On an overcast Los Angeles morning, Sir Ridley Scott is sitting in a second-floor suite at the Four Seasons Hotel as a doctor examines his knee. Once the physician snaps his valise closed and exits, Scott explains that he recently underwent arthroscopic surgery. “I’ve got a terrible knee from too much tennis,” he says. “I’ve had bone on bone for the last 10 years.” Three decades of living in Bel-Air might have softened his hardscrabble English accent, but Scott’s British upper lip remains stiff; he continues to play nearly every day. “It hurts a bit. You take ibuprofen,” he says. “You’ve got to have a ball to pursue. You must.”
After directing 18 movies over the past 30 years, Scott has reached an age when cartilage crumbles and what is left to be done can sometimes obscure what has already been accomplished. Though his credits include the genre-redefining hits Gladiator, Thelma & Louise and Blade Runner, his colleagues have yet to anoint him with an Academy Award; Scott has not entered the pantheon of directors who merit their own video store section. So he keeps making movies. His latest, the star-studded crime saga American Gangster, hits theaters in November, and he’s already at work on his next two.
But even as he moves forward, Scott thinks about his legacy. He begins to muse, “As you get closer to my age—” but that word stops him cold. His age, he continues with a stern look, “you will not publish, because this business is about that. It pisses me off. And I can still kick the butt of most.”
So a compromise is offered: How about saying that five years ago a magazine profile said he was 64? “Yeah, that’s good,” he says. “Go backward.”