Ridley Scott on Adam Driver, explosions, and the subjectivity of art

Ridley Scott, with images from The Last Duel and House Of Gucci

The Last Duel (Photo: Metro Goldwyn Mayer), Ridley Scott (Photo: Dominique Charriau / Getty Images), House Of Gucci (Photo: Fabio Lovino)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples

While he’s as prolific now at 83 as he was decades ago, Ridley Scott is still having a banner year. He has directed two high-profile films this year:The last duel and Gucci house—And it’s in the headlines (again) for his brutal comments on the current state of cinema. We sat down with the legendary director to ask him about Adam Driver, his hectic work schedule, and the subjectivity of art.


The AV Club: You have some big movies this year and you are a very busy guy. Does it ever feel like a lot?

Ridley Scott: Never.

AVC: Do you like to be busy?

RS: What I am going to do? Walking the dogs? No, I need to work. And as long as they want me to do it, I feel privileged, but I’ve earned it.

AVC: You have made so many movies in your career. Are there some movies that you like more over time or that you thought were overlooked at the time?

RS: Well, I think some have been overlooked and to a shocking degree, in fact. But if you’re talking about awards, awards don’t mean much to me.

I think the most important thing for me is that they allow me or want me to continue working. So it all has to do with “Do you have material that people want?” I have to walk through the door with material because people stopped offering me films years ago because above all I am the most difficult person to choose a subject and that’s why they don’t try. For the most part, I say, “Not really, but thanks for thinking of me for that,” if it comes down to it.

Occasionally something will come up, like The martian landed on my desk and they said, “What do you think? This has been on the shelf for two years. “So I can go in and then say,” But this is a comedy! “And they say,” What? “I said,” Yeah, it’s a comedy. And that’s why it was never done. ” So I make big adjustments like that, right?

Alien landed on my desk. I was the fifth option. The guy before me, strangely, was a great filmmaker named Robert Altman. But what the hell would you offer Robert Altman? Alien by? He must have come to the breakfast scene and started thinking, “What?” But because of where I come from, which was fundamentally being a pretty good art director, I could see what I could do with that right away. So I said, “I will.” So, you know, they are course horses.

AVC: in Gucci house, there are some scenes that I love and that seem very real. For example, there is a scene in the bathtub with Lady Gaga and Adam Driver that seems spontaneous, natural and true. How do you create an environment on set to help actors work to their full potential?

RS: you do they work to their best potential.

AVC: Well, ask them to do it?

RS: No, I made them do it. It is a big problem for me.

I got pretty good at casting. I don’t get into the medium and small parts because I have a lot to do when we are going to make a movie. But I almost always have in mind who the main characters in the movie will be. So when I read or prep it, I’m preparing for so-and-so, so-and-so, on the basis that they’ll be the first thing we’ll see. .

So once I have that online and get who I need, the rest turns to forming a friendship and association with the actor. Because to me, I don’t believe in the Svengali process unless you’re picking a 6 year old who has never done anything before, and then trying to persuade this kid to do his thing.

With actors, you have chosen great actors so they don’t have to be stars. There are many great actors who are not stars. Once I have a great actor, I tend to converse with him about anything but the script. I want to know who they are, how they think. I want to know how fast they stand up mentally because I’m pretty fast, and I want them to be able to evolve and grow with me on set.

AVC: Do you consider yourself loyal to different actors, or do you just want the best actor for the role, period, no matter who it is?

RS: Well, I think you tend to pick who is best for the particular character. But I’ve worked with Russell Crowe five times and I’ve worked with Michael Fassbender four times, so it happens that once you work with someone and it’s A) it has to be a lot of fun. If it’s like a difficult, mountainous climb, forget about it. You don’t want to go there again.

So in part it’s how well you get along and how well it evolves. The better you know someone, the easier it is to say, “You know what? That was not quite right. Can we do it this way? “So you have real dialogue instead of polite exchange. You need to be real and have real dialogue pretty quickly.

