Ridley Scott / Jerry Bruckheimer - Black Hawk Down Interview
by Phillip Duncan
Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Hannibal, Legend) and Producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, The Rock) had a theatrical hit on their hands last year with their war documentary/film Black Hawk Down. The film will be released to DVD on June 11 and both contributed to the DVD in various ways. DVDTalk staff writer Phillip Duncan and other online and print sources were able to attend a press conference with the two filmmakers regarding the upcoming DVD release.
Both filmmakers seemingly support the format wholeheartedly with the numerous special editions of their films and the extra material they provide on these releases. This conference confirmed that opinion and questioned the filmmakers on their favorite films, DVDs, and recent world events.
Magazine: How important is the DVD release to you as a director and a producer?
I think there was a lot of word of mouth gathered about the film, but I think certain audiences were still nervous about going to see it. I think the DVD gives you the second wave and second opportunity for audiences who normally wouldn't want to go in for various reasons will probably now venture into their living room and take a look at it, and of course I think they should.
Secondly, purely from an artistic point of view it's a way of maintaining the integrity of the movie as it was seen in the show prints and large release prints. DVD is a path I can do, once again, to maintain all the qualities in both picture and sound so they are getting a very high quality shot in their homes. Which is about as close a thing as you're going to get going to see it in a prime time cinema. Listen to the reply...
I think it's another way to enjoy the movie you can have in your own living
room. You can study parts of the movie, you can rewind them, and you can listen
to the filmmakers talk about what they did. It's a great teaching tool for kids
to see how the film was made, to see how we did it. It also gives you another
sense of history, it fills in some of the blanks that a 2-hour move can't give
you because you talk to the author of the book and you talk to some of the soldiers.
So, I think it gives you a real background in the making of the movie.
Will there be another version of the movie on the DVD or will it be the same?
Magazine: If you could return to any of your earlier films, which ones would
you like to with DVDs and what would you like to do with them on the format?
RS: I'm actually going back through all the films now for reprint and remix and I've actually got as far back as the first film. The Duelist is actually being digitally remixed and we revisited the original negative and it was all like yesterday. Listen to the reply...
Review Magazine: I understand you're working on Blade Runner as well, is that
Magazine: Can you tell us what both of you have contributed to the Black Hawk
RS: The film making process is, as you can imagine, a day-by-day, minute-by-minute, sometimes second-by-second procedure; albeit, certainly in initial stages of pre-production planning it's always one of the most interesting areas to get into from a DVD viewer to get into the minds of the film producer / director teams that put these films together and follow them down the roads of logic, problems, cause and effect, what they have to do, what they've got to cut out on a daily basis to maintain a budget, let alone the creative processes. You're suddenly seeing, getting in the backdoor, and staring over the shoulders of the people making this material, which becomes very educational. Listen to the reply...
Vision Magazine: David Putnam, who produced the Duelist, said in the early 80's,
in the future films would be released in cinemas still, but mainly as a showcase
for advanced publicity of the video release. Do you believe we've arrived at
RS: Putnam was saying that at a time where it certainly looked like it was all going in that direction. I think also at that time, certainly in the European territories, which were less significant than they are today in terms of cinema grosses, going hand in hand with that you've got to acknowledge and look at the cinema condition of the exhibiting auditoriums changes in the last 25 years. They've simply gotten better, more comfortable. Certainly in the UK, I know the exhibition houses have changed dramatically in 20 years because the exhibitors finally got it. You've got to make the idea of going out to the cinema the same as the idea of going out to the theater and therefore it's go to be a teeny-weeny of an event. I think that's what they done and it's certainly showed that in terms of the box-office which is now probably in world terms, 60 percent foreign against 40 percent US. Listen to the reply...
Vision: The second part of the question was do you believe a film like Black
Hawk Down, whose sound was so important to the intensity of the experience could
actually work better in a good home theater environment where you have the perfect
seat in the house compare with cinema.
RS: You can actually, if you have a teeny bit of knowledge, you can apply to extending what little bit, half reasonable pair of speakers or four speakers and a digital projector you can have a cinema inside of your house which will you give an average room a 6 foot by 8 foot screen. I've witness these things and I was stunned at the quality for an expenditure that to the normal pocket's a lot, but a lot of people can afford to put down a couple of grand to have a cinema in their living room and all you need is a big white wall, you don't need a screen that pulls down or anything like that and you have an 8 foot screen. I was amazed at the quality. It was almost as good as the smaller theaters in Westwood. Listen to the reply...
Mr. Bruckheimer, your producing style has been described as a patriotic or Americana
style and Mr. Scott's films lean toward a documentary of foreign style. Considering
this was an American story, do you think your styles clashed or complemented
RS: What you do when you get the script to where you need to have it, everything acknowledges that blueprint. The blueprint will dictate what you are doing. Technique, of course, comes into play. The route we took this down was to go at the more uncompromising, almost documentary fashion as if you're literally putting an audience member as part of Chalk Four, Chalk Five or Chalk Six. You get to put on a helmet and carry a rifle if you watch this one. Listen to the reply...
