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Tony Scott (1944-2012)

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Update! : Outlets are reporting that Scott had inoperable brain cancer, hence spurring the decision to jump.

By now you’ll have heard the shocking news that filmmaker Tony Scott, director of such commercial blockbusters as “Top Gun” and “True Romance”, has died.

Scott, brother of filmmaker Ridley, reportedly jumped off a bridge to his death; his body was recovered 4:30 PM Sunday Afternoon L.A time.

Police and US Coast Guard officials pulled Scott out of the water near the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which is built over Los Angeles Harbor, in San Pedro.

“I can confirm that Tony Scott has indeed passed away,” Katherine Rowe, Scott’s spokeswoman, told reporters. “The family asks that their privacy be respected at this time.”

A suicide note was found in a car parked on one lane of the bridge. Several witnesses reportedly saw Scott jump over the fence and into the water.

Scott was prepping for a sequel to “Top Gun”, with star Tom Cruise visiting Naval Bases as recently as last week to research his return to the role of Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell.

We will be updating this story shortly, with tributes from colleagues, peers and those here at Moviehole who wish to pay tribute to Scott.

I think, for many of us, it needs a little time to sink on before we can put it into the words just how large a loss this is.

Tributes Flowing In… (updated!)

Patrick Lussier (director, “Drive Angry 3D”) : I have never forgotten the first time viewing any of Tony Scott’s films. From The Hunger to Top Gun, from Crimson Tide to Man on Fire to Unstoppable, all his films share such a rare combination of sheer cinematic beauty coupled with gritty intensity. My deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of a filmmaker of such unique vision and unmatched talent.

Scott Derrikson (director, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”) : TOP GUN is the film that made me want to be a director, and CRIMSON TIDE is my all-time favorite popcorn movie. Tony Scott combined high visual art with blockbuster entertainment. As a friend said last night, he didn’t make action movies, he made action films. Hollywood cinema won’t be the same without him.

Scott Rosenberg (writer, “Con-Air”) : Today’s news can only be met with utter incomprehension. Way back in the day, after having done a little work on “CRIMSON TIDE”, Tony Scott enlisted me to help him on what would eventually become “DOMINO”. We’d drive around the seedier sides of L.A., hanging out with the sketchiest of characters, and then have four hour meetings with the real Domino Harvey. (I would always schedule these meetings for Friday afternoons, so I could get my weekend supply of cigars from Tony and party favors from Dom). I didn’t end up writing the film (crazy to think they are now both gone), but Tony’s passion for movie-making was unbridled and a jollier, more jovial fellow doesn’t come to mind. Which is why this is all so shocking. Whilst perhaps his films were never deemed as “important” by critics and the like – as those of some of his peers (including his brother) – they were certainly a fucking blast of a way to spend a few hours in a dark room. R.I.P. Tony. Salmon-colored cap and silly matching shorts forever..

Alicia (co-editor of Moviehole) : Absolutely heartbreaking to hear the news of Tony Scott’s passing. I remember watching ”Top Gun” for the first time, thinking there would be no way I would be interested in what I thought would be a “boy’s action film”. Of course I soon realised it was so much more. And then years later, tackling Tarantino’s ”True Romance”, again proved what great talent he had of bringing warmth to action thrillers. ”Man on Fire”, ”Enemy of the State”, ”Crimson Tide”, ”Days of Thunder”… the list goes on.
And as well as being a prolific director, Tony also worked hard as a producer. Along with his brother Ridley for their company Scott Free, he helped films like ”The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, ”Cyrus”, and the documentary ”Life In A Day” come to fruition.
So, here’s my idea. Let’s celebrate the great career of a man gone too soon by watching two of his films. One you’ve seen before and loved, and one you have never watched. ”True Romance” and ”The Fan” here I come.
Rest in peace, Tony Scott.

Colin Moore (Canadian editor) : As a young film-goer, the words “a Tony Scott film” were all the reason I needed to lace up the shoes, grab a bus or the old man’s car keys and get myself to the multiplex. Scott’s films were knockout entertainment, marvelously adept popcorn munchers that featured some of Hollywood’s top talent. “Beverly Hills Cop 2″ was my first real introduction to the director. I remember sitting there baffled at the pacing and the polish and how engrossing it all could be. Scott was very aware of the visceral needs of the public and he delivered on it, from “Top Gun” to one of the all-time kings of late-night cool, “True Romance.” One thing I’ve always admired was how Scott could blend action, drama and comedy and leave you thinking you’ve just watched all three, a bullseye with all but the Jane Austen dating crowd. But I never hoped that Scott’s films would turn into intellectual exercises. They rang enough bells just as they were.