AVC: You have worked with Adam Driver twice this year alone.

RS: There you go.

AVC: What do you like about working with him and how did you develop that dialogue?

RS: Well i was planning Gucci and was doing The last duel. I think Adam was literally trying on his chainmail and I said, “You know what? I have a script that I want you to read this weekend.” He said that?” I said, “I have this really interesting role. You may want to do it. I think you should read it. “And he read it that weekend and said,” Damn, that’s okay. “

AVC: You caught it at the right time. He had the right hole in his schedule.

RS: I overlap otherwise I found you have horrible gaps.

When you finish a movie, and not everyone does the same trick. Go find your own technique. But when I finished and said, “It’s a summary,” I’ve been so into that movie for weeks or even months. I have directed my editor, and you must have a very good editor to do this. I totally trust the editor I have, Claire Simpson. So he’s already cutting it, and he’s been doing it for the entire movie.

So I’ll say, “How soon for a director’s cut?” She can say two weeks. Normally it would be 14 weeks. She says, “I’m ready,” in three weeks, and I walk in. I am very nervous because now I am separated and fresh. I have a clear head. In fact, I’ve been working on something until we sat down.

I have an assistant sitting next to me because once you start the projection, you can’t look away. If you go and write a note, that doesn’t work. You miss something. My films are organic, so I just sit there watching and screaming, “That! That! That! That! “And my assistant will write down the number on the screen.

Then after the screening, she’ll say, “So, you said something about the bathroom scene,” and I’ll say, “Oh yeah.” I will give my review on the things I saw because I am cool and [Claire’s] been editing. It is clearly less cool and therefore for me I come a bit like a computer. So far it seems to work quite well. But it means that I can overlay a movie to the next project.

AVC: I really loved it The last duel and I’ve been to women’s reviews rooms where they just get excited, but we’ve also talked about how, when we look at most of the reviews, they’re written by men and they didn’t like the movie or we just didn’t see what we saw there. Have you experienced that?

RS: You know, everyone has a right to have their opinion, and I realized that many, many, many, many, many years ago. There are many, many, many different layers. There is a cape that I call the big dirty one, which is my favorite expression. It’s very rude and it’s meant to be, because I don’t make movies for that group.

Frankly, I was brutalized by a critic named Pauline Kael for a movie called Bounty hunter. His review was systematically destructive and had never met her. I did not know her. He did four pages about it in The New Yorker, which is a very elegant magazine. I was so shocked. I mean, it was a personal shock.

I framed those four pages and have them hanging in my office today, and they remind me, with the utmost respect to journalists and critics, that I never read my own review. When I leave production, I have to have my opinion on what I did and I will move on.

If you get a great review, you think you are walking on a cloud. If you get a bad review, you will want to kill yourself. That is why it is better to avoid both.

Career: That brings me to another topic, then. He is well known for having strong opinions on all types of movies. Do you think taste is subjective? For example, are there some things that just aren’t for you, or are there good and bad movies, period?

RS: No, there are defined columns of intent. The studios will have a certain level of content that they will want because they think they will be sure of things. What they forget is that nothing is certain, but you can design a movie that is sentimental, melodramatic, full of visual effects and without a true story. And the visuals support the fact that there is no story. And so, for the most part, you’re pointing at someone who’s going to sit there with a giant bag of popcorn and Pepsi cola and watch it and you won’t see what’s going on except it’s loud and colorful and there’s a lot of visual elements. effects.

Am I being rude?

AVC: No, but I think sometimes you just want to go and see how things explode.

RS: No, I never did and I never did, even as a kid. I remember seeing it for the first time, and I think I was a teenager, but I remember the first time I saw what I thought was a pretty serious movie. I think it was Orson Welles. He did it at 19 years old, Citizen Kane. He knew that the difference was right there and that was what he wanted to be. David Lean, same thing. Every now and then you just see something and say, “That’s what I want to do.”

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