Tony Scott’s death sent a shockwave through Hollywood as intense as one of his blockbusters — and not just for the way in which he died, but also because the “Top Gun” helmer seemed in vibrant form at age 68, vigorously chasing studio pics and leaving behind several promising projects in various stages of development.
Scott scaled a high fence on the Vincent Thomas Bridge near San Pedro just after 12:30 p.m. on Sunday and jumped more than 180 feet to the water below, witnesses told police. Los Angeles County and U.S. Coast Guard officials confirmed that his body was recovered from the harbor and that he’d left contact information inside his black Toyota Prius, parked on an eastbound lane.
As Hollywood started to come to grips with Scott’s apparent suicide, conflicting reports surfaced on his health. The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office told the L.A. Times that Scott’s family said he did not have any health problems. ABC News had reported earlier Monday that the helmer was suffering from brain cancer.
Autopsy results were not immediately available, as the circumstances called for more tests. A suicide note was reportedly found at Scott’s office — though its contents were not disclosed — and reps refused to comment on the conflicting reports.
Either way, Scott, whose energy and relentless work ethic were already stuff of legend, had shown no signs of slowing down in his final days. Rather, he was actively pursuing projects and taking meetings at 20th Century Fox, where Scott Free has a first-look deal with the studio.
“I had the privilege knowing Tony Scott well and working with him on many projects,” said Tom Rothman, chairman of 20th Century Fox. “The relationship was one of the great blessings of my life, as, in addition to his skill and professionalism, he was quite simply a wonderful man, generous, kind-hearted and gracious. If there is a rock face in Heaven, I know he is climbing it with joy today, but this world will miss him terribly.”
Over the years, Scott developed a profile — and even an ardent critical following — as one of Hollywood’s most energetic blockbuster stylists. In action-thrillers including “Crimson Tide,” “Man on Fire,” “Domino” and his 2009 remake of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” the helmer drew on a full arsenal of showy camera tricks, heavily saturated colors and aggressive soundtrack choices to amp up already outsized stories of mayhem, violence and retribution.
Scott’s career got on the fast track after he was the surprise pick to helm “Top Gun” in 1986, which he followed with “Beverly Hills Cop II” in 1987. In recent years, he had been more active as a producer of film and TV fare through Scott Free, which he ran with older brother Ridley Scott.
When news of Tony Scott’s death came, Ridley Scott was in the middle of directing “The Counselor” in London, where production was halted for the rest of the week.
Tony Scott had long been developing a “Top Gun” sequel as a directing vehicle, as well as drama “Emma’s War” with Kennedy/Marshall Co. His last feature helming credit was 2010 Denzel Washington starrer “Unstoppable,” and he was a producer on Ridley Scott’s summer sci-fier “Prometheus.”
Among Scott Free’s many TV projects are A&E Network’s upcoming redo of “Coma” as a miniseries, the Starz mini “Pillars of the Earth” and CBS’ drama series “The Good Wife” and “Numbers.”
Born in the U.K. community of North Shields in 1944, Scott went to art school where he became interested in cinematography. He earned a masters degree from London’s Royal College of Arts and helmed the 1971 pic “Loving Memory” for the British Film Institute from an original script financed by Albert Finney.
In 1972, Tony and Ridley Scott formed London-based commercial production company Ridley Scott Associates, where Tony Scott made his name as an award-winning helmer of dozens of blurbs for RSA and others. He did some longform directing for U.K. TV outlets before landing his first feature helming gig, 1983’s stylish vampire pic “The Hunger,” starring Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie.
A few years later, Scott, then a virtual unknown, was chosen by producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson to helm superstar Tom Cruise in the fighter pilot actioner “Top Gun.” The pic became a mammoth hit and established Scott as a go-to helmer for the prosperous Simpson/Bruckheimer shop.
“Tony was my dear friend and I will really miss him,” Cruise said in a statement Monday. “He was a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable.”
After “Beverly Hills Cop II,” Scott again teamed with Cruise for 1990’s “Days of Thunder” and helmed Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans in 1991’s “The Last Boy Scout.” He ventured away from actioners for the lurid, raucous Quentin Tarantino-penned crimer “True Romance,” featuring a slew of up-and-coming stars including Brad Pitt.
Other helming credits include “The Fan” (1996), “Enemy of the State” (1998) and “Spy Game” (2001), “Man on Fire” (2004), “Domino” (2005) and the 2009 remake of 1974’s “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.”
In television, Scott Free has tackled a range of projects from historical docus to big-budget costume dramas. Tony Scott won an Emmy in 2002 for “The Gathering Storm,” the HBO-BBC telepic about Winston Churchill in the years leading up to WWII. His other Emmy noms include mentions for “The Good Wife” and a movie/miniseries nom for 1999’s “RKO 281,” an HBO made-for about the making of “Citizen Kane.”
“Tony’s influence on a generation of filmmakers is colossal,” tweeted director Joe Carnahan, who credits his career to Scott. “There isn’t a more commercially successful director who pushed the form like him.”
In addition to his brother, Scott’s survivors include his wife, actress Donna Wilson Scott, and two sons.
(Justin Chang contributed to this report.)