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In space, no one can hear you scream — unless you’re a murderous android banshee, in which case your scream is the last thing anyone ever hears.
Such is the case on the HBO Max drama Raised by Wolves, a science-fiction thriller set in the far future where two androids (Mother and Father, played by Amanda Collin and Abubakar Salim) attempt to reboot humanity on the faraway planet Kepler-22b. A literal and theological war for the future of life ensues. Created by Aaron Guzikowski, Raised by Wolves burst onto the scene in late 2020 at a time when new television was still at a relative premium as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown — but even outside the pandemic, a sci-fi concept such as Raised would have been an uncut gem.
Good thing the series comes paired with a filmmaker who knows a thing or two about space gems.
Enter: Raised executive producer and director of the first two episodes, Ridley Scott, the visionary who revolutionized the sci-fi genre and the space-horror subgenre in 1979’s Alien — a movie packed with not only an acid-blooded space monster, but also a horrifying milk-blooded android in Ian Holm’s Ash, the veritable Grandfather to Raised by Wolves‘ Mother and Father.
And there’s more DNA linking the two space epics: Scott’s son Luke Scott, a filmmaker in his own right with the 2016 sci-fi feature Morgan under his belt, not to mention his having worked with his father as second unit director on The Martian and Exodus: Gods and Kings. Between them, Ridley and Luke Scott directed five out of the 10 first-season episodes of Raised by Wolves, bringing a powerful family dynamic to a story that, despite its far-out flourishes, is ultimately all about family.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Ridley and Luke about the journey that brought them to Raised by Wolves — a journey that starts off in space.
Luke, you were very young when Ridley was making Alien. Do you have memories of that time?
RIDLEY SCOTT Just so you’re aware, both Luke and [Scott’s son and filmmaker Jake Scott] are in Alien. The [spaceship] was built in the studio, but it didn’t look big enough. It never does. And so I had two cheap miniature spacesuits made [for Luke and Jake], because Luke was like 3 feet tall. It was a good, cheap way of doing it.
LUKE SCOTT It was the greatest summer vacation I’d ever had. I went back to school and the teachers asked the inevitable question: “What did you do on holiday?” And I said, “I went to space.” (Laughs.) It really was magic.
You must have many stories like that growing up, with Blade Runner just a few years later. How much did that inform your own interest in filmmaking, Luke, and science fiction in particular?
LUKE SCOTT Obviously, Ridley always brought work home, so you were kind of exposed to this wild universe building and thinking. And I don’t think it took any of the wonder away. If anything, I think it amplified the wonder, because it makes you think about the possibilities and all the side stories that go with what we’ve all seen in the movies. It was a great, great, great experience, to be honest.
Ridley, was there an early moment you recognized Luke as an artist in his own right?
RIDLEY SCOTT Luke has a talent for writing. I’d show the kids films that normal fathers wouldn’t do. So one day, I think Luke would’ve been 12 and Jake would be 15. And I showed them, for fun, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, the Werner Herzog film. I thought they’d get bored, and they were frankly blown away. And then in the report, the following term, the [British school] master had written on the bottom of Luke’s report card under English literature, “A writing talent to be envied,” which I always remembered. And I just urged him to start writing his book or screenplays now, because he’s still got that very special touch as a writer, which I don’t have. For me to take time out now to start writing screenplays, it’s kind of a waste of time. I work so fast, I’m better off directing and trying to get some great footage. Luke has a talent for writing, and I know he’s stepping up to the plate right now, doing something right now.
What are you working on right now, Luke?
LUKE SCOTT (Quick pause.) I’m not going to tell you! (Laughs.)
It’s one thing to live in each other’s creative spaces as family, but how about as colleagues?
LUKE SCOTT First, we should just have a pause here because, you know, there are my siblings as well, Jake and Jordan, who [are also filmmakers]. We can’t leave them out because I’ll catch some shit when we get out of here!
We’ll do the full family panel next time!
