'Blade Runner' director Ridley Scott turns 80


Recast: 'All the Money in the World'

After the American actor Anthony Rapp accused Kevin Spacey of abusing him three decades ago, Ridley Scott cut all of Spacey's scenes in "All the Money in the World" in November and had him recast with the Canadian actor Christopher Plummer. The unprecedented move did not jeopardize the December premiere of the movie and both Plummer's appearance and the crime drama have received good reviews.


A good eye: Ridley Scott

His films burst with visual power and opulence, and even his more minor films boast stunning cinematography. In his best works, visual style and narrative depth complement each other perfectly. Ridley Scott, born in 1937, is an image magician — and has given modern cinema some unforgettable moments. He is pictured here on the set of "Black Rain" (1989).


Debut with historical drama: 'The Duellists'

In 1977 Scott was 40 years old and making television shows and ads, so no one expected that he'd become one of the most sought-after directors in world cinema. But his feature film debut that year, "The Duellists," the story of two officers during the reign of Napoleon, showcased Scott's special talent: sumptuous images, a distinct visual style and cinema for all the senses.


Shock on the big screen: 'Alien'

The film to follow went to a whole new level: "Alien" was remarkable in for its perfect combination of science-fiction and horror, complete with breathless suspense, bold cinematography and Oscar-winning special effects. For the first time, a woman (Sigourney Weaver) was the lead in an action movie. "Alien" went on to inspire a new generation of sci-fi thrillers.


Inspirational: 'Blade Runner'

Ridley Scott went one better with the 1982 dystopian sci-fi film "Blade Runner," which featured more fantastic visuals and unique neo-noir atmospherics. Harrison Ford entered cinema history in his role as a replicant-hunter, and few films have inspired so many imitators — a sequel was also released in 2017. The original "Blade Runner" remains one of the greatest cult films of all time.


Girl power: 'Thelma & Louise'

After excursions into fantasy, action and thriller, Scott landed another coup in 1991 with "Thelma & Louise." The story of two very different friends who just want to escape their dreary everyday lives becomes a wild road movie stretching across America. It was another film with strong cinematography and a quirky story that also featured Brad Pitt in a breakout role.


Ancient epic: 'Gladiator'

Almost a decade later, Scott's next major international success came with "Gladiator," a grand Roman Empire epic. The blood and swords action drama won five Oscars (including Best Actor for Russell Crowe, who played the revengeful Roman general turned gladiator) and a nomination for Scott. It was another work with a compelling narrative and brilliant cinematography.


First war film: 'Black Hawk Down'

Following his trip to antiquity, the following year Scott released his first war film, "Black Hawk Down" (2001), and proved he was able to create breathless tension in yet another genre. Tracing an episode involving US soldiers during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia, the film also created controversy for its "airbrushed" depiction of American military involvement in a civil war.


Diabolical: 'Hannibal'

Scott's next project was the sequel to the worldwide hit, "The Silence of the Lambs." The serial killer Hannibal Lecter was in good hands with Scott, who pulled out all the stops in his return to the horror suspense genre. Nevertheless, Scott struggled to replicate the massive success of the original Hannibal movie, and the 2001 film is today regarded as one of his minor works.


Bullseye: 'Robin Hood'

Scott took another trip into history with his 2010 action film "Robin Hood," a potent re-imagining of the legendary story of the do-gooder who helps the poor. "Grown-up but not too serious; action-packed but not juvenile…[it's] the Robin Hood movie we’ve been waiting decades for, it's also Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe at their most entertaining since 'Gladiator,'" said one critic.


Well staffed: 'The Counselor'

Ridley Scott belongs to the handful of very powerful Hollywood directors who can freely choose their subjects and actors. So it proved with the A-list cast — Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt — assembled for the British director's 2013 drug thriller "The Counselor." Top stars want to work with Scott. The film received a mixed response, however.

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 

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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."

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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."

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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.

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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

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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.


News stars for a new decade

Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young: Those were the "Blade Runner" stars of 1982. "Blade Runner 2049" features Canadian Ryan Gosling and Cuban Ana de Armas in the leading rolls (pictured above in a spaceship). The new film links back to its predecessor, though it enlivens the story with new elements in hopes of attracting a new generation of movie-goers that is not familiar with the original.


The cult classic from 1982

Surprisingly, "Blade Runner 2049" is even gloomier than its predecessor. Despite its dark setting, the 1982 version also featured noticeably bright colors, such as in the above scene with artificial humans and puppets. The 2017 version is radical in its cool-toned visual construction. Pale yellows, blues and grays dominate, and there are many foggy and nighttime scenes.


The bleak world of 2049

The plot of "Blade Runner 2049" picks up 30 years after the events of its prequel. In the intervening years, the world was struck by atomic catastrophes and nuclear fallout. The viewer once again meets a Blade Runner (Gosling) – an officer who hunts artificial humans known as replicants. And, as in the 1982 film, the same question arises: What is the value of a human? And of a replicant?


Denis Villeneuve in the footsteps of Ridley Scott

The stakes are high when filming a movie sequel some 35 years after the original cult hit that, meanwhile, has earned millions of global fans. But in this instance the gamble paid off. The producers of "Blade Runner 2049" chose well in picking world-renowned French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve to make the film. Ridley Scott, director of the 1982 original, served as an executive producer.


Humans of the future in the Future Museum

The story that "Blade Runner 249" tells is as complex as it is simple. Complex, because the story picks up plot threads from the old film, varying them and developing them further. But also simple, because the new film fundamentally addresses the same questions as in 1982: How do humans deal with artificial intelligence? And how humanely do they interact with replicants?


'Blade Runner 2049': a darker and more dangerous world

In 1982, "Blade Runner" set the standard for artistic design and special effects, primarily through its imaginative vision of a near future set in global super cities. Far less of human life in such cities can be seen in the new film, in part because environmental pollution and nuclear catastrophes have wrapped the earth in an impenetrable fog.


Harrison Ford is back

Harrison Ford was at the pinnacle of his career in 1982. Five years before "Blade Runner," the American actor starred as Han Solo in "Star Wars," and in 1981 he played Indiana Jones in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The producers and director of "Blade Runner 2049" placed a visibly older Ford once more before the camera, giving him a perfectly tailored role that leaves behind a strong impression.


Ryan Gosling on the side of Ford

However, the lead actor of "Blade Runner 2049" is Canadian Ryan Gosling, who is some 40 years younger than Ford. The two have to flee side-by-side more than once in the new film. Gosling most recently showed off his acting chops as a sensitive musician in the worldwide hit "La La Land." He gives a similarly convincing performance in "Blade Runner 2049" through reduced, sparse expressivity.


A successful sequel

Over the past years, many experts and film connoisseurs warned against a "Blade Runner" sequel. Hollywood's attempts at new film installments often ended up as artistic shipwrecks. But the new "Blade Runner" is anything but the typical, heartless sequel spawned by the commercial machinery of Hollywood's biggest studios. It qualifies as a singular artistic cinematic work.