Director Tony Scott was born on June 21st 1944. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother, director Ridley Scott, by attending Art College. He then made his way into the advertising industry, working for his brother’s company, Ridley Scott Associates.
Scott made his big screen directing debut with the ultra-stylish vampire film, The Hunger which starred Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie. The film was unsuccessful at the box office, but it did highlight the director’s visual style. The financial failure of the film saw Scott return to directing commercials; however one of these commercials caught the eye of producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, who decided that Scott had the visual panache to direct their next feature, the Tom Cruise starrer Top Gun.
Top Gun was a massive success, grossing over $176 million at the US box office and more than $353 million globally (a great figure today; an amazing one in 1985). The film mixed orange-tinted cinematography, fast editing and catchy music, a combination which went on to become a staple in Hollywood filmmaking throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s (it survives today in the work of Michael Bay). The film led to an increase in recruitment for the US Navy, helped take Cruise’s career to the next level of stardom and brought Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards into the public arena. A sequel to the film, which was set to reunite Scott, Cruise and Bruckheimer, is currently in development.
The success of the film saw Simpson and Bruckheimer hire Tony Scott to direct the sequel to their hugely successful Beverly Hills Cop. Beverly Hills Cop II upped the action stakes of the original film and was another massive hit, grossing just under $300 million globally in 1987.
Scott’s next film was something different. In 1990 he directed Revenge, a dramatic thriller starring Kevin Costner, Madeline Stowe and Anthony Quinn. The dark and violent tone of the film wasn’t what fans of Scott or Costner expected and it disappointed at the box office (although it has aged rather well).
Scott reunited with Cruise, Simpson and Bruckheimer for, what was known as Top Car while in development. The film was eventually titled Days of Thunder, but it failed to match the success of the team’s previous effort, grossing a “disappointing” $82 million domestically, and just under $160 million globally. The film was beset by a myriad of problems, including a constantly evolving script and the fact the producer Don Simpson wanted to act in the film (he was in the film – but he couldn’t ‘act’). Scott followed Days up with The Last Boy Scout, a violent and foul-mouthed Shane Black-scripted detective film starring Bruce Willis.
Tony Scott went on to direct the cult classic, True Romance, a film scripted by Quentin Tarantino. The film was not a success at the box office, but it has since become a cult classic over time, and many refer to it as Scott’s best work.
In 1995 the director established a working relationship with Denzel Washington, who starred in Crimson Tide opposite Gene Hackman. The Scott and Washington would go on to work on such successful films as Man on Fire, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable (his last film). During this time Scott also directed Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes in The Fan; Will Smith in Enemy of the State; Robert Redford and Brad Pitt in Spy Game; and Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke in Domino. Scott was also a highly-prolific producer of film and television, producing such varied films as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The A-Team and Prometheus – to name but a few.
Tony Scott was a first rate visual artist who managed to put his stamp on the Hollywood action movie, delivering a style that was copied by many, but never matched. His loss is a great one, not only for his friends and family, but also for lovers of film. Scott played the Hollywood game his own way, delivering films that may have been (on the surface) light on intellectual depth, but were high on entertainment.
Tony Scott died on 19 August 2012.