Family & Companions
Director Tony Scott established himself in the mid-1980s as one of mainstream Hollywood's more reliable and stylish action filmmakers. Scott built a solid reputation with his work for producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson on several of the highest grossing films, starting with "Top Gun" (1986), a high-concept action movie that made a mega-star out of the film's lead, Tom Cruise. Scott also scored a cult-like triumph with the underrated "True Romance" (1993), penned by rising indie filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. After helming the commercially viable action thriller "Crimson Tide" (1995), he directed "Enemy of the State" (1998), a rich and compelling political thriller that many considered to be the best film in the Scott canon. As he focused more on producing quality television movies and miniseries like "The Gathering Storm" (HBO, 2002) and "The Company" (TNT, 2007), Scott continued making stylish commercial films, though his tragic suicide in August 2012 cut short a brilliant career that always managed to maintain significant audience interest.
Born on June 21, 1944 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, Scott was raised the youngest of three brothers by his father, who served in the British military, forcing the family to move from place to place, and his mother, Jean, an avid moviegoer who instilled a love of cinema into her children. Like his older brother, Ridley, he developed an aptitude for painting and art, which led to earning a fine arts degree from the School of Art at the University of Sunderland. After studying at the Leeds College of Art and Design for a year, Scott earned his master of fine arts in 1972 from the Royal College of Art, which he had attended on scholarship. He spent several years struggling as a painter, which he abandoned when he partnered with his brother in advertising at Ridley Scott Associates. It was there that he began shooting commercials. "I loved commercials because I was always shooting. I was actually getting to turn some film. And for the generation that I happen to be a part of, the adventures in advertising then were the same as what videos are today In its own way, advertising is as great an art form as documentaries or features," Scott remarked in a 1991 interview with Movieline.
In 1981, Scott made a striking feature directorial debut with "The Hunger," an arty vampire thriller starring Susan Sarandon, David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. Widely panned for being overly stylized and lacking cohesive storytelling, "The Hunger" nonetheless attracted the attention of top Hollywood players. Scott's fortunes rose when he hooked up with high-flying producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, who asked him to helm the flyboy adventure, "Top Gun" (1986). At first, Scott had a different approach than Simpson and Bruckheimer; instead of making a commercially palpable movie, he wanted to direct "'Apocalypse Now' in the air." But the producers put that idea to bed and guided Scott to direct what became one of the signature films of the decade. High on adrenaline and possessing a pumping soundtrack, "Top Gun" also presented an entertaining love story between star Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. The movie was punctuated by soaring special effects, gripping dog fights featuring F-14 fighter jets and macho posturing that some later ridiculed. Nonetheless, the film and its many classic scenes established Tom Cruise as the industry's most bankable movie star and Scott as a viable director.
Scott followed up by directing another bankable star, Eddie Murphy, in the competent sequel, "Beverly Hills Cop II" (1987), which depicted the wise-cracking Detroit cop, Axel Foley (Murphy), once again sent to L.A.'s enclave for the super wealthy to stop a series of violent high-end robberies. Though a moneymaker, "Beverly Hills Cop II" was a letdown after its wildly funny predecessor. Scott attempted a change of pace with "Revenge" (1990), a hard-edged crime thriller about an ex-Navy pilot (Kevin Costner) who grapples with a powerful Mexican crime lord (Anthony Quinn) over the love of a rich and beautiful woman (Madeline Stowe). While Scott battled with the studio over editing - to the point of almost being fired - the film failed to perform at the box office despite the star power of Costner. Meanwhile, he reunited with Simpson, Bruckheimer and Cruise for "Days of Thunder" (1990), a rather obvious attempt to recapture the success and machismo of "Top Gun" by telling essentially the same story set in the world of auto racing. Deemed a disappointment by most, the film still managed to gross $86 million, due mostly to Cruise's star wattage.