RIDLEY SCOTT Well, the [assumption of a] parent-sibling deal is not one in our vocabulary in our life. You’ve got to earn your way. You’ve got to work at it. My kids, I exposed them to what I did for a living on the basis that they may find it interesting, but they may want to go be a lawyer or a teacher. So it was really not forcing them to do anything other than to see this is what I do. But little by little, they all became engaged. They’re all directing now, and have been for a while.
I didn’t have film school. For me, my great film school was advertising, at a pretty high level. I had a wonderful time doing commercials. By the time I was ready to do film, in a blink, I was 40. At that point, I could afford to hire a writer, choose my story and make the film [The Duellists]. Mine was a long journey, but what I learned from an inordinately good art school training and, like in commercials, I can still walk on any floor and literally know exactly what to do minute by minute, by the second. Funny, that what I learned in art school, I still use every goddamn day. I’m doing storyboards right now as we’re talking, for my next film.
In addition to advertising and before The Duellists, you also worked in television.
RIDLEY SCOTT Yeah. Live TV, BBC. My first job was a designer at BBC White City in London. And I was a very good designer. I jumped straight in. I didn’t do any apprenticeship. I got a very good art school kind of degree. I went straight in as the designer. As I was such a pain in the ass as a designer, I was spotting that the directors were a bit dodgy and didn’t know what they were doing. I’m sure they’ll forgive me for this, but it’s true. I said to the director, “Why do you ask for a four-sided room when you’re shooting two people having a conversation in the fucking corner?” I said, “I could have built the corner, saved money.” So eventually, after three years, they gave me a production cost to shut me up. (Laughs.) That’s how it started.
I ask about television because it’s a very different landscape now, where you can make something as epic in scope as Raised by Wolves.
RIDLEY SCOTT I couldn’t have done it in my late 20s. I can do it now because I can muscle my way in and with very determined knowledge and experience that I can do this. It can be done and it will be special. That’s what I do. And so I think people smell a confidence and I’m allowed to do it, but on top of that, in doing it, I storyboard the whole damn show first to show that it’s storyboarded literally, so they can see exactly what they’re going to get. I do that to help me so I can walk on the floor because I’ve already filmed it in my head and on paper. That’s why I’m very good at utilizing four or five cameras at once. In essence, you’re at least four or five times faster, right? If you’ve got one camera, that’s one speed. You’ve got four cameras, you know what you’re doing. You’re going to be shooting a scene that’s scheduled for a day and finish by 11 o’clock. Really, that’s it. And, this is not showing off, it’s brought about from my life in live television. I am blessed with an eye, and the eye and the six cameras always made sense to me, mostly to save the actor awful repetition.
Ridley, you filmed the pilot and the second hour. Luke, you directed the third and fourth episodes of Raised by Wolves in addition to the finale. What were your initial conversations like about the look and feel of the show, translating Aaron Guzikowski’s scripts into reality?
LUKE SCOTT I came out [to location in South Africa] toward the end of the first block. Just to kind of have a look around and see what the hell this thing was all about and get a little bit more familiarized with what was happening, the style, all those kinds of things. Because for me, it wasn’t to reinvent the wheel as much as it was to try to follow the path already beaten, as best we can. It was certainly an interesting process, but the other thing I needed to track is where additional characters are introduced or new ideas are introduced. It’s still trying to remain true to the initial vision board. I think the danger is to get overconfident and start reinventing the wheel midstream. And I think that’s common for TV.
RIDLEY SCOTT What we’re not acknowledging enough, though, is how fantastic the script was. I read the script because that’s what I do as the CEO [of production company Scott Free], and in my experience, I know whose hands I’m in within half a page. I know if I’m in good hands or insecure hands. Within the first page, I knew I was up for something special. By the time I was finished reading it, I knew I wanted to direct the pilot. Aaron had given this a terrific cadence. There’s a music to his language, and it stuck with me.
LUKE SCOTT For me, coming in at the end of the first block, you don’t always have the full story. I spoke with Aaron [while filming episodes three and four] and asked, “What’s going to happen in five and six?” And he said, “Good question!” It’s not that he didn’t know where it was going. He did — he wasn’t telling us. You have to give your faith over to the vision of the writer. When you read the writing, there are some head-scratcher moments: “This is so fucking weird. How do we make that? Did I just read that right?”
