At 85, Ridley Scott is five years older than Martin Scorsese and 16 years older than James Cameron, but in a recent New Yorker profile, the Napoleon director splits the difference between the two. Here and there, Scott acknowledges his own mortality, the way Scorsese repeatedly did during his Killers of the Flower Moon tour. But much of the time Scott seems, in James Cameronesque fashion, way too busy for that—working on three movies at once, running a winery, and generally being the towering head of his own cottage industry. His own children (he has three, all filmmakers, all “partners in the family business”) compare him to Logan Roy from Succession more than once.
The piece is full of both bluster and occasional introspection from the great master, who’ll be releasing his twenty-eighth film with Napoleon. While he seems hotter and busier than ever in the middle of his eighth decade, it’s easy to forget that Scott didn’t direct his first feature until he was 40 (The Duellists, from 1977)–something his son says drives his tirelessness to this day.
“I think he didn’t get to do it early enough,” Jake Scott told the magazine. “He’s watching Spielberg, he’s watching George Lucas, he’s watching all those guys in their twenties and thirties. Beginning in midlife means that he didn’t get to do all those films that he wanted to do.”
It’s also easy to forget that, even as recently as the 1990s, Scott—despite the auteur aura he’d accrued as the man behind Blade Runner and Alien—was on the verge of being forgotten, after a string of bombs like White Squall and G.I. Jane. That was before Gladiator came around in 2000, making almost $500 million, winning Best Picture, and generally reinvigorating his career. He lost the Best Director Oscar to Steven Soderbergh for Traffic though, and doesn’t seemed to have forgotten it.
“I haven’t gotten an Oscar yet,” Scott told the magazine. “And, if I ever get one, I’ll say, ‘About feckin’ time!’”
This is the kind of bluster that profile writers prize. The biggest gold nugget Scott hands writer Michael Schulman in this one is probably Scott’s response to a TV historian who broke down the inaccuracies of the Napoleon trailer in a viral TikTok, pointing out that Napoleon never shot at the pyramids during the Battle of the Pyramids, that Marie-Antoinette did not have long hair at her execution, “and, hey, Napoleon wasn’t there.” Scott’s much-blogged retort? “Get a life.”