Sunday 10 October 2010

Sketches of Ridley Scott's work inform his moviemaking

By Mike Snider, USA TODAY

Directors routinely offer a peek into the filmmaking process on the home video versions of their movies. Ridley Scott opens his sketchbook, too.

For the Blu-ray Disc edition of Robin Hood, in stores now, Scott offered hundreds of storyboards he sketched for the making-of-the-legend tale that stars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett.
The director of Alien and Gladiator has drawn on his sketching talent for decades. A graduate in graphic design from the Royal College of Art in London, Scott began drawing storyboards as a director of commercials. "We'd have so much to do in a day that I had to order my thoughts," Scott said in an interview. "So I'd put things down on paper, which means drawings."

When working on a movie, he says, "I'm always driven everywhere. So I can sit in the back of an SUV and, literally, I'll be scribbling what I want to do that day."

The Director's Notebook, an extra on the Blu-ray edition, plays along with the film. (This edition also includes the unrated director's cut and the theatrical version of the film, as well as copies of the director's cut on DVD and digital download. It also is available in a two-disc $35 DVD with extras and a single $30 DVD.) At various points, the film shrinks to a smaller window and two others open up, one with Scott talking and other footage, and a smaller one that displays Scott's relevant storyboards.

It's not unusual for Scott's storyboard to perfectly match the finished shot. "I can draw really fast. I can do pages in an hour. Fairly good drawings, actually," Scott says. "What is interesting is it kind of helps you think."

His Robin Hood sketches cover the visceral fighting, as well as the spectacle-sized visions of the French invasion. "It's kind of keeping a distance from the canvas," he says. "If you are a painter, you've constantly got to be reminded to step back and take a look from a distance."

Now more than four months removed from the release of Robin Hood, Scott says he would still like to do a sequel. "We realized when we were making it that we are actually not making Robin Hood, we're actually making The Making of Robin Hood or the beginning of the legend," Scott says. "So the next one would be joining him in the forest with his so-called band, which would no longer be children but would be young men and fervently opposed to the oppression that would occur from (King) John and the Sheriff and the crown. You know, the rights of man, the rights of people, that's what Robin always stood for."

Scott is waiting on word from Universal about a sequel, and this film's home video success could be a factor. In its first week in stores, Robin Hood was No.1, according to Rentrak Corp. "It's done pretty good, actually," Scott says of the theatrical release. "We clocked about $300 million. It hasn't opened in Japan yet, so we're probably going to be over $350 (million)."

For now, he's turning his attention to a prequel to Alien, which begins filming in January or February, Scott says.

The events in the prequel occur 30 to 40 years before 1979's Alien. It covers the back story of "why would they invent such a thing as this terrible creature? Who invented it? Who was that? Who was the big guy in the chair who lay there with the burst chest when they entered the big alien craft? Who was the space jockey?"

Adds Scott: "I created the franchise, and I then watched them do what they had to do over the next 20 to 30-some years. I wasn't that happy. I always had this thought if you really wanted to renew the franchise, you could go backwards, and you can actually come up with something pretty interesting."

In doing so, Scott is sure to draw on his various talents.