You have to put your faith and trust in the scripts and also in the actors, who are the gatekeepers of maintaining continuity and character and things like that. By the end, these dynamics have worked themselves out through the guidance of Aaron — but come out naturally, as well as through me and the other directors. It was such a great joy to really follow that and be a part of it. And to really follow the kind of arcs and little places you end up going and discovering new things about the story, about the actors, and things like that.
In terms of translating specific scenes from the script, the first episode features Mother becoming a “Necromancer,” whose sonic screams cause her foes to literally explode. It’s such a shocking moment. Ridley, what was involved in bringing that transformation to life?
RIDLEY SCOTT It goes back to intuition. Intuition is an evolution that you either acknowledge and address and accept, or you’re very vulnerable because your intuition is dodgy and patchy. And I’ve discovered through my experience through life so far, I’ve got a very good intuition. So I’ve learned to trust it. And I will go with my intuition, not even question it. I get a flash and I’ll go with the flash. And so far, so good.
I’ll jump quickly back for an anecdote. With Mother and Father, Aaron had written Adam and Eve in essence, right? That’s what it is. And therefore Adam and Eve ought to be naked. And I called HBO Max at that point and said, “Listen, how do you feel about your two actors being naked?” They threw me out into the car park. (Laughs.) And so I came up with elastic suits, and the elastic suits leave nothing to the imagination, but what’s interesting is, within an hour you’re so used to it. It’s part of who they are.
And so now that sets the pace of what you’re doing. You’ve just raised the bar about 2 meters because you’ve all got to reach to that. And I was very pleased with it. It did make casting, if not much more difficult … the actors had to have the shape as well as the capability. Now, once they have that, and not only that, I thought that Mother without question should have a short haircut and be androgynous in a sense and yet inordinately female. [That] made it very interesting. Now we go down the route where she is a creation of some sick motherfuckers way back, where she can be a killer as well as the Mother. What’s even more complex: She is not aware that she is capable of killing. It comes on to her like a bad migraine, and you can’t control it. You just need to go into a dark room and lie down. So in a way, when she has this thing coming and closing in on her, she is, in essence, going into a dark space and actually closing down and becoming something else. But I didn’t want it to be a cliche. And this is where intuition clicks in.
I’m always standing right outside of New York City. The best piece of sculpture in New York is Atlas holding the world on his shoulders right outside Rockefeller Plaza. I always stand there going, “Fuck me. That’s amazing.” And I thought, “I’m going to do a female version of that.” That’s what happens [in this scene]. Trust your intuition. She will be bronze, she can fly, and I won’t explain how. She can kill, and I won’t explain how. She will have this disturbing predatorial shriek. Those are my intuitions. Everybody just looked at me and went, “This is dodgy.” But when you have strong intuition, you have to learn to trust that.
Luke, do you have any questions for Ridley about his work as a filmmaker, his way into the craft?
LUKE SCOTT Yeah, it relates to storyboards. How are you so confident in those? The lines are so expressive.
RIDLEY SCOTT I’ll show you. I’m working on [a film about Napoleon Bonaparte]. It’s starting with a snowball fight in Corsica. I want Napoleon as a young boy to put a stone inside a snowball because he’s losing the fight to the other boys in his military school. He fights dirty. So I draw that out. It fits the location I’ve already found in Malta, a fantastic Napoleonic courtyard. But it all starts with a great script [by David Scarpa]. The script is inspiring. I read it, and I started drawing, which means I’m filming already.
Do you illustrate as you read the script?
RIDLEY SCOTT No, I read, and it goes in indelibly. A good script is indelible. I can go in and literally start constructing the scene in my head without referring to the script. That’s how I work. It’s the one thing I’ve got. I have very good visual retention. I’m great at remembering pictures and images. I can’t understand mathematics, algebra or logic.
Ridley, anything you want to ask Luke about?
RIDLEY SCOTT Well, he won’t tell you what he’s [working on next] … but he’s about to find out what it’s really like to design something that’s going to be really scary.
LUKE SCOTT That’s not going to help. (Laughs.)
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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