Ridley Scott’s History of Directing Strong Women

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From left: 20th Century Fox / Courtesy of Everett Collection; Warner Bros / Courtesy of Everett Collection; MGM (2); (all Courtesy of Everett Collection), Kerry Brown / 20th Century Fox

The lead in my new film Prometheus was always going to be female, like Sigourney Weaver in the original Alien. Then I came across Noomi Rapace when I was watching The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo about two years ago, and was taken with this little punk in the lead who seemed to own the street.

As a protagonist, she’s a very physical woman who’s almost as agile as an acrobat. She’s also got a real brain in her head. No one’s going to be disappointed. It’s odd because Sigourney is about six feet and Noomi is about 5 feet 5, but you don’t notice the difference onscreen. And she sure does kick some ass in this movie. Her character evolves in a very clever way.

Prometheus originated from a very simple question that haunted me after the first Alien, and no one answered in subsequent Alien films: who was the “Space Jockey”—the big guy in the seat? We didn’t know if it was going to be a sequel or a prequel. I think you might not even argue it’s a prequel because it moves so far away from the original.

The evolution of taking the side of the woman, as far as my career’s concerned, is epitomized by Thelma & Louise. The budget was very slender because nobody wanted to make it. I first came on as producer, and I was selling the notion to four or five male directors that the movie should be an epic about two women on their journey for freedom. One director who turned me down said, “I’ve got a problem with the women,” and I said, “Well you’re meant to, you dope!” So I thought that I should direct it myself.

All the relationships in my life have been with strong women, and I think I get on better with them. My mother was a big part of bringing up three boys, so I accepted that as the status quo. Oddly enough, I find it quite engaging to be working with a female when I’m directing. There are a lot of men who feel they’re being emasculated by having the woman in charge; I’ve never had that problem. The stronger the woman, the better for me.

Now I’m working on a project with Angelina Jolie called Gertrude Bell, which is a period piece about a woman who was partly instrumental in seeing King Faisal to the throne of Iraq. And funnily enough, I started my first meetings on the Blade Runner sequel last week. We’ll definitely be featuring a female protagonist.

As told to Marlow Stern. Prometheus is in theaters June 8.

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