As a director, which style do you prefer, the reality based, documentary style
or fantasy and science fiction?
What DVD is in your player right now?
RS: Currently, right now, I was watching Billy Liar last night, John Schlesinger DVD. That's interesting, because I can now review history and I'm still sitting here talking to guys who really ought to know better, gals who ought to know better. I was sitting with a director the other day at the DGA, who was 32, and I'm talking to him about films and he started to look blank. I'm not talking about Eisenstein; I'm talking about films since '59. So I sat and I said get your pen out and get a piece of paper, write these 12 movies down and you won't leave a DVD player all next weekend. That's what it does. Instead of looking at some creaky old print in some gloomy little theater stuck somewhere, which is the only place it'll ever play; you can watch Billy Liar in its absolute form that it should be watched. You'll find it as entertaining today as it was then. Listen to the reply...
So you watch the commentaries as well?
Taylor: In expanding on that last question about style, I was wondering if you
two could talk about the sense of responsibility you had in telling this story
faithfully since it was based on a true incident.
We tried to stay as close as possible and, in fact, we hired advisors who were actually there, Mark Bowden being one of them, who wrote the initial screenplay and was in Morocco part of the time with us. We hired Lee Van Arsdale, who was the commander of the Delta Force, and actually walked in front of the tanks to get his own men out. We also had Tom Matthews, who's the head air operations and was in the air for 18 hours during the battle. They were with Ridley all of the time during the filming to make sure he was as close to getting accurate as he possibly could in a recreation. Listen to the reply...
RS: I think what it does to the filmmaking community here, because I've had more surprising reactions from fellow producers and directors, who've called up--and that never happens. Basically what we did was rattle the cage. Which is fundamentally saying you don't necessarily have to take the safety factor about reconstructing history at a safe distance of 30 years, 100 years ago.
Actually, while we're looking at the news today, and actually making, cause God knows what's going on in the world today is as interesting as it ever has been, and I think we should be looking at material that is far more recent. Because the audience for cinema is a captive audience and therefore the more instructional, or the more opinionated we can be, in a good way (and for mainstream movies, not documentaries necessarily), and I think that's what we did. We put out there what's essentially a big, mainstream movie--and we must acknowledge Joe Roth and Sony for going down that route because they knew exactly what it was going to be. This was not going to be a film that has a love story and conventions of a drama. It was, in a sense, a film that would take on the form of a documentary. Listen to the reply...
Do you think having all of these DVDs available and being able to learn from
everyone else's techniques advances cinema more quickly or does it lead to everyone
pinching the same techniques, rather than looking for more innovative or fresh
ways of getting what they want on film?
JB: It works both ways. The director's who want to be innovative use the DVD as a tool to see what people have done in the past and you have other people who will actually take from better directors and that makes them better directors. So, I think it works both ways. Listen to the reply...
What film, if there is one specifically, that made you want to become filmmakers?
RS: Because I was a kid from north of England, the only films I had access to was not alternative cinema, which in those days would be foreign cinema, I would be looking at all the Hollywood movies that arrived at my High Street. The ones that were most impressive were to me, always the Western. I was absolutely embedded in the notion of being in that world. The ones that tend to hold their head high above anything else always tend to be this guy called John Ford. At quite an early age I started to notice the difference, although I never analyzed it. I was a big fan of his. Listen to the reply...
Ridley Scott had mentioned earlier John Schlesinger's work on commentaries,
which is extraordinary, and I wondered do you think there is an increasing sense
of competition among producers, directors, and your peers to create DVDs that
take a step ahead and try to make something that's better. Is it a new competition
medium, as well as performance medium?
RS: I agree with Jerry about the quality. Once you go down any route, whatever it is, DVD is certainly this very valuable outlet that has been discovered and realized over the last few years, you may as well make it as interesting as possible. It's really become the alternative to, unfortunately, picking up a book. I would really like to think that kids do pick up books still. I think they tend to go up to the shelf and slide out the DVD. I think, in a way, I used to believe that was the lazy route, but now not, I think it's two alternatives. In fact, if you see a great DVD about a film or story it might promote you to go and find the book and pick up the book. Listen to the reply...
Magazine: Mr. Scott, you mentioned earlier about world events and things that
were going on in the world right now, in retrospect, do you think the events
that happened on 9/11 had any kind of effect on the release of the film and
are there any other subjects going in the world right now you like to explore
in a film?
Where does film start to run parallel to journalism, because last night (May 16) you have a huge discussion with this new revelation that the government knew and that someone dropped the ball heavily in the FBI. Where was the ball dropped on some critical information where they were told in August that this was afoot, there were pilots being trained and who the hell actually would not take that seriously! I cannot believe that any president, whoever he is, from whatever side or faction, would not take that kind of information as very serious indeed and not simply follow through. Somebody in the program was talking about the FBI needing an update on technology, and I thought holy shit, I thought they were right up to speed. What's the matter with picking up the goddamn telephone and saying to somebody, did you read this, this morning. Right there, to me, is a film. How close do you start, life is always far, far stranger than fiction. Listen to the reply...
Magazine: Are you working on anything now?