Biography of Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott was born in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England, the second of Elizabeth and Colonel Francis Percy Scott's three sons. As Col. Scott was an officer in the Royal Engineers, the Scott family moved around a lot. As a child, Scott's parents noticed young Ridley's interest in art and enrolled him in the West Hartpool College of Art. He proved to be a gifted painter and went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London (RCA), with the goal of becoming a Production Designer.

While at RCA, Ridley Scott started experimenting with an old 16mm Bolex Movie camera and soon switched concentrations, joining RCA's brand-new film program. He made a few short films while he was at RCA, even earning a small British Film Institute grant. After graduation, Scott moved to New York City on a traveling design scholarship. He dabbled in photography and observed theater and documentary filmmakers. In 1964, Scott moved back to London and started working for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). He was a set-designer first, and then went on to direct some programs. He married Felicity Heywood, and together they had two sons, Jake and Luke.

In 1968, Ridley and his younger brother Tony founded Ridley Scott Associates (RSA), a film and commercial production company, and Ridley started directing commercials in the UK. To date, he has helmed more than 2,500 spots. In 1975, Scott and Heywood divorced. At this point, Ridley Scott was a successful businessman and commercial director, but he had always wanted to be a film director. He cites Akira Kurosawa, Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman, and David Lean as major influences.

Ridley Scott made his first feature film in 1977. Based on a Joseph Conrad novella of the same name, The Duellists, starred Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel. The film, set during the Napoleonic wars, won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival - a stunning debut for a first-time filmmaker. It was Scott's second film, however, that catapulted him into the position of one of the world's most highly sought-after directors. That film was Alien (1979).

Starring Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt, Alien is a science-fiction thriller that made over $100 million on a modest $11 million budget. It won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and was nominated for a Best Art Direction Oscar (two aspects of filmmaking in which Ridley Scott is particularly skilled). Alien introduced the world to Ridley Scott's unique approach to filmmaking. "Layering" is "Scott's self-described technique of building up a dense, kaleidoscopic accretion of detail within every frame and set of a film" (Sammon 47). Also in 1979, Scott married advertising executive Sandy Watson, the mother of his third child, daughter Jordan.

After the stunning success of Alien, Ridley Scott had his pick of projects in Hollywood. He took on the job of adapting Dune, Frank Herbert's 1865 science fiction novel. However, Scott's older brother Frank died in the middle of the development process and Scott decided to shift gears. He accepted Michael Deeley's offer to direct a film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, based on a screenplay by Hampton Fancher. The lead role of Rick Deckard went to Harrison Ford, a newly minted action star who was coming off major successes in Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, Blade Runner was plagued by budget constraints and on-set tension. When it was released in 1982, it polarized critics and test audiences, and its box office performance was dismal. However, thanks to the growing popularity of home video, Blade Runner slowly gained momentum throughout the 1980s and 1990s and eventually, Scott re-cut, restored, and re-released the film in 2007. Today, many critics call Blade Runner one of the most important science fiction films ever made - mostly because of the lush visual landscape and mood Scott created for the film.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ridley Scott continued to make visionary and challenging cinema, albeit with mixed success. Films like Legend (1985), Someone to Watch Over Me (1987), and Black Rain (1989) were mild disappointments, both critically and commercially. In 1989, Scott and Watson divorced.

Ridley Scott's luck changed in 1991, however, with the female-centric road film Thelma and Louise, starring Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. The film was a major box-office and critical success, garnering Scott his first ever Academy Award nomination for Best Director. Unfortunately, this good fortune did not carry over to Scott's next film, the Christopher Columbus epic 1492: Conquest of Paradise. It was a dismal failure, only earning back $7 million of its reported $47 million budget.

Ridley Scott lay low for the next 4 years. In 1995, he and younger brother Tony Scott founded Scott Free Productions, based in Los Angeles. The company has produced all of Ridley Scott's films to date, beginning with White Squall (1996) and G.I. Jane (1997). In 2000, Ridley Scott made Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe, an epic historical drama that takes place on the Roman Frontier in the year AD 180. Made for a hefty $103 million budget, the film earned more than $450 million at the international box office. It was nominated for 12 Academy awards, and won 5 (Best Picture, Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Visual Effects, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound).

Since 2000, Ridley Scott has continued to produce and direct several films under the Scott Free banner - including Hannibal (2001), Black Hawk Down (2001), Matchstick Men (2003), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), A Good Year (2006), American Gangster (2007), Body of Lies (2008), and Robin Hood (2010) - with varying levels of success. In 2003, he received a knighthood for his contributions to the British film industry.

In 2009, Scott decided to reach into his archives and direct a prequel to Alien. The film, Prometheus, starring Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and Guy Pearce, was made for over $120 million. It opened in 2012 and was a box office success, earning $403 million dollars worldwide. Sadly, in August 2012, Ridley Scott's sole remaining brother and longtime business partner, Tony Scott, committed suicide. He was 68 years old.

Sir Ridley Scott has been in a relationship with actress Giannina Facio for many years. He lives between his homes in London, France, and Los Angeles. His three children, Jake, Luke, and Jordan, are all film directors. He remains a highly influential, visionary director and is known for his groundbreaking achievements in visual effects, action sequences, and extreme attention to detail. Scott's hallmark is the creation of vibrant, layered environments in his films, whether it is 2nd Century Rome, 12th Century Jerusalem, or contemporary Mogadishu.


Study Guides on Works by Ridley Scott

Alien (1979) is a highly regarded and influential film in the Thriller/Science Fiction/Horror genres. The film was directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O'Bannon. Scott had worked as director for several television series and had been the...

Blade Runner is the 1981 film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's science fiction novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, directed by Ridley Scott and produced by Michael Deeley. Hampton Fancher and David Peoples wrote the screenplay. The film stars...

Sir Ridley Scott began plannng a prequel to his 1979 blockbuster hit, Alieneven as early as 2000, and discussed the project extensively with James Cameron. Ultimately, though, Alien vs. Predatorbecame the project they worked on, leaving Scott to...