The Top Gun of Directors: A Remembrance of the Late Tony Scott

Tony Scott by Fergus Greer 2012

Tony Scott, born in 1944 in North Shields, Northumberland, was a man of great financial and critical success in the entertainment industry. Both an American and British staple in film, Scott created harrowing, edge-of-your-seat thrills seen the world over. But on Sunday, August 20th, 2012, he took his own life. Shortly after noon, Tony Scott parked and exited his car at the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angles, California, scaled a ten-foot fence, and — as described by witnesses: “without hesitation” — let himself fall 200 feet into the water below.

No one really knows why he chose to end his life — perhaps we shouldn’t. Suicide is a very personal and private thing. The outcome of great pain and torment that only Scott himself — or those closest to him — could really understand. Initial rumors stated he had received a diagnosis of inoperable brain cancer but that has since been denied by his family — leaving his reason(s) a mystery. In his car police found a note revealing contact info and identification — and in his office, in L.A., an apparent suicide note.

Scott was a self-described thrill seeker, an avid rock climber, and a lover of fast cars and motorcycles. He was always pushing himself looking for the bigger, better and faster thing. In an interview for 1995’s thriller, “Crimson Tide,” he stated, “The biggest edge I live on is directing. That’s the most scary, dangerous thing you can do with your life.” Making films was Scott’s passion, and he shared it with the world through his fast-paced, sometimes-hectic works.

4 great Tony Scott films

He started out in the business, directing commercials and episodic television until his work caught the eye of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who then gave him a chance with 1986’s “Top Gun.” The film was a huge commercial success and set the stage for his career. His credits included “Days of Thunder,” “True Romance,” “The Hunger,” “Enemy of The State,” “Man on Fire” and “Unstoppable” to name a few of the almost two-dozen films for which he’s sat behind the camera. While he never quite gained the critical acclaim his brother, Ridley Scott, achieved with films like “Gladiator” and “Alien,” Tony Scott made the kind of films that he would have wanted to see. Ridley Scott once said of his brother’s work that “I’m more classical, he’s rock ‘n roll.”

Tony said he would — much of the time — over shoot and let it come together in the editing room rather than piece everything together before hand. Through this he created his signature style of fast-paced, sometimes-static-and-intrusive editing and cinematography. It made the red-blooded action/adventure films more than just the run-of-the-mill summer fare. It gave his films an artistic edge, a sense of urgency, and an alternative nature that was seen more and more as his career went on — and he gained more freedom in what the end product was.

The loss of Scott casts a great shadow over the world of entertainment. He pushed the envelope and brought all of himself to the table, executing his vision with unique style. Why a man who lived so true to himself, faced his hurdles head on, and would seek out the next challenge both behind the camera and in his personal life, would commit suicide is a question no one seems to have an answer for. But ultimately it doesn’t matter; his reasons were just that. No one can know what thoughts ran through Scott’s head as he stood on that bridge. And no can begin to understand what paths brought him there. The only thing to accept is the tragedy of it all. Whenever someone feels so lost and helpless that they turn to finality in such a way, all it can ever be is sad.

The eyes of a great man.