Clint (CEO of Moviehole) : By now you’d all know about my love affair with Maverick, Goose, Iceman.. and Berlin, as a result of the film that shaped my generation : “Top Gun”. So it’d come as no surprise to hear that, when news hit today that director Tony Scott had passed away, it bashed my face cheeks into slices.

Like Spielberg, De Palma, Badham, Schumacher, Scorsese, Lucas and several others, Scott was one of the biggest filmmaking and producing influences on this young Aussie.

I believe my first taste of his skilfully plotted, exquisitely-cut work came with a viewing of “Top Gun” at the country cinema, not far from my childhood home, in 1986.

We were about twenty minutes late to the session, can’t quite remember why, but turned up smack-bang in the middle of the climatic aerial sequence that pushes the film into first gear.. And Maverick and Goose to, of course, Top Gun.

The way the film looked, played, sounds, was cut, and those sweeping wide angles, usually touched by a glowing burst of sky, was like nothing I’d seen before. Id soon know the look to be typical Tony Scott – the man was a visual director to say the least. His movies packed punch.. And prettiness.

Same bag with “Beverly Hills Cop II”, a year later. The film’s tone was exploring a totally different universe to that of the original, and it’s plot was preposterous, but what Scott did to the film – having it play large and almost epic, helped the films flaws conceal themselves into the orange-burst skyline. Even today, despite knowing how hokey it is, the Eddie Murphy sequel might just be one of my favourite guilty pleasures.

And don’t even get me started on [commercial unsuccessful but hugely enjoyable] excessively-excessive action tentpole “Last Boy Scout”, with Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans and a script that Warners paid more for than they do most A-list actors. What a fun, friggin movie that is – and yes, looks as slick as oil leftover on a Caltex drive-way.

There’s another film that Scott directed, albeit with much input from other parties, that left its mark. The Quentin Tarantino directed romance thriller “True Romance”, a film that transcended genres, superseded the visual profoundness of other early ’90s efforts and offered such icons as Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper some of their finest work.

It’s a marvelous film, and compared with much of Scott’s other work, is apples and oranges to the flashy actioners he’s more known for.

With Jerry Bruckheimer, the man who has kept Scott in constant employ since the days of “Top Gun” and “Beverly Hills Cop II”, Scott became a go-to guy for slick, beautiful looking action blockbusters that kept you captivated with their thrilling lenses and sparkling lenses. Be it “Days of Thunder”, “Crimson Tide” or “Enemy of the State”, Scott was always able to make a fairly substandard film stand out from the crowd by lending his professional touch to it.

In recent years, the quality of Scott’s fare dipped – “Domino” and “Unstoppable” immediately come to mind – but that mightn’t be so much to do with the filmmaker as it is the type of product coming his way. Considering he had started developing his own pet projects, including a sequel to “Top Gun” (which may or may not happen now), I’d say there’s a fair chance that Scott wasn’t being offered the kind of work that had previously kept him enthused.

As a producer though, working with brother Ridley, Scott had been hitting them out of the park in recent years. He had been working across some terrific TV (“Numbers”, “The Good Wife”) as well as some bloody fun, solid movies (“The A-Team”, “The Grey”), and his recent efforts in both mediums reminding us he was still an intriguing and exciting filmmaker and had much more to give. Sadly, he underestimated the gaping big hole his passing would leave.

Thanks Mr Scott. You Took My Breath Away 26 years ago, and numerous times after.

London Insider (Moviehole contributor) : I’m finding writing this incredibly difficult. The reporting of a death. I’ll start again. I’m finding writing this incredibly difficult. The reporting of a life. Tony Scott. Where does one even begin when detailing such a hugely influential director?

Tony Scott was born Anthony David Scott on the 21st June 1944 in the North of England. He was the younger brother of Frank, who was in the Merchant Navy and of course, surviving brother Sir Ridley Scott, who encouraged his younger sibling to direct flashy, speedy commercials, which to me summed up his movies; flashy, speedy and highly commercial.

