By Gill Pringle

“It’s a great thing to have access to,” says Luke Scott – the son of top-tier director, Ridley Scott, and the nephew of late action maestro, Tony Scott – of his instantly intimidating family name. “Of course it opens doors. I’m at a point in my career and life where I know what I’m doing. If anyone’s got a problem with it, then I’m sorry. There’s not a lot that I can do about it. I would not take pleasure in abusing it; it’s something to be respected and cherished and taken care of. It’s been an enormous boon and help to me.”

Luke Scott, has, in fact, treated that family name very, very well, delivering an impressive debut feature film after working on shorts and TV. He’s even showed that ballsiness obviously runs in the family by sliding into the genre that his father helped to pioneer with modern classics like Alien and Blade Runner. Morgan is a chilling, deep-thinking sci-fi thriller about the costs that come with scientific advancement, as the eponymous artificially created humanoid being (played with ethereal iciness by The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy) starts to evolve in threatening, unpredictable ways, leading to a crisis of conscience for Kate Mara’s corporate trouble shooter, who is tasked with deciding what to do with her. A canny, cool meld of Blade Runner, Splice, and Ex Machina, Morgan is quietly mind-blowing, and suggests a burgeoning big screen talent of exciting proportions.

Luke Scott on set
Luke Scott on set

So, just what did Luke’s dad (who also produced the film under the auspices of his production company, Scott Free) say when he saw Morgan? The director smiles. “He said, ‘Good job, son. I’m very proud of you. Now what’s your next job?’” This kind of response comes as no surprise given Ridley Scott’s famous terseness. As Luke tells it, Ridley Scott is more a “man of action” than one of words, and the award-winning filmmaker has always impressed upon his children the importance of hard work. “Ridley was tough but very fair as a dad,” Luke Scott says. “He always instilled in all of us that you’ve got to work hard to be able to do this. He insisted that we worked as PAs and make tea, because making tea isn’t such a menial task…making the best cup of tea is all about the detail and its presentation. It also teaches you, to a certain extent, humility. You’ve got to keep grounded. Those were good lessons: you better be careful that you make the best fucking cup of tea or else you’ll be in deep shit. I love a [British tea brand] PG Tips, although I must confess that I’m more of a coffee drinker,” laughs the London-based Scott, who has also lived for extended periods in LA and New York.

But if you’re thinking that Ridley Scott has been the greatest, most over-arching influence on Luke Scott as a filmmaker, you’d be wrong. After working as an assistant on film sets through his teens (“It was a great education”) and then attending film school, the aspiring director got a job working under production designer, Norris Spencer, who had worked on his father’s films, Black Rain and Thelma & Louise. “In some respects, he was the individual who taught me the most about filmmaking,” says Luke Scott. “I was his assistant, and then eventually he awarded me the position of one of his art directors on a movie that my dad made called 1492. On that film [which starred Gerard Depardieu as Christopher Columbus], he allowed me to help design and build some of the sets, which was great. Then I worked closely with Norris making TV commercials on many of his commercials. Norris was very much a motivator, and a very kind man, whereas my dad was my dad. My dad has and always had a tremendous energy and a very, very big ego. Norris and I had a very close friendship which you wouldn’t be able to have with my father.”

A scene from Morgan
A scene from Morgan

Was Luke Scott influenced at all by his late uncle, Tony Scott, who helmed action belters like Top Gun, True Romance, and The Last Boy Scout? “It was more about his personality,” he replies of his uncle, a noted whirling dervish who tragically took his own life in 2012. “He made some of the greatest action movies of all time, like Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop 2. His films are a fantastic, visceral experience, and have such great energy. I really admire his pursuit of that to create really powerful, exciting films through romance. Wonderful. He was fun, and he didn’t ever really take it too seriously. He made these wonderful energetic and visceral films which were great entertainment which you totally engaged with. I went and watched [Tony Scott’s 1983 vampire film] The Hunger being made, and some of that came into Morgan in one of the film’s fight sequences.”

One thing that Luke Scott has in common with both men is a knack for casting, with young actress, Anya Taylor-Joy, making an enormous impact as the ethereal Morgan. “Anya was my last choice and my only choice,” the director says. “I’d seen a lot of fantastic actresses for that role. I’d seen about eight or nine, and they were all good, and they all has a lot of potential. But Anya is other-worldly in her personality, and that really comes through. She has this energy which is really enchanting. She has this wonderful vulnerability, but also this wonderful dark shadow that lurks around her which was great. I was convinced, and then I met her and I was sold. When I met her, it really became apparent to me that she was special, and that she was also supremely intelligent. She has a very unique personality, and she’s a really great fit for this role.”

Anya Taylor-Joy in Morgan
Anya Taylor-Joy in Morgan

Scott stuck close to home with his casting of Morgan’s opposite number – the quick-thinking troubleshooter, Lee Weathers – by settling on Kate Mara, who had appeared in his father’s hot film, The Martian. “I loved her from Transsiberian,” Scott says. “She’s inscrutable in her personality. She’s a smart, tough cookie with laser-like focus.”

Both actresses are absolutely terrific in the film, with Luke Scott continuing his father’s trend of making films anchored by great female roles. Ridley Scott has done it time and time again (on everything from Thelma & Louise and Someone To Watch Over Me through to G.I. Jane and Prometheus), but his most famous front-and-centre female remains, of course, Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ridley from Alien. And Luke Scott was there to watch it all happen, which led him to where he is today. “It was a new way of looking at science fiction and alien life-forms,” the director says. “It was a very new kind of vision, and so for me as a nine-year-old kid, sitting there looking at this 7-foot guy dressed in a big rubber suit, looking like a total demon, it was quite remarkable.”

Morgan is released in cinemas on November 17.

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  • Michael Paul Goldenberg
    Michael Paul Goldenberg
    17 November 2016 at 10:46 pm

    Or as the rest of the world knows her, Ellen Ripley. Believe it or not.

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