Luke Scott has stepped out of his dad Ridley’s shadow and has set his first feature in Ireland, writes Esther McCarthy
GETTING your first film made and unveiling it to the world is a daunting prospect for any young filmmaker. Imagine, then, doing so when your father is one of the most revered directors in cinema, the man who brought Blade Runner and Alien to the big screen.
Luke Scott is well aware he will face comparison as a movie-maker to his father, Ridley, but what is impressive about his first film, Morgan, is how quickly he has found his own voice.
Yet rather than feeling the need to step away from his father’s influence, he says he’s delighted to take whatever advice Ridley gives. “It’s not easy making a movie or getting a movie made. It’s a really difficult process. I’ve learned from my father. I’ve watched him, I’ve worked for him. I’ve worked on some of his movies as a second unit director and for me that’s an education,” he said.
Ridley worked as an executive producer on his son’s first feature and Luke was happy to have his father’s counsel. “Oh gosh, I can talk about that on two levels. He saw it twice, first as a rough cut and then as a final. The first time we showed him he gave his thoughts, his opinion, which is always well taken and sage advice.
“A lot of that was to do with structure and story, essentially making things much more efficient and fluid. I think when you get close to a project, you can hold on to your babies too long, so to speak, and he was very helpful in cutting away some things.
“Then, when we showed him a finished version, he became less an executive producer and more my father, and it was an emotional moment which made my throat swell a little bit. It was a father and son moment shared between he and I.”
Working with and for his father, says Luke Scott, has not only given him an education, but some great experiences, not least working as an assistant director on last year’s The Martian, which received several Oscar nominations.
“Oh gosh, it was a real hot house. I did a lot of the technical shooting against green screen. I did a lot of explosions. You have fantastic access to certain kinds of tools, fantastic access to certain kinds of minds. It’s a remarkable opportunity to practice that kind of film, to become familiar with it.
“It was great fun, the sets were absolutely fantastic. There was one set which was a giant Martian landscape which they build on a giant stage in Hungary, which was a Martian living habitat. It was an incredible educational exercise, because you’re working with some of the greatest actors and artists, really.
A taut, well-executed sci-fi thriller, Morgan marks an impressive debut from the British filmmaker. It tells the story of an artificially created human (Anya Taylor-Joy) whose future hangs in the balance following a violent incident. Kate Mara is the sharp-suited troubleshooter sent to investigate, and the movie also stars Paul Giamatti and Toby Jones.
Though it’s set in an unspecified location assumed to be the US, most of the film was actually made in Northern Ireland. Working with the Irish crew was, says Scott, a positive experience. “It’d be fair to say that I really beat them up and they kept coming back for more. There was a very good working relationship, they’re very happy to work hard, which is great. And good food.
“The film crew available in Ireland were world class because of their experience with Game of Thrones, those kinds of projects. They were, if you like, battle hardened. Also I was looking for a unique type of landscape, forestry, of which there are some good ones in Northern Ireland, which could double for north-eastern United States. We built a set there and we filmed in various locations in and around Belfast.
“We were very, in a sense, restricted by what we could and couldn’t show. Even a road in Northern Ireland clearly isn’t a road in upstate New York. We did end up going to Vancouver to shoot some of the opening sequences. It needed that giant scale of forestry. But all the action sequences were shot in Northern Ireland.”
The movie features two strong female roles and several supporting ones, and Scott is very much tuned in to the current debate about the lack of such roles for women in mainstream cinema.
“I really am, but not in a self-conscious type of way,” he reflected.
“I don’t think Morgan is a female movie; it’s a movie with very strong female characters. I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and say it’s a feminist movie, because I don’t think it is.
“It’s in a sense what it should be, a film with two female characters who are the leads and they are very strong. That for me wasn’t really a question. Having said that I’m very conscious of it [the debate]. I love diversity, it’s the world that we live in. We need more of everybody being everything. But again I wouldn’t like to categorise anything as a female movie — I think that could be an issue, almost a self-conscious kind of approach. The character happens to be a woman.”
Scott, who made an impression with his short film, Loom, had been looking for his first feature for some time. On reading Seth W Owen’s screenplay, he was sold on a “terrific, pivotal scene” that takes place in the film. And after seeing the acclaimed horror The Witch, he cast model and actress Anya Taylor-Joy — currently the new go-to young star in Hollywood — as the film’s title character.
“She had never done anything before [The Witch] but what an achievement — what a debut for her. She seemed to have all the characteristics that I thought Morgan should have — incredible vulnerability, a real sense of danger and threat. Anya is very good at doing a few different things simultaneously. It’s no mean feat to be able to do that. She plays Morgan in that way — very vulnerable but you’d better be careful. She has an incredible refinement, and a very interesting look about her. All good things for me.”
Several other projects, says Scott, are already in the planning stages. He’s currently scripting and will direct The Hunger, the take of an expedition group known as The Donner Party, who became trapped in deep snow in the Rockies in 1840s America. “It’s a dark story about how 80 people get caught by the winter against the mountains.”
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