Sir Ridley Scott, the knighted visionary who brought such monumental sci-fi classics as Alien and Blade Runner to the silver screen, turns 80 today, and we at SYFY WIRE want to be among the first to wish this octogenarian the happiest of birthdays.
Few filmmakers who ever passed through Hollywood's hallowed pearly gates have made such an impact on the medium. His sense of camera placement, instinctive compositions, and unrivaled work ethic have entrenched him in cinematic immortality.
To celebrate the prolific Englishman's 80th birthday, let's summon the sinister swamp witch, Meg Mucklebones, from his lush 1985 fantasy saga, Legend.
Few of Scott's films are subjected to the same polarizing scrutiny as Legend, with its major casting misstep of Tom Cruise in a skirt, but no one can deny its rich visual splendor, stunning makeup effects by Rob Bottin (The Howling, The Thing), and lyrical Tangerine Dream score.
Shot by British cinematographer Alex Thomson, the same masterful lensman who filmed John Boorman's Arthurian epic, Excalibur, this '80s entry in Scott's resume is an exquisite example of style over substance, but wow do we ever love looking at it.
One of the most intricate and spectacular practical effects creations of Bottin and his team is the slimy green hag, Meg Mucklebones, who finds Cruise's handsome Jack o' the Green to be a "fine, fat boy." Jack's smooth sweet-talking takes advantage of the deadly dame's vanity and allows him to end her reign in the murky bayou.
Actor Robert Picardo, the man who transformed into the ferocious werewolf in Joe Dante's The Howling and played The Cowboy in the same director's Innerspace, was the performer inside the monster's pounds of prosthetic latex.
Looking for actors to play some of the fantastical creatures, Ridley Scott screened The Rocky Horror Picture Show and was originally eyeing Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff) to play Meg and spied Tim Curry's Dr. Frank-N-Furter, ultimately casting him as Legend's mega-horned demon, the Lord of Darkness. Picardo, fresh off his work in Dante's Explorers and Bottin's go-to guy, was hired to bring the cackling crone to life.
Here's what Picardo recalls about the job in an interview with AV Club:
"Legend was an opportunity to work with Ridley Scott, who’s obviously a genius. Tom Cruise was very young then, so he didn’t have very many credits to his name. I don’t think anyone knew he was going to go on to be a major star and Hollywood force for the next 27 years after that film, and still going strong.
But it was a chance to go to England and work with a brilliant director in what had every hope of being a classic fantasy movie of The Wizard of Oz category. I still think Legend is very underappreciated. I think it’s the most amazing makeup of any of the ones I was in, and it was cool to do. So I’m happy that I did it. That was also a little grueling to do, it was a little dangerous to do, in the water and being on the little hydraulic trap door and all that.
There were some safety considerations; when I pointed some of them out during rehearsal, they elected not to have me submerge my head under water, which I think was a very wise choice. I’m not sure, if I were willing to try, whether they would have let me or not. But ultimately I survived it, and I think the movie is pretty cool.
So beware of what lurks in the wickedness of the wild, fairytale wetlands, and wish Ridley Scott happy birthday with a juicy kiss from dear old musty Meg!