Obituary: Tony Scott; more rock ‘n’ roll than this brother, film director saw it as his mission to entertain
Born: 21 July, 1944, in Stockton-on-Tees, England. Died: 19 August, 2012, in Los Angeles, aged 68.
ALTHOUGH not as big a name in the film industry as his elder brother Ridley, Tony Scott was a genius his own right. His death on Sunday, after he leapt off a Los Angeles bridge, shocked Hollywood, but it reflected the high-octane, adrenalin-rush feel he created in most of his movies, many about life on the edge, whether in racing cars (Days of Thunder) or fighter planes (Top Gun). Like his brother, the essence of his work emerged from the hardships and aspirations of post-war north-east England, where they were born.
Whereas Ridley (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, and Gladiator) became the most famous Scott in Hollywood, Tony carved out his own reputation as “more rock’n’roll than Ridley”, anti- establishment, a gambler who saw his role as to entertain, using what one writer described as “visual amphetamines”.
Tony was certainly a rocker, often to be seen riding his Harley-Davidson, or driving a Ferrari, down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, shooting the red traffic light on Hollywood/Vine as a matter of personal pride.
He liked a Havana cigar and ensured that he was distinguished from his brother by wearing a pink baseball hat.
Many a critic panned his films, but the public flocked to see them. Those on the set of Top Gun (1986) said the high-boiling chemistry – sexual and competitively – among Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and Kelly McGillis was at least as much due to Scott’s aggressive direction as to the actors themselves.
Scott, crew members said, made Cruise and Vilmer hate each other – at least on screen – and helped turn McGillis into a sex goddess for millions of men.
Cruise later described Scott as one of his favourite directors and said he would work with him “any time, any place”. He did so, as a pilot of a different kind, in Days of Thunder, much mocked, but a perfect vehicle for the testosterone-fuelled but self-confessed intellectually challenged Cruise.
While big brother Ridley rounded his accent off to be understood, perhaps better accepted in Hollywood, Tony retained his Geordie accent with great pride, a pride that was reciprocated by normal folks on Tyneside, even those who may never have seen his films.
Anthony David Scott was born in Stockton-on-Tees in 1944, expressing himself through rugby, painting and climbing (he would later follow up the latter passion in the Swiss and French Alps).
He was still at school when his big brother Ridley needed someone to ride a bike in the latter’s first attempt at a film, Boy on a Bicycle. Although big brother Ridley was in charge, young Tony had got the bug.
He studied art in Sunderland, Leeds and the Royal College of Art in London before joining Ridley’s new TV production company.
While Ridley made his name with such classic TV ads as the boy – also on a bicycle – delivering loaves of Hovis bread, Tony became a factor in UK adland with his own adverts, for products such as Levi jeans, Marlboro cigarettes and Chanel perfume.
With a band of Britons – including David Puttnam, Alan Parker, Frank Lowe and Alfredo Marcantonio – taking advertising to a level equal or beyond that of the great American “madmen”, Tony Scott headed for Hollywood.
Films were the inevitable next step, his first being the Gothic vampire tale The Hunger (1983), starring Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie, but perhaps most memorable for the love scene between Deneuve and Susan Sarandon.
The critics slammed it, lesbians raved about it and Hollywood became aware that there were two Scotts in town.
Directing Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) was always going to be a big ask, but Tony Scott managed to further Eddie Murphy’s career with a mix of fast-moving drama and Murphy’s irresistible smile and laugh.
Scott later went on to make True Romance, having bought the script from a hyperactive wannabe screenwriter and director who called himself Quentin Tarantino.
The word in Hollywood is that Tarantino sold the rights to True Romance to finance another project he was working on, Reservoir Dogs. Probably a fair trade-off. Neither film did too badly. Scott later went on to direct Enemy of the State (1998), starring Gene Hackman and Will Smith – with the former excelling himself as a weary investigator.
Many of Scott’s later films died a death because of poor casting. Not his fault of course. Domino (2005), starring Keira Knightley, was generally panned as disastrous. Although Knightley was clearly miscast and appeared to show that she should stick to modelling, Scott took most of the blame for that film.
Tony Scott was thrice married and twice divorced. He is survived by his third wife, Donna, and two children.
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