Ridley Scott on the Making of Apple’s Iconic “1984” Commercial, Aired on Super Bowl Sunday in 1984

“I like to claim that I bought the sec­ond Mac­in­tosh com­put­er ever sold in Europe,” writes actor, come­di­an, writer, wit, and die-hard Apple enthu­si­ast Stephen Fry in Tele­graph essay mark­ing the Mac­in­tosh com­put­er’s 30th anniver­sary. “My friend and hero Dou­glas Adams was in the queue ahead of me. For all I know some­one some­where had bought one ten min­utes ear­li­er, but these were the first two that the only shop sell­ing them in Lon­don had in stock on the 24th Jan­u­ary 1984, so I’m stick­ing to my sto­ry.”

Fry had found the only com­put­er that made him want to write; “I couldn’t wait to get to it every morn­ing,” he remem­bers. He did­n’t even need con­vinc­ing from “1984,” Rid­ley Scot­t’s “leg­endary com­mer­cial” above, which he did­n’t see “until it crept onto Eng­lish tele­vi­sion screens way past its dra­mat­ic Super Bowl debut.”

Now that we’ve come upon the 30th anniver­sary of that dra­mat­ic Super Bowl debut, why not get a lit­tle insight from the man who direct­ed it? In the clip just above, Scott, who by that time already had the rich and trou­bling futur­is­tic visions Alien and Blade Run­ner under his belt, talks about his expe­ri­ence bring­ing the sto­ry­boards — auda­cious by the tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial stan­dard of the era, let alone for per­son­al com­put­ers — onto the screen. He dis­cuss­es look­ing to the past for his “slight­ly deca­dent-look­ing” future, hang­ing jet engines on the set as an act of “good dra­mat­ic bull­shit,” putting out a “fright­en­ing” cast­ing call for a back­ground full of skin­heads, get­ting the total­i­tar­i­an text for Big Broth­er to intone, and find­ing a young lady who could swing a ham­mer. And what would he have done with an even big­ger bud­get? “Not very much. I think we nailed it.” As, Fry and his fel­low user-enthu­si­asts agree, did Apple.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Every Apple Ad Ever Aired on TV

Mar­tin Scors­ese Appears in New Apple Ad with Siri, Plays on His Chill­ing Cameo in Taxi Dri­ver

Steve Jobs Nar­rates the First “Think Dif­fer­ent” Ad (Nev­er Aired)

Rid­ley Scott Demys­ti­fies the Art of Sto­ry­board­ing (and How to Jump­start Your Cre­ative Project)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, Asia, film, lit­er­a­ture, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on his brand new Face­book page.

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