Ridley Scott turns 85: Why the Academy should give him an honorary Oscar

Ridley Scott is one of Hollywood’s undeniable masters of science fiction, possessing an unadulterated visual flair that permeates every movie he leads. The British director has been bringing his vision to our movie screens for more than 50 years. After Australian director Peter Weir received an honorary Academy Award earlier this month, Scott celebrated his 85th birthday and will undoubtedly be next on the Academy’s list for a statuette at next year’s Governors Awards.

Scott’s dances with the Academy brought him to four ceremonies as a candidate. For Best Director, he earned credits for “Thelma & Louise” (1991), “Gladiator” (2000), and “Black Hawk Down” (2001), while also scoring one for Best Picture as producer for “The Martian” (2015). He never won in any ceremony.

But that’s not all that makes him worthy of the honour. Scott’s 31 films as a director have grossed over $1.7 billion domestically, which puts him in the top 20 of all-time directors. Worldwide, his films have grossed over $4.3 billion, making him the 11th highest earner.

Although he’s been known to divide critics and audiences with films like his (still not sure if it’s really a prequel to “Alien”?) “Prometheus” (2012) or Lady Gaga starring “House of Gucci” (2021), he has always been born His movies talks. Not to mention his most cherished features, which include the sci-fi horror epic “Alien” (1979), or what he has long called his most personal film, “Blade Runner” (1982).

There are also a few underrated gems that aren’t talked about in film circles including the black comedy Matchstick Men (2003), helmed by Nicolas Cage in one of the finest performances of his career.

“All the money in the world”
© TriStar Pictures / Courtesy Everett Colle / Everett Collection

When he’s working with some of his “regulars” like Academy Award winner Russell Crowe (“The Wrestler”), you don’t see the Australian actor doing the same thing on every outing. Although “A Good Year” (2006) and “Robin Hood” (2010) fell short, his way with the actors and directing them to their motives has been impressive to watch in many of his films. But when he succeeds, as with Crowe in American Gangster (2007), he’s able to soften the actor’s approach for a film grounded in masculinity in the age of crime it explores.

When I look at some of the most memorable performances in Scott’s films, I tend to gravitate towards the energetic, spirited, and strong-willed Thelma Dickinson in the Oscar-nominated “Thelma and Louise.” Surprisingly, Ben Affleck’s turn as Count Pierre d’Alençon in “The Last Duel” (2021) isn’t far behind, a performance that shows just how energetic the actor can be when put in the right hands.

“Alien Covenant”
20th Century Fox Licensing/Merchandising/The Everett Collection

Some authors, like David Fincher, agree with their aesthetics, regardless of genre or story, while someone like Terrence Malick explores variations on static themes of morality and religion. Meanwhile, Scott talks minute-by-minute about the crafts on display, casting a wide web of themes and styles over the course of his long career.

One of Scott’s other films that gets better at watching the director’s cut is the historical epic Kingdom of Heaven (2005), which shines with gorgeous costumes and amazing music by frequent collaborators Janty Yates and Harry Gregson-Williams. And his voice team has remained unparalleled when putting the finishing touches on any story he tells.

Scott did not mention that he spends his time at the movies. Next year, he’s heading up Apple Original Films’ “Napoleon” (titled “Kitbag”) with Academy Award winner Joaquin Phoenix. The film is a personal look at the origins of Napoleon Bonaparte and his grueling climb to become Emperor.

He’s also attached to various projects as a producer, including Kristen Stewart’s directorial debut “The Chronology of Water,” Matt Ruskin’s thriller “Boston Strangler” with Keira Knightley and Carrie Coon, and “Berlin Nobody” starring Sadie Sink and directed by his daughter Jordan Scott.

More Scott is always welcome.

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