The Quest of Sir Ridley Scott
- Friday, April 29, 2005
In England, he’s known as “Sir,” as in, Sir Ridley Scott – a title that speaks to the knighthood that the English-born Scott received in 2003 for contributions to the arts.
In America, however, he’s considered a cinematic genius – a director whose films populate our cultural landscape as much as they do the Hollywood award scene. In 2000, Scott secured himself a place in history with "Gladiator," which won five Oscars out of a total 12 nominations, including Best Picture. The next year, "Black Hawk Down" depicted the American conflict in Mogadishu, Somalia, earning Scott his third Academy Award nomination – and galvanizing a generation of young soldiers to enlist.
It’s something that even Sir Scott could not have predicted.
Born in Northumberland, England, Scott studied graphic design and painting then graduated with honors from London’s Royal Academy of Art, where he completed his first film. He joined the BBC as a production designer and was soon directing television programs for the network.
Scott eventually directed more than 3,000 commercials, receiving notable awards for his work, then in 1978 made the leap to the big screen with "The Duellists," a Napoleonic War saga which received the coveted Jury Prize at Cannes. But it was Scott’s second film, the cutting-edge science fiction thriller, "Alien" (which earned an Oscar for Visual Effects) that brought Scott to the forefront as a leading director.
He followed up with "Blade Runner," which many consider to be a landmark masterpiece. Other films have included "Legend", "1492: Conquest of Paradise" and "Thelma and Louise," which received five Academy Award Nominations – including Scott’s first as Best Director. With his brother, Scott made "White Squall"; "G.I. Jane" and "Hannibal." He also helped create visual effects for "Shakespeare in Love", "Babe: Pig in the City", "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider."
Now, Scott is tackling another subject – the Crusades – and like many of his projects, this film is both political and filled with men at war with one another, as well as with themselves.
“I’d always wanted to make a movie about knights and medieval times, the Crusades especially,” Scott said, during a recent promotional tour for "Kingdom of Heaven." “Historically, the knight – like the cowboy or the policeman – represents a person on the leading edge of his culture at a particular time. These figures have always given us great opportunities to tell stories that carry the attributes of a hero. And one of the most important is that the character carries with him his own degrees of fairness, faithfulness and chivalry.”
Set between the First and Second Crusades, in 1186, "Kingdom of Heaven" tells the story of Balian (Orlando Bloom), a young blacksmith who has just lost his wife and child – and with them, his faith. Although Balian has little interest in the religious wars raging in the faraway Holy Land, they are brought close to him with the arrival of a group of knights in Balian’s village. Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), a renowned Crusader and friend of King Baldwin IV, announces that he is Balian’s father and invites his son to join him in Jerusalem.
“He doesn’t offer him land,” said Bloom. “He doesn’t offer him money. He offers him family. He offers him the chance to be his son, working for him in the Holy Land.”
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