With "The Last Boy Scout" (1991), a brutal action picture starring Bruce Willis as an ex-Secret Service agent trying to help a retired football player (Damon Wayans) find his girlfriend's murderer, Scott attempted to recapture some of the zip he lost with his previous two efforts. But he overindulged in super-macho action, bad dialogue and stylistic tricks without purpose, resulting in a clichéd movie that once again failed to meet the box office expectations of having an A-list star in the lead. Scott reigned in the pomp and circumstance with his next effort, "True Romance" (1993), a love story wrapped in a crime thriller written by then-emerging director Quentin Tarantino. While much of the attention was lavished on Tarantino, who had just released his breakout heist-gone-wrong flick "Reservoir Dogs" (1992), Scott had a greater deal of control over the film than he previously had. Quirky, violent and boasting strong performances from Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, who starred as a happy couple on the run from a crime boss (Christopher Walken) with a briefcase full of mafia cocaine, "True Romance" garnered some of the best reviews of Scott's career to date. Though box office totals at the time were lacking, the movie proved popular as a rental and built up a strong cult following with cinephiles over the years.
Reunited with Simpson and Bruckheimer for what proved to be the last time, Scott built on the creative success of "True Romance" to direct a compelling mainstream film, "Crimson Tide" (1995), a submarine-set thriller of nuclear brinkmanship that pitted two submarine officers (Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman) with different philosophies on how to engage a renegade Russian force that seized nuclear silos. A number of writers labored on the script without ultimately receiving screen credit, including Tarantino, who was brought aboard at Scott's insistence to punch up the dialogue. The final product emerged as the third highest grossing film of the year, while building upon the creative success Scott enjoyed with "True Romance." Also that year, he partnered with older brother Ridley to form the production company Scott Free, while together purchasing London's Shepperton Studios. After slipping back to his old ways with "The Fan" (1996), a much-derided psycho thriller starring Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes, Scott served as executive producer with his brother on the anthologized horror series, "The Hunger" (Showtime, 1997-2000), which was inspired by his first feature.
The following year, the Scott brothers co-produced the underrated "Clay Pigeons" (1998), a black comedy about a hapless country boy (Joaquin Phoenix) who is mistaken for being a serial killer. Also that year, Scott returned to the director's chair with "Enemy of the State," a gripping political thriller written by Aaron Sorkin about an attorney and family man (Will Smith) who gets unwittingly entangled in a web of political intrigue surrounding the murder of a U.S. senator. While Scott's indulgence in non-stop action undermined previous efforts, his thrill-a-minute approach served as the right approach in what became his best film since "True Romance." The film enjoyed brisk box office and terrific reviews - a vast improvement from his last feature.
Scott's critical stock went skyward again after executive producing with Ridley the Emmy-nominated drama, "RKO 281" (HBO, 1999), which was a somewhat fictionalized take on the making of Orson Welles' classic "Citizen Kane" (1941). After serving as executive producer on the unsuccessful Paul Newman caper comedy, "Where the Money Is" (2000), Scott directed the lackluster thriller, "Spy Game" (2001), which depicted a retiring CIA officer (Robert Redford) trying to free former protégé (Brad Pitt ) from a Chinese prison. In an attempt to recall the taut political thrillers of the 1970s, "Spy Game" failed to dig below the surface, resulting in a competent, but shallow film. In the new century, Scott stayed with producing, shepherding such well-received projects as "The Gathering Storm" (HBO, 2002), an intimate look at the relationship between Winston Churchill (Albert Finney) and his wife Clementine (Vanessa Redgrave) at the outset of World War II. After becoming one of several noted directors to helm stylish advertisements for BMW in 2002, he returned to feature filmmaking with" Man on Fire" (2004), a dependable revenge thriller about a private bodyguard (Denzel Washington) who embarks on a deadly mission of retribution when his 10-year-old client (Dakota Fanning) gets abducted. The film was a surprise box office success, reinforcing Scott's reputation as a hit-maker.
After several years of development, Scott finally brought his next project, "Domino" (2005), to the screen. Written by off-the-wall screenwriter Richard Kelly, the film transmogrified the already outrageous story of Domino Harvey, the real-life daughter of actor Lawrence Harvey who became an actual bounty hunter, into a hyperkinetic, hallucinogenic action movie. Starring an impressive cast that included Keira Knightley in the lead role, as well as Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez and Delroy Lindo, among others, the film drew heavy criticism following its release for ignoring Harvey's bisexuality and drug use. In fact, just months before "Domino" hit theaters, Harvey was found dead in her West Hollywood apartment after an accidental drug overdose. Critics took a harsher view, suggesting that Scott's overwhelming stylization - a manipulated color scheme, frenetic cinematography and music video-style editing - proved irksome and undercut the actors' otherwise strong performances, while exploiting Harvey's story without exploring its more meaningful overtones. Meanwhile, Scott Free produced their second television series, "Numb3rs" (CBS, 2005-2010), a procedural about an FBI agent (Rob Morrow) who teams up with his mathematical genius brother (David Krumholtz) to solve various crimes.
