As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across the globe, Hollywood has been brought to a standstill. TV and movie productions have been put on hold, as the industry — along with millions in other businesses — is social distancing.
One such project that’s been paused is “The Last Duel,” Ridley Scott’s upcoming drama set in 14th century France starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The movie stopped production this month after shooting abroad and will presumably resume when things go back to normal. (As a result, the release date of the 20th Century Studios release, scheduled for later this year, might need to change.)
Scott calls the move “sensible,” as self-isolating has become critical to slowing the spread of the fatal disease. The prolific 82-year-old director (the “Alien” franchise, “Gladiator,” “Blade Runner,” “The Martian,” etc.) is now back at home in Los Angeles, keeping up on the news. He has plenty of thoughts about how politicians — from Donald Trump to British prime minister Boris Johnson — are handling the pandemic all over the world, which he shared with Variety.
What’s the latest update on the production of “The Last Duel”?
We, of course, sensibly put the film on hold. I finished in France after shooting for a month and decided it was sensible to close down for the time being. We’re a month in and it looked fantastic. The period is 1360, so we’re back to medieval France and it’s kind of interesting. Back about two weeks ago, we decided to hold it out because it’s silly to continue and wait for the inevitable to happen. We were set to go to Ireland in a week and it was a natural break, so I said, “Why don’t we stop here and we’ll return?”
What do you think about the way that politicians are handling the coronavirus crisis?
Particularly with this orange-headed fellow that’s running us, he’s a nutcase, isn’t he? [New York Gov. Andrew] Cuomo made a name for himself, he’s put himself on the map certainly. Looking at the globalization of the politicians that are running the world, half the time being run by idiots and the other time by despots, there are very few worthwhile ones, if you know what I mean. No one wants to go into politics. If anyone has half a brain they wouldn’t want to go into politics anyway, right?
What would you suggest that leaders should be doing differently?
I’m a war baby, so, in the war years, we had rationing. People could not binge on food, we had ration books with coupons where you were at a limited amount that you could buy. They should do that now because people are buying so much food and then the food is rotting. In England as well, I mean, Jesus, Boris [Johnson], get out your thinking cap, ’cause what we’re now talking on is an iPhone, a perfect coupon distributor to limit what you can buy each time you go to the shops. And that way, you have order. You must have order and calm.
What do you think about how the media has handled it? The difference between the news networks is outrageous.
Yes, insane. I still think CNN’s the best and they are in dismay at how it’s not being handled properly.
What do you think needs to be done to stop the spread?
If we stay indoors for the given amount of time, they get a handle on it to understand what’s going on. The irony is that for the most part, it’ll be an experience of mild to severe flu for most people and old geezers like me have gotta watch my back. And I am. I’m being very cautious, I want to return and finish off the film with Matt Damon.
Are you doing anything in particular to pass the time?
I’m a big painter. I resumed painting 10 years ago. My whole grounding is in art school. I paint all the time.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.