While Ridley Scott was on hand at the Toronto International Film Festival to present his newest movie, The Martian, the legendary filmmaker sat down with Deadline for an extensive interview that was chock-full of fascinating details.
But what particularly drew my eye as I read through the piece was Scott saying how a little movie set in a galaxy far, far away was responsible for ultimately giving birth to his first cinematic masterpiece, Alien.
The Blade Runner director told Deadline how Star Wars was seminal for him, praising George Lucas' movie and saying it was “so creatively brilliant that he [Lucas] decided to make it the flip side of the coin to 2001, and it certainly became the flip side of Alien which I would do two years later. George made a fairy tale story, with a princess, the young prince, and the cynical Harrison Ford playing Han Solo. To me, it was an absolutely perfect rendition of a great comic serial.”
But that's not all. Ridley Scott also went on to describe how seeing George Lucas’ movie made him decide to helm Alien, and it all started in a movie theater.
“I was in LA to show The Duellists and David said, there’s a film called Star Wars at the Chinese. I can get two tickets, do you want to go? I think you should go. We went to an afternoon performance at 2:00, I was eight rows from the front with David Putnam. I never saw or felt audience participation like that, in my life. The theater was shaking. When that Death Star came in at the beginning, I thought, I can’t possibly do Tristan and Isolde, I have to find something else. By the time the movie was finished, it was so stunning that it made me miserable. That’s the highest compliment I can give it; I was miserable for week. I hadn’t met George at that point, but I thought, F*** George. Then, somebody sent me this script called Alien. I said, wow. I’ll do it. I was the fifth choice. They’d been to people like Robert Altman. How could you offer Robert that movie? He’d be like, this thing comes out of his chest, are you kidding? But I knew what to do. I read it and said, I’ll do it! I’d been in Hollywood 22 hours. They said, ‘do you want to change anything?’ Nope. ‘Do you…?’ Nope. I love it. I love it. I’m in.”
Star Wars wasn’t the only sci-fi film responsible for Ridley Scott’s Alien. Another seminal work in the history of cinema, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, also influenced the movie that literally put Scott on the map as a filmmaker.
“Thanks to Star Wars, and to Stanley Kubrick for the way he influenced George and definitely influenced me, with 2001. The design on 2001…that’s the threshold for everything being real. You look at 2001 and you look at Star Wars. Stanley’s design influenced everybody. I’ve never shaken it off; it influenced me even with Prometheus. Stanley really got it right. Stanley was like the Big Daddy, so I never got jealous of him. I watched his 18th Century film Barry Lyndon when I was about to do The Duellists and I’d go, wow Stanley, you did all that in one shot. Hmm. Stanley was like the godfather. There’s a certain level of director where we all feed off each other. It’s like a painter who looks at the work of a peer and goes, damn. The influences can come even from brand new work, because I look at everything. Everything. Most of it is not so good.”
Are you guys surprised to learn how Star Wars, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, were responsible for Ridley Scott’s Alien?