Some shocking and tragic news emerged from California on Sunday: veteran film director Tony Scott died by apparent suicide at the age of 68.
Scott was born in North Shields in 1944, the younger brother of fellow director (and, later, business partner) Ridley. His earliest foray into film was in front of the camera, not behind it, appearing at the age of 16 in Ridley’s directorial debut, a short film called Boy And Bicycle. He graduated from the Royal College Of Art, intending to become a painter, but was tempted into film and TV by his brother.
Launching his career crafting adverts for Ridley Scott Associates, he made his directing debut on television with an adaptation of Henry James’ The Author Of Beltraffio in France. But what he really wanted to do was make movies, and tried for several years to get a version of Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire. MGM instead persuaded him to shoot The Hunger, which he shot in 1982. The film was not a success on release and Scott returned to making ads for a couple of years.
But then, in 1985, producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer – who had admired his work on The Hunger – approached him to make Top Gun, primarily because they’d liked his work on a Saab advert that showed a Saab 900 racing a jet. The movie hit cinemas in 1986, became a massive hit and made a star out of Tom Cruise.
With his career launched anew, Scott would go on to direct the likes of Beverly Hills Cop II, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy Of The State, Spy Game, Domino, The Taking Of Pelham 123 and, most recently, runaway train drama Unstoppable, starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine.
Along with his directing career, Scott and his brother became prolific producers in both film and television, helping a raft of younger filmmakers get their projects out into the world. At the time of his death, he was juggling several projects, including a planned Top Gun sequel, real-life drama Shadow Divers, biker pic Hell’s Angels and action drama Lucky Strike. According to the Daily Breeze, Scott left a suicide note in his car before jumping from the Vincent Thomas Bridge near Long Beach.
Talking to Empire around Domino’s release in 2005, Scott said, “I’m getting younger as I get older. It's also a fear of losing the touch, which is why I keep fucking going. Whether you like the movie or don't like it, as long as people continue to pay me to continue to experiment, I'll keep doing that. I do a lot of research and I get paid to touch these other worlds and I want to keep trying to touch these new worlds and bring them to the screen, whether it's the 18th Street Gang or the Vietnamese Gang, or bounty hunting or whatever it is. I love what I do.”
He’s survived by his wife, Donna, and two children. Our thoughts go out to his entire family.