Film

'Blade Runner' director Ridley Scott turns 80

As the prodigious British director Ridley Scott celebrates his 80th birthday, he is still making the bold, big budget films that have marked his 40-year career, including cult works such as "Blade Runner" and "Alien."

"I've seen things that you people wouldn't believe." A final sentence uttered by an artificial human in the face of death to a replicant-hunter, Rutger Hauer's soliloquy to Harrison Ford in the finale of Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" is still, 35 years after it premiered, ever-present in the minds of moviegoers.

Unlike later Oscar-winning blockbusters like "Gladiator," the dystopian thriller from 1982 was not immediately embraced by critics. Yet Scott's visionary sci-fi film is arguably best-remembered by fans of a director who has successfully tackled multiple movie genres across four decades.   

Read more:  8 reasons why 'Blade Runner' became a cult film 

Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott's cult classic film, Blade Runner (mago/AGD)

Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott's cult classic film, "Blade Runner"

Cult masterpieces

Sir Ridley Scott — he was knighted by the Queen in 2003 — was born on November 30, 1937 in South Shields, a small port town in northeast England. After attending the Royal College of Art in London, he worked as a set designer and director on television series before founding his own company producing TV commercials.

At the age of 40, Scott graduated to feature films with his debut, "The Duellists," starring Harvey Keitel. In no time, the British up-and-comer would join Hollywood's filmmaking elite.

Yet Scott's rapid ascent, while based partly on box office successes like 1979's "Alien," was mostly founded on films with cult appeal. 

Before "Blade Runner," the sci-fi horror epic "Alien" had already cemented Scott's reputation for bold cinematic innovation, a renown that continued with later works like "Thelma & Louise," "Kingdom of Heaven," and even the ancient action saga "Gladiator."

Russell Crowe in Gladiator (imago)

Russell Crowe in "Gladiator," which won 5 Oscars

An unfeeling 'visual hypnotist'?

But Scott has often been accused of focusing too much on stunning visuals and innovative cinematic technique, including extended tracking shots with armies of extras. As a result, his films look incredible but are said to sometimes lack heart.

As one critic put it, Scott is "a beautiful but cold filmmaker." His "posthuman" stories can fail to connect with real human emotions.

Reviewing "Bladerunner," American critic Pauline Kael famously wrote that the film "has nothing to give the audience... it hasn't been thought out in human terms." Nonetheless, Kael had to admit that the director was a "visual hypnotist."

Whether one agrees with this aspect of Scott's filmmaking, few could dismiss the narrative density and visionary power of the Crusades epic "Kingdom of Heaven," or 2001's "Black Hawk Down" — and his ability to effortlessly switch between genres.

Ridley Scott on the set of Black Rain (1989) (picture-alliance/kpa)

Ridley Scott on the set of "Black Rain" (1989)

Kevin Spacey cut from Scott's new film

To mark Ridley Scott's 80th year, he will be premiering his latest feature, "All the Money in the World," the story of the abduction of 16-year-old oil tycoon heir, John Paul Getty III, that stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams.

While it won't be released until Christmas, Scott's latest epic was mired in controversy when Kevin Spacey, cast in the role of aging oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, was accused of sexual harassment.

In an unprecedented step, Scott decided to cut Spacey's scenes from the film and reshoot them with a new actor, Christopher Plummer.   

Read more: Kevin Spacey cut from a new Ridley Scott movie a month before release

Ridley Scott (right) has cut Kevin Spacey from his latest film, All The Money in the World (picture-alliance/AP Photo)

Ridley Scott (right) has cut Kevin Spacey from his latest film, "All The Money in the World"

"It's a bold move, and one that I predict, sight unseen, could earn Scott his first best director Oscar," wrote Peter Debruge in Variety magazine, adding that Scott hasn't yet gained the recognition he deserves from the Academy — the four-time nominated director is yet to win an Oscar.   

At 80 years of age, Scott still has three major new directorial projects in the pipeline, showing he's still capable of marshalling vast productions to fruition. His most recent films, "Alien: Covenant," "The Martian" and "Exodus: Gods and Kings," were not the restrained works of an aging director but again showcased the visual brilliance, technical virtuosity and stellar casts that have marked 40-odd Ridley Scott feature films.

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