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With ‘Gucci’ and ‘Last Duel’ already out, Ridley Scott is moving on to his next film

A scene from "House of Gucci" showing Jared Leto, Florence Andrews, Adam Driver, Lady Gaga and Al Pacino talking together.
“House of Gucci” is one of two films Ridley Scott released this season, and he’s about to launch yet another project, “Kitbag,” starring Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte.
(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.)

Despite his old guard status, or perhaps because of it, Ridley Scott is seldom offered studio projects. The recent exception is 2015’s “The Martian,” which earned two Golden Globes and $631 million worldwide. But even success like that failed to move the needle. So, ideas for new projects come from within the walls of RSA Films, the company Scott founded and has run for more than 50 years.

His latest homegrown project, “House of Gucci,” was spurred on by his wife, actor Giannina Facio, who was in Italy when the events portrayed in the film occurred. “She saw this 20 years ago and said, ‘Read this. It’s like Medici or Borgia for the 21st century,’” Scott says, recalling the first time he laid eyes on Sara Gay Forden’s 2000 book of the same name chronicling the tragedy.

That tragedy took place in March of 1995 when Maurizio Gucci, scion of the legendary fashion brand and Italy’s most eligible bachelor, was shot dead on the steps of his Milan office. The gunmen were hired by his ex-wife, Patrizia Reggiani (played by Lady Gaga), a working-class girl who married Gucci (Adam Driver), despite the protests of his father, Rodolfo (Jeremy Irons), but with the approval of his Uncle Aldo (Al Pacino) and cousin Paolo (Jared Leto).

In the film, Patrizia wastes no time asserting herself in the family business, generating enough friction to destroy her marriage and tear the Guccis apart. A tragic operatic figure, she is shameless, incapable of regret and ultimately the architect of her own demise. The Gucci family has repudiated the film, claiming in a statement that it portrays them as “thugs, ignorant and insensitive to the world around them.”

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Gaga, meanwhile, is generating awards buzz for her immersive performance. “Constant exchange, even daily exchange. She’d love to talk about what she was doing,” Scott says of the singer-actress. He has directed seven actors to Oscar nominations, including a win for Russell Crowe. “I’d say, ‘Uh-huh, sounds good to me.’ Sometimes I’d say, ‘Relax, take it easy, don’t worry.’ There was a little hugging. She’s a sweetheart.”

Six actresses at the top of their game -- Penelope Cruz, Kirsten Dunst, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Hudson, Kristen Stewart and Tessa Thompson -- dive into how to get into character, on-set safety and how best to play drunk.

Opposite Gaga is Driver, the yin to her yang, tall, reserved and sober. “When you get someone that good, they’re right for any role,” Scott says of Driver. “Great acting, to me, is intuition. Your intuition is your taste. Al Pacino comes from theater, and he brings that to the table. Adam brings that to the table as well. And because I find theater excruciatingly boring, I kind of learn from them. They learn from me because I’m so fast.”

Scott generally shoots with four cameras, saving the need for coverage. Instead of multiple takes, they usually get it in three or four, often resulting in early wrap times. According to him, “House of Gucci” was shot in 42 days and came in $5 million under its $75 million budget.

Adam Driver and Matt Damon don 14th century armor as they prepare to duel in a scene from “The Last Duel.”
Adam Driver as Jacques Le Gris and Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges prepare to battle in “The Last Duel,” based on a true story.
(Patrick Redmond / 20th Century Studios)

The decision to have his mostly American cast speak in faux Italian accents was a perilous one, but in the end, he feels it worked just fine. “Al comes in with rosebuds dropping from his mouth. He’s brilliant. And we talked about not an Italian accent, but a rhythm. I copied ‘The Godfather’ for a sense of their cadence,” he says. “Then you have Jared Leto, who comes in with a very strong Italian accent, then Lady Gaga, who comes in with a strong Italian accent. So I said, if I’m wrong, we’re going to have one horrendously long ADR session.”

He gave Driver the “Gucci” script while the two were still filming “The Last Duel,” which came out earlier this season and co-stars Matt Damon as Jean de Carrouges and Driver as Jacques Le Gris, onetime friends who duel to the death in 14th century France. Scott has made it a point to overlap projects since his early days when he completed 1977’s “The Duellists” and had to wait a year to do his next film, “Alien.”

“To me, it was a B-movie very well done. I happened to land on maybe the most definitive monster ever,” he recalls of his 1979 sci-fi film. Scott met with Swiss artist H.R. Giger to create the look of the aliens, “and I insisted on working with him. Fox said, ‘It’s obscene.’ And I said, ‘Obscene is good. That’s what we want.’”

This month, Scott will start production on his 28th feature film, “Kitbag,” starring Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte. At 84, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker hasn’t lost a step. Attached to direct another 10 titles, including “Gladiator 2,” he is listed as a producer on dozens of films and TV series, including one based on “Blade Runner” and another based on “Alien.”

If “Alien” was a B-movie done well, so are “Star Wars,” “Jaws” and nearly all of the titles that dominate the modern box office, including the Marvel and DC universes. “The thing wrong with the superhero movie is the scripts are mostly f— stupid. Terrible. It’s a platform for special effects and s— like that,” he says, laughing.

It’s not the first time he has run afoul of millennial tastes. In a recent interview with Marc Maron, he implied the reason “The Last Duel” disappointed at the box office ($29 million on a budget of $100 million) was because millennials are too devoted to their phones.

“The phone is both an incredible device and it’s f— up a generation,” he says. “It’s scary. They only talk about success, not how to get success. There’s a great thing missing, and it’s the learning curve. I don’t care if you’re a sportsman or a carpenter, you’re on a learning curve. Everyone thinks they’re a genius. They’re not.”


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