MGM tapped in Tony Scott to helm vampire flick ‘The Hunger’ after Paramount was dithering about for over 10 years on bringing ‘Interview with the Vampire’ to the big screen. It wasn’t too long after when producing when Über Producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer brought Tony aboard fighter-jet movie ‘Top Gun’, which kick-started his truly trademark style. Flash-Cut-editing, saturated colours, rock anthems and a camera that really never stops moving. Another Simpson/Bruckheimer collaboration followed with super-sequel ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’ and once more with ‘Days of Thunder’, again with Tom Cruise. Another loud, macho led Tony to swap Don and Jerry with action rival Joel Silver with the then hottest script in town, Shane Black’s ‘The Last Boy Scout’. He’d deliver one of my all-time favourites in ‘True Romance’, hiring Roger Avary to do a quick rewrite. I recall Quentin (Tarantino) later telling me Tony Scott gave the movie a more fairytale look than what he would have done, but it wasn’t to say he didn’t like it. Tony brought Quentin on to do a section on submarine thriller ‘Crimson Tide’, which would begin a magnificent, respectful, trusting partnership in director and star Scott and lead actor Denzel Washington. They worked each other on another four movies ‘Déjà vu’, ‘Unstoppable’, ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ and ‘Man on Fire’. It was back to business with Jerry Bruckheimer for ‘Enemy of the State’, which once again could have starred Tom Cruise and Sean Connery. Bruckheimer had recently worked with Will Smith on ‘Bad Boys’ and suggested him. Scott had already worked with Gene Hackman and so the combination of two of my favourite genres, action and espionage, were fused.

He took the lead in directing the BMW short films ‘The Hire’, which fuelled the rumours even more that Clive Owen was to be the next James Bond. James Brown, Gary Oldman in what effectively was a long, flashy and loud BMW ad. What more could you want?!

I could count on one hand the amount of directors that I would go to the cinema to see one of their movies for and Tony Scott was indeed one of them. His unique style is clearly seen and perhaps imitated by the likes of Michael Bay and Peter Berg and I would also say in a few of his brother’s films, most notably ‘Black Rain’ and ‘Black Hawk Down’.

I would have loved to have seen his ‘Top Gun 2’. It would have been awesome to see his take on ‘The Wild Bunch’.

I nearly had the pleasure of working with him on a couple of projects and oh how I wished it had come off. His death is extremely tragic and shocking news and could, sadly, be a scene from one of his own movies. He was a considerable influence to me and will be sorely missed. My sincere condolences to his family and close friends and indeed to Ridley. T-Scott was a national treasure. I’ll end with this: The next sunset you see, cherish it and live it in slow-motion.

Isaac Florentine, director of action films “Undisputed II” and “Assassin’s Bullet”, tells Moviehole : “Tony Scott had a special touch . A specific visual style that was his signature, very unique & crisp. He directed my favorite Tarantino movie ‘True Romance’ and gave it a lot of refined Chic.”

Todd Lincoln, director of “The Apparition” (opening this week), tells Moviehole : “RIP Tony Scott. Thank you for your service and cinematic contributions: The Hunger. Top Gun. Beverly Hills Cop 2. True Romance. I saw True Romance opening night and it changed my brain chemistry as a young teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma. ”

Drew Turney : His first major outing in Hollywood, ”The Hunger”, was a slow, sensual feast for the senses, and gave no notion of the machismo-flexing director he’d become in later years with 80s classics ”Top Gun” and ”Beverly Hills Cop 2”.

Some have already argued that without Tony Scott there’d be no Michael Bay – the 68 year old director, producer and brother of equally beloved filmmaker Ridley was seldom known for his subtlety but his shadow looms large over action cinema and a host of copycats and homages.

He frequently referenced himself and sometimes bought assured direction and flexing, sweaty muscle to stories that weren’t all that original (see ”Enemy of The State”, ”Man On Fire” and ”Unstoppable”) but every few years he gave us a classic like ”The Last Boy Scout”, ”Crimson Tide” or ”Spy Game” and convinced us all over again he was the master of his special, Bruckheimer-with-brains action flick brand.

His visual tics were occasionally over the top, and he and Denzel Washington have become a bit too comfortable together over the years – like Burton and Depp – but Scott was always moving. The kinetic motion in his movies matched his slate off screen, with no less than 30 projects in development (including the forthcoming ”Top Gun” sequel) when he took his own life on Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Tony, you’ll be missed by many.

More Soon…

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About Drew Turney

An Australian-based film critic and celebrity interviewer now based in Los Angeles, California.
Author: Drew Turney
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