INT: Ridley Scott
Lets get right down to brass tacks. Ridley Scott is the man. Hes a diverse filmmaker, behind such films as ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, THELMA AND LOUISE, BLACK HAWK DOWN and GLADIATOR, and lets not forget that groundbreaking 1984 Super Bowl spot for Apple computer. If youve never heard one of his commentary tracks on DVD, do yourself a favor and listen, you might learn something. JoBlo.com was recently invited to talk with Scott regarding his upcoming film about the Crusades, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, which boasts an impressive cast including Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, and David Thewlis.
Ridley was noticeably relaxed as he sat down to talk with us. He would have been justified in being a little nervous, as my fellow journalists and I were some of the first to see his reportedly 140 million dollar epic. But he came across cool, calm and collected.
Was this film easier or harder to make after 9/11?
planned before. I was doing BLACK HAWK DOWN before 9/11. As I was
finishing, literally about to decide when to put the film out, 9/11
occurred. At that moment, literally having breakfast with Bill
Monahan (NOTE: screenwriter of
I think ever since Charlton Heston rode away dead on horseback in EL CID, I always wanted to make a knight movie. If youre gonna do a knight movie, as Bill said, you kinda gotta really consider the Crusades. Because he said youve got every conceivable plot imaginable there, which is far more exotic than fiction.
Could you talk about the idea of doing the longer cut?
You never know. People say if you knew you were gonna be that much longer, why do you shoot it? I say you never know. Ever since I did advertising a lot, I would always try to go for more, to squeeze it into the glass. I was always amazed about how much I could squeeze into a thirty second commercial. And then a minute was an epic, and a carousella which is like three minutes, was a super epic. Same thing with film. By the time youve finished shooting, youve really been into everything, youve touched up everything in the editing room. Youve gone in there and taken little bits from everything.
Is the longer film a different experience?
Yeah, I think the dvd is always a different experience. I think a theatrical audience goes out to see the movie, and I think to a degree, Im talking about pure dramatic dynamics, theres a tolerance. Do you think operas tend to be a bit long? Do you think theater tends to be a bit long? They tend to be long, they need to be edited. Who thinks that? Who really believes that? Do you think oh my god is this going to go on for a fourth act?
Is LAWRENCE OF ARABIA too long?
Have you seen it recently? If youve seen the extended cut, you can tell why he didnt have the scenes in the extended version. The one that went out is the best version, in my opinion. And then this, is this the best version? What do you think, I dont know, you tell me.
Ridley then talked about actor Ghassen Massoud, who plays General Saladin the film.
He was my advisor during the movie on the behavioral patterns and processes of Muslims, so thats why certain things got done, like I said theres a cross in a room lying on the floor in the bureaucratic office of Tiberius, Jeremy Irons, theyve ransacked, they dont destroy any religious symbols. I think symbols is a better word than icon. They respect other denominations in the Muslim faith. How do I show that respect? And I said would you what would you do if you saw it on the floor? He said Id probably pick it up and put it on the table, thats it, walk out. And thats how that happened.
How many special effects shots were there?
In all theres about 800 shots. Therell be probably about 350 seriously important shots, they rest are just tidy ups, bits and bobs, and sometimes skies.
Who did the effects?
MPC, Moving Picture Company, theyre really excellent, they did the majority of the effects.
Why didnt your company do it? Dont you have an effects company?
Theres no money in it. Its so hard, it is so hard. Everybody dreams about these vast budgets these people have to play with. At the end of the day, its the bottom line is not attractive. Sorry to be frank, but there it is.
Ridley also talked about trying to do things live, in camera, as opposed to just relying on a computer:
So we built 3 siege towers which each weighed 17 tons. Those are real. Once you build it, you can clone it much easier. So when you see all that stuff in close up, and theyre coming up the back, and Im pulling the towers down, thats all real. I made four catapults, the arm of which would swing to 56 feet.
Orlando mentioned that youre sort of an enigmatic director. How do you guide actors if you dont talk to them a lot?
I do a pretty good job at casting actually. Half the job is reigning in, saying I would do this, I would do that. Dont do this, dont do that. Because I know exactly what I want, and when Im going to set I know exactly what I want from the scene. One of the tricky things is how you hold that back. Let them feel that they have a certain kind of freedom. And thats the trick, its sleight of hand. And I think you only learn that through experience.
If I have to, Ill go and direct theater and talk till the cows come home. But you cant do that with film. And I think, this is a movie, not theater, therefore a lot of it is behavioral. Once youve got the material, the script, I work a lot on the script, by the time Ive gone through the process of the script with whoever the writer is, its indelible.
Our time was about up, but Ridley answered some questions about other possible projects.
Whats the status of GLADIATOR 2?
Nothing at the moment. Were trying to find a good solution for a sequel.
Logan wrote a script, are you happy with that?
Not quite, its not quite there yet. Remember, theres no Maximus anymore. So I think the task is more difficult.
You said you had a next generation idea?
Yeah, yeah, there was a next generation idea, but I think its very loose at the moment.
And regarding his possible return to the ALIEN franchise:
They shouldve asked me to do the second one It's all to do with the material. If the script is great, of course.
With that, our time was up.
Ill leave you with one final thought from high atop my rickety internet soapbox: I think Ridley Scott is one of our finest directors working today. I think his films have had, and will continue to have, a greater impact on cinema than anyone realizes. I know it sounds like Im promoting a Ridley Scott Lovefest (copyright 2005 CHRISGAEDECO., tickets on sale now at www.ridleyscottlovefest.org!), but its just my opinion.
If you disagree, no need to have a hissy fit about it, please dont email me telling me how wrong I am. Take that angry energy and go to the gym, or plant a tree, or become a big brother to a needy kid, or for gods sake stop eating so much. Sometimes, some artists are so good at what they do, that people take them for granted. But I dont take his work for granted. Okay, Ill stop now.
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