Joining forces with Denzel Washington once again, Scott directed "Déjà vu" (2006), a surprisingly plodding action flick about an ATF agent (Washington) with the ability to sense impending danger who tries to save hundreds of innocent people from an explosion on a ferry. Back to producing with Scott Free, he helped air "The Company" (TNT, 2007), a large-scale miniseries that followed the birth of the Central Intelligence Agency at the dawn of the Cold War until the fall of the Soviet Union. Based on the spy thriller novel by Robert Littell, the miniseries earned several award nominations atop good critical reviews. Scott's production company turned out another award-nominated miniseries, "The Andromeda Strain" (A&E, 2008), the second screen adaptation of Michael Crichton's popular 1969 novel. Turning back to features, Scott directed "The Taking of Pelham 123" (2009), a remake of the 1974 movie about a subway dispatcher (Washington) whose world is thrown into chaos when a criminal mastermind (John Travolta) and his gang of thugs hijack a subway train for ransom.
Following that, Scott directed the action thriller, "Unstoppable" (2010), starring Washington and Chris Pine as two railroad engineers trying to stop a runaway train loaded with dangerous chemicals. The film performed well both with critics and at the box office. Meanwhile, the director began developing the sequel to "Top Gun," which attracted considerable attention, particularly when star Tom Cruise became interested in the project. But before the film could be launched into production, tragedy struck when Scott suddenly committed suicide on Aug. 19, 2012 by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the San Pedro district of Los Angeles. Apparently Scott drove his vehicle to the bridge, parked in an eastbound lane, climbed a fence and, according to eyewitnesses, jumped "without hesitation." Police found the body a few hours later and confirmed Scott's identity while also later discovering a suicide note in his office. He was 68 years old, and left behind his wife, Donna, and twin sons.
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Directed first short films "One of the Missing" (1969) and "Loving Memory" (1971) for the British Film Institute (credited as Anthony Scott)
Directed first feature "The Hunger"
Helmed blockbuster film "Top Gun"; first collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson
Directed Eddie Murphy in hit comedy "Beverly Hills Cop II"; second collaboration with Bruckheimer and Simpson
Made TV producing debut with "Christmas at the Movies," a syndicated holiday special hosted by Gene Kelly
Helmed successful auto racing drama "Days of Thunder"; re-teamed with Cruise, Bruckheimer, and Simpson
Directed the Quentin Tarantino-penned script "True Romance"
Purchased (with Ridley) London's Shepperton Studios from Panavision subsidiary, Lee International
Directed Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington in thriller "Crimson Tide"; Tarantino did uncredited work on the script
Directed episode of the Showtime series "The Hunger," based on his film of the same name
Produced the dark comedy "Clay Pigeons"
Directed political thriller "Enemy of the State," starring Hackman and Will Smith
Produced the Emmy-nominated HBO drama "RKO 281" with brother Ridley
Executive produced the Showtime political drama "The Last Debate"
Served as one of the producers of the Paul Newman caper "Where the Money Is"
Helmed thriller "Spy Game," starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt
Executive produced Richard Loncraine's "The Gathering Storm"; starred Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave as Winston and Clemmie Churchill
Directed Denzel Washington as an assassin hired to protect Dakota Fanning in "Man on Fire"
Co-produced (with brother Ridley Scott) the CBS series "Numb3rs"
Directed and produced "Domino," a film about Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley), model turned bounty hunter and daughter of actor Laurence Harvey
Re-teamed with Denzel Washington to direct "Deja Vu"
Produced "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"; starred Brad Pitt as James and Casey Affleck as Ford
Again teamed with Washington for the remake of "The Taking of Pelham 123"; also co-starred John Travolta
Executive produced acclaimed CBS drama "The Good Wife"
Re-teamed with Washington as director of thriller "Unstoppable"
Produced sci-fi thriller "Prometheus," directed by brother Ridley Scott