The Last Duel: Ridley Scott, a French passion

From obsessed with the sword under Napoleon to those of the Last Duel: an account of the French love story from the director of Alien and Blade Runner.

For his new event film, The Last Duel (currently in the cinema), Ridley Scott came to put his cameras in France, near Sarlat, to tell an intense historical episode of the Middle Ages. An essential part of the career and life of the director who shot his very first film there (The Duelists) and owns a house in Vaucluse. A look back at Sir Ridley’s French passion, which marked the highlights of his rich filmography.

The Duelists (1977)

From his first feature, Sir Ridley plunges into the history of France. But not just any old way: by adapting a short story by Conrad which tells of the endlessly repeated duel to the death between two officers of the Grand Army, in the bloody shadow of the Napoleonic battles. If exteriors are shot in Scotland, Scott poses for the first time his camera in France, around Sarlat, in the Dordogne, where he will return in 2020 to shoot The last Duel. Despite the reduced budget, the logistical difficulties “One of the best shoots of my life”, the filmmaker remembered in the pages of Première Classics in 2019. The film also contains the favorite shot of his entire career: the one where Harvey Keitel towers over a river from the top of a hill as the sun pierces the clouds.

1492: Christopher Columbus (1992)

Scott runs Depardieu. That would be enough to sell a film: the actor had just gathered 4.7 million spectators in theaters for Cyrano de Bergerac which won him the Caesar. In Christopher Columbus, he attracted 3 million. That year, Europe celebrated the “discovery” of the Americas by the navigator in 1492. Aware of the presence of quotes in the word “discovery”, Scott respects the specifications of his large budget order by delivering an epic fresco , spectacular at will, but which deconstructs the “discovery” of the New World by telling it rather as a violent colonial conquest. And Scott conquers Depardieu, a French national treasure, and gives him the lead role in a series of Barilla pasta ads, directed by Ridley and a certain David Lynch.

The Qu adezac (1995)

It’s a fact: Before becoming a film director, Sir Ridley was a pubic. The ultimate pubard, in real life, who forged his art of ultimate filming efficiency by wrapping TV spots in the ’70s and’ 80s on anything and everything. If his masterpiece is the famous Macintosh pub of 1984, his cultural card is the pub for Auvergne sparkling water and authentic Quézac. It was in 1995. “The legend of Quézac” lasts thirty seconds, and sells the bubble fleet like the ancestral tale of miraculous brandy. 25 years after its broadcast, “et qué s’apelorio Quézac” is now used (admittedly, rather by the Elders) on the Internets in the same way as memes of The Office. Fun fact: in 2017, Nestlé, owner of the brand, ordered a sequel to the ad with the little girl (Emilie Delaunay) who became a mother and who passes on the legend of water to her daughter. But Ridley Scott didn’t realize it – bad tongues would say he should have done it instead of shooting sequels.Alien.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

The great film on the Crusades may well overflow with French characters in all directions, hardly any French actor on the horizon. Many Englishmen (Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons…), a New Zealander (Marton Czokas)… Fortunately, Eva Green saves the honor by playing Sybille, the sister of the leper king Baudoin VI (Edward Norton ), and a true heroine of Kingdom of Heaven -especially in his director’s cut. The film was not shot in France at all: everything was filmed, including its winter and French prologue, between Spain and Morocco.

A great year (2006)

Adapting one of his pal Peter Mayle’s pseudo-autobiographical bestsellers, Ridley Scott turns Russell Crowe into a London trader inheriting his childhood home in Provence. Hold on: in 1992, Ridley Scott bought a property in Oppède, in the Vaucluse, where he grew his vines and spent his best life there: “Tennis, sport, drink, sex and good health”, that’s my idea of Provence! “he summed up last July on the Terredevins.com site. Joking aside, A great year was, unlike Kingdom of Heaven, indeed filmed in France, on site. With two other national treasures from France to the credits: Marion Cotillard (one year before The kid) and Didier Bourdon.

The Last Duel (2021)

Two warriors clash to the death to know if the wife of one has been raped by the other … If all the action of the Latest duel Duel (with the exception of a brief military expedition to Scotland) takes place between Normandy and Paris at the end of the 14th century, Ridley Scott takes the opportunity to find the Dordogne and its old stones: the shooting took place in Montpasier, at the castles of Fénelon and Beynac, and at the Abbey of Fontfroide, while the team was staying in Sarlat. Either, if you have followed correctly, one of the filming locations of Duelists, almost forty years ago. For Scott, it is therefore a homecoming. And not those of Quézac.

Discover The Last Duel, with Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, currently in theaters.

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