmmaker
While contributing to the college magazine, ‘ARK,’ he made a name for himself as a creative story writer. Around the same time, he started studying films seriously and established a film society within the college campus with the help of a few friends.
Ridley’s first attempt at direction was for his short film ‘Boy and Bicycle,’ which starred his younger brother, Tony, and his father. The film was proof of his unique way of looking at stories and the world in general. The film was appreciated locally. Ridley continued with his studies, eventually graduating in 1963.
Once out of college, he did a few short-term jobs in the film industry, to learn the tricks of the trade. He eventually bagged a job as the trainee set designer for ‘BBC.’ He worked on the popular science-fiction series ‘Out of the Unknown’ and the police-procedural series ‘Z-Cars.’
An ardent admirer of Stanley Kubrick, he started his own production company with his younger brother, Tony, who was also an aspiring filmmaker. ‘Ridley Scott Associates’ (RSA), their film and production company, was founded in 1968. They soon started producing TV commercials and gained considerable recognition. Their narrative style resonated well with the general public. Ridley was on his way to start the production of his debut feature film.
In 1977, Ridley Scott stirred the international film festival circuit with his debut feature film, ‘The Duellists.’ It was a historical war film. Ridley spent less than US$ 900,000 to make the film.
The film was showcased at the ‘Cannes Film Festival,’ where it won the ‘Best Debut Film’ award. This paved Ridley’s way to mainstream Hollywood.
Ridley accepted the job of directing ‘Aliens’ in 1979. It was a science-fiction horror film, which turned out to be a huge international success and brought Ridley immense respect and appreciation. The film has, over the years, become a cult classic and has won ‘Saturn Awards’ for the ‘Best Science Fiction Film’ and the ‘Best Director.’
Ridley’s third film was ‘Blade Runner,’ a 1982 science-fiction saga about a humanoid and his existential crisis. The film was appreciated by critics. Despite being a box-office failure, the film has attained cult status through the years.
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Scott soon came to be known as an enigmatic Hollywood director and continued directing remarkable films such as the 1985 fantasy film ‘Legend,’ starring Tom Cruise in the lead role. Another film by the director was ‘Black Rain,’ which starred Michael Douglas as a cop on a mission to Japan. Both the films were critically and commercially appreciated.
The 1991 road film ‘Thelma & Louise’ became a roaring success at the box office and was nominated for six ‘Academy Awards,’ including one for the ‘Best Director.’ By then, it seemed that Ridley would surpass his idol Stanley Kubrick, in terms of fame.
His next film, ‘1492: Conquest of Paradise,’ was a disaster, both critically and commercially. This had Ridley taking a break from direction for a while. In the meantime, he produced two films, ‘Monkey Trouble’ and ‘Browning Version.’
He returned to the director’s chair with the 1996 film ‘White Squall,’ which was another failure. His next venture, ‘G.I. Jane,’ too was a disaster. It seemed that Ridley’s charm had started to fade and that he needed to do something extraordinary to keep his career going.
Ridley took another break from directing and concentrated on his career as a producer, with the series ‘The Hunger,’ loosely based on the 1983 film directed by his younger brother, Tony Scott. ‘Clay Pigeons’ was another film Ridley produced, before taking another chance with direction.
In 2000, Ridley returned to direction with the Russell Crowe-starrer ‘Gladiator,’ a Roman epic. The film was a roaring success worldwide, and apart than turning Russell Crowe into an international star, the film successfully redeemed Ridley’s career, earning five ‘Academy Awards,’ including the ‘Best Picture’ award.
In 2001, Ridley returned as a director, for the sequel of the 1991 blockbuster ‘Silence of the Lambs,’ titled ‘Hannibal.’ Although the film received a mega opening at the box office, it received mixed reviews from critics.
Ridley received another ‘Academy Award’ nomination for the war film ‘Black Hawk Down.’ This was followed by the low-budget movie ‘Matchstick Men,’ which was a moderate box-office success.
His 2005 film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ created considerable controversy. Upon its release, the film was termed a moderate success at the box office, but Ridley blamed its relative failure on the studio executives who had asked him to chop off 45 minutes of the movie. The director’s cut of the movie was released in 2006 and was much more widely appreciated than its theatrical version. It is now considered as one of the best works by the director.
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The 2007 film ‘American Gangster’ was based on the real-life tale of Frank Lucas, a popular drug kingpin. The film opened to rave reviews, with Ridley receiving a ‘Best Director’ nomination at the ‘Golden Globe Awards.’
His next two ventures, ‘Body of Lies’ and ‘Robin Hood,’ were moderate box-office successes. In 2009, news reports confirmed that Ridley was planning a prequel to ‘Alien,’ titled ‘Prometheus.’ After a three-year-long production phase, the film, starring Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron, released in 2012. It was a critical success and became one of the highest-grossing films of the year.
Impressed with Ridley’s directing prowess, famous author Cormac McCarthy asked Ridley to direct a film based on his screenplay. The film, titled ‘The Counselor,’ released to immense critical and commercial acclaim. Ridley followed it up with ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings,’ starring Christian Bale. It received average critical response but was a major box-office draw.
Ridley returned to his science-fiction roots with his 2015 film ‘The Martian,’ starring Matt Damon as a man stranded on Mars. The film was critically appreciated and eventually became the highest-grossing film of Ridley’s entire career.
In May 2017, his next film, ‘Alien: Covenant,’ was released. It was a sequel to ‘Prometheus.’ Critics were pleased with the film and called it his “return to form.” The film gained huge box-office numbers and was hailed as one of the major blockbusters of the year.
He then served as an executive producer of the sequel to his 1982 cult classic ‘Blade Runner,’ titled ‘Blade Runner 2049.’ The film released in October 2017 and received overwhelming reviews, with some critics calling it a modern classic.
Ridley Scott married Felicity Heywood in 1964 and got divorced in 1975. He then started dating Sandy Watson and got married to her in 1979. This marriage too ended in a divorce 10 years later. He is presently in a relationship with actor Giannina Facio, who has featured in most of Ridley’s films.
Ridley has two sons from his first marriage and a daughter from his second marriage. Both his sons, Luke and Jake, are directors.
Although his primary base is in Los Angeles, Ridley spends considerable time at his France and London mansions too.
Ridley was extremely close to his brothers. His elder brother died of skin cancer at the age of 45. Following this, Ridley dedicated his film ‘Blade Runner’ to him. His younger brother, Tony, a film director, died in 2012, after jumping from the ‘Vincent Thomas Bridge.’ Ridley and Tony had worked on many projects together.