'People are mistaking your explosions for our explosions, and they're getting confused'
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
"I'll tell you something about Ridley," says Steven, a young director of commercials. "Ridley is probably the most wonderful, the nicest..." Steven pauses, and wipes a small tear away from his eye. He is overwhelmed by emotion now. He is also drunk, but I can tell that Steven's emotions come from a deeper and more sincere well than the superficial well of complimentary wine and beer here at the South Bank.

"Ridley," says Steven, "said something to me this afternoon. It would be wrong to just tell you what he said, because that would be betraying a confidence. But suffice to say, he said something to me that has changed my life for ever."

"Are you sure that it's changed your life?" I ask. "After all. He only said it to you a few hours ago."

"Oh yes," says Steven. "It has."

"It has," says Steven's friend Mark, another director of commercials. "If he tells you what Ridley said, you'll understand. Stick around. Maybe he'll tell you."

We are at the opening - at the Hayward Gallery - of the "Spellbound" exhibition of art and film, a cavernous melange of films by artists and art by film-makers. We are standing underneath the 24 Hour Psycho, which has just reached the shower scene, and everyone is very excited. Upstairs, the Damien Hirst film Hanging Around, starring Keith Allen and Eddie Izzard, has gone down less well.

"God," says Eliza, a friend of Hirst's. "I hope he doesn't ask me what I think. I can't lie. I'll have to tell him."

"Lie," I say. "It's fine. Be effusive. This is Steven, by the way. Ridley Scott said something wonderful to him today. But he won't tell anyone what it was." "Oh," says Eliza, chuckling knowingly. "Ridley Scott is always saying wonderful things to people. He's just like that. Forget it. Ha ha."

"No," says Steven, shakily. "That's not true."

"There's Peter Greenaway," says Mark, Steven's friend. "I should tell him how much I liked his exhibit."

"But you haven't seen it yet," says Steven.

"I know," hisses Mark, between his teeth. "But he once told me that he liked my commercials."

"Really?" says Steven, shocked. "Peter Greenaway said he liked your commercials?"

"He said they were very expensive looking," says Mark, proudly. "We were at a party, and I was introduced as the man who made the Citroen driving through the exploding city, and he said: 'Oh yes. That one's got very high production values.' "

"Well," mutters Steven. "That's different from saying that he liked it."

"Who ruffled your feathers?" says Mark, testily.

"Sorry," says Steven.

At this point Damien Hirst's people and Peter Greenaway's people have a sparring match. One can hear Peter Greenaway's explosions in Damien Hirst's room, and the Hirst camp are furious. We all wander over to listen.

"I want it loud," says Peter Greenaway loudly.

"There's a small child crying in the toilets right now because of the loudness," says one of Hirst's people.

"Well..." says Peter Greenaway, lost for words.

"People are mistaking your explosions for our explosions, and they're getting confused."

"It stays loud," says Peter Greenaway.

"Oh go on," I say to Steven. "What did Ridley Scott say?"

"OK," says Steven. "He said that my commercials were better than most people's feature films. He said that if I made proper movies, I would be a huge hit."

"Why don't you want to tell anyone?"

"It was precious," says Steven. "I don't want it to be a boast. I want it to be a secret shared between me and Ridley."

"Can I write it in my article?" I ask.

"Will you put in my name?"


"Oh," says Steven. "Go on then."