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Closing Credits: Tony Scott

TonyScott.jpgI don't often get personally affected when I write a closing credits piece, usually it's sad that an aging actor or film personality has died but I write in a fond way about the films I remember and what they were most known for. However this morning as I read that Tony Scott had died I genuinely was surprised and shocked. I read the headline twice, checked the picture, read the article from various sources, and worked through the rest of the news with a detached almost uninterested automation.

The prolific and hugely talented sixty-eight year old director Tony Scott died early this morning in Los Angeles resulting in messages of shock and condolences through Hollywood and indeed the media.

Tony Scott was born in North Shields in Northumberland in 1944 and was set to become one of the most successful names in Hollywood along with his brother Ridley Scott as both producers and directors.

Tony graduated from the Royal College of Art in London and he and his brother became known for directing television adverts, or commercials, before making their move into film although it was much earlier when they actually made their first film.

In 1962 Tony starred in a film his brother directed called Boy and a Bicycle, a film finished with British Film Institute funding in 1965, forging a career move for both of them although Tony decided to stay behind the camera rather than in front of it. While it was Ridley that first went to television in 1965 and film in 1977, Tony followed soon after.

His first film was a short film he wrote and directed called One of the Missing in 1969 and featured his brother Ridley in front of the camera. Made for the BFI this, together with his huge commercial work, helped push him forward to film and he wrote and directed the film Loving Memory in 1971 under his Sunday name Anthony Scott.

He followed this in 1976 by directing a television episode of a series called Nouvelles de Henry James but his first debut feature film was in 1983 called The Hunger, a film starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandon, and a smaller role for a rather well known Willem Dafoe. The film marked a strong start for his career and still remains a stylish, visually engaging and rather different vampire film. It didn't succeed at the box office but it has since become somewhat of cult viewing.

It's surprising that this early in his career he leapt forward and made the seminal Top Gun in 1986, a film that although does look dated today still continues to be shown, watched, loved and quoted by so many. I know I'm just as guilty of doing that as anyone and I do really like that film.

It's also surprising that at this time in his career he was directing Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Tom Skerritt, Michael Ironside, Tim Robbins and Meg Ryan. Oh of course many of these actors and actresses were young and yet to carve a career, but he was already in there with big names, delivering a big film and one that had and continues to have such a big impact. It's hard to think how he could top it.

Beverly Hills Cop II followed the next year, a sequel no less and while there was still action this was more comedy than he'd handled before. Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Jürgen Prochnow, Ronny Cox, John Ashton, Brigitte Nielