Ridley Scott had just finished his first film The Duellists when Star Wars came out and changed his entire career trajectory.
George Lucas had very low expectations for Star Wars on its Memorial Day weekend release, 1977. But the word of mouth was already spreading.
That opening weekend, the lives of two future great filmmakers would change forever. The first was James Cameron. The second was English director Ridley Scott, who attended a screening with his producer David Puttnam.
Scott and Puttnam had just flown in from Cannes, where Scott's debut film The Duellists had earned high praise from critics. Scott, after years working in advertising, was suddenly a hot commodity.
He'd already decided on his next film, but when Scott and Puttnam found a seat in the center of the auditorium for Star Wars, and found themselves surrounded by a raucously cheering full house to the opening music, Scott knew something magical was happening.
"I don't know who George Lucas is," Scott reportedly said as the end credits began, "but fuck George Lucas."
To Scott, Star Wars represented a completely new world of filmmaking possibility. He knew the film he had planned to shoot next would have to be scrapped. The future of entertainment had changed, and Scott wanted to be a part of the blockbuster revolution.
Ridley's trip to the cinema is depicted in the fourth episode of BLOCKBUSTER: THE STORY OF JAMES CAMERON — the award-winning "biopic podcast" series, starring The Walking Dead's Ross Marquand, from filmmaker and journalist Matt Schrader.
BLOCKBUSTER is free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and all other platforms. BLOCKBUSTER is winner of Adweek's Creative Podcast of the Year, and earned two Webby Honorees and NYF Radio Awards, including for Best Podcast Miniseries.
Ridley Scott was a changed man leaving the theater that May 1977 evening. Soon after, producers passed along an idea for a science-fiction horror film set in space, and Scott immediately snapped it up. That film, Alien, would revolutionize horror when it came out two years later, in May 1979.
James Cameron and his friend Randy Frakes had seen Star Wars together, and after filming their own short film Xenogenesis in 1978, they went to see Alien in the theater. Scott's film would leave a lasting impression on them both.
Years later, James would helm the sequel, Aliens, and Randy create many of the iconic sounds used in the film — including the ear-curdling shriek of the alien queen.
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