Ridley Scott is known for tinkering with his films after release and for producing director’s cuts – which are often better received than the original theatrical releases. The biggest discrepancy between the theatrical cut and the director’s cut in his career so far has been 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven – which was considered something of a turkey upon release. Ridley Scott‘s director’s cut adds 45 minutes to the run-time and substantially improves the film.
In 2007, The Guardian interviewed Edward Norton at the BFI about his career to date. They asked him about his unusual role in the film, in which he plays King Baldwin of Jerusalem – but spends the entire time in a silver mask. Norton requested not to be credited on the posters or in the trailers, to keep the enigma of who was playing the role and to add a sense of mystery to the character.
“I’ve never seen the director’s cut, how is it? I can only imagine that it’s better than what they ended up putting out. I felt bad for Ridley and [writer] Bill Monahan in particular. It was a really wonderful script, and it should have been a three-hour film. It was all the worst kind of corporate decision-making….I felt that any hope it had of being a good film was killed by corporate think.”
Norton continued; “My interest in it, to be totally honest, was that I was looking at this big-scale film that my company was thinking of producing. Ridley Scott and I had talked for years of making a film but it just never happened. I read it and I asked who was playing the guy in the mask. And he said he was just going to get a guy who could do a voice like James Mason’s. And I said I could do a pretty good James Mason.”
Norton concluded; “I just wanted to see someone make a movie on that scale. I was just curious about whether the process was extremely different when there’s that much going on, and Ridley Scott is a guy who clearly knows how to make films at that scale and is comfortable with it, and I just wanted to see how he worked. I got to do that, and it was well worth it. And I remained uncredited because it would have spoiled it, I think.”
Scott’s next big historical epic to be released is Napoleon starring Joaquin Phoenix. He’s remaining in that genre for Gladiator 2, which sees him returning to the world of swords-and-sandals – this time starring Paul Mescal.