Tony Scott: 1944-2012

Tony Scott, director of such hits as Top Gun and Crimson Tide, died yesterday, an apparent suicide -- he had jumped off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles. Though there has been no official explanation of his possible motives, ABC News and other sources reported today that he was suffering from inoperable brain cancer   [ABC news has since reported that Scott's family has denied this.]

Scott's legacy is mixed and frustrating. He was, admittedly, often a "hired gun," a reliable director of artistically unambitious, big budget productions. But at a time when studio movies increasingly sacrifice such virtues as character development, emotional truth, and narrative coherence for vapid thrills and CGI effects, Scott was a bulwark of consistent quality and occasional brilliance.

Inevitably he'll be compared to his older brother Ridley, the arty one, the Oscar winner for Gladiator, the auteur behind Blade Runner and Prometheus. But Tony was the first of the siblings -- both first known in Britain for their work in commercials -- to break into Hollywood. And his first film was as artistically ambitious as any of Ridley's. When it comes to sheer decadence and lush stylization,The Hunger (1983) has few rivals among vampire movies. Among other memorable moments, it features Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve in one of the screen's hottest scenes of revenant sex. It's got David Bowie as a dodgy holdover from the 18th century who plays Schubert on the cello and drinks the blood of children. Too bad it missed the current vampire renaissance by two decades; though a cult hit now, it was a box office bust when released, and so the younger Scott returned to England to make more commercials.

That's when Jerry Bruckheimer, notorious producer of noisy blockbusters, made his call, and the result was the now legendary, frequently mocked, but ruthlessly effective jet jockey thriller, Top Gun (1986). Many more collaborations with Bruckheimer followed, including Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Days of Thunder (1990), Crimson Tide (1995), and Deja Vu (2006). Most made tons of money and contributed to Scott's unfair dismissal by critics. It's an assessment that lately has been changing, a reevaluation that should only intensify following his death.

But some of his films don't need any reconsideration or apology. True Romance (1993) might be the best screen treatment of a Tarantino script, including those directed by Tarantino himself. The Bruckheimer produced Enemy of the State (1998) has proven prescient in its depiction of a world of unchecked government surveillance and control, and his Spy Game was not only an expert thriller but presented a more intelligent world view than anyone else was coming up with  in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. And in his collaborations with such actors as Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise he has helped shape their images as iconic action heroes.

Scott left plans for several projects unfinished, including a sequel to Top Gun, and, most intriguingly, an adaptation of Bill O'Reilly's controversial novel, Killing Lincoln: the Assassination that Shocked the Country. Commenting on Scott's death, O'Reilly said, "Tony Scott's talent enriched the world. His accomplishments were many." This might be the only time O'Reilly and I agree.

| More

 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
Latest Comments
Search Blogs
Outside The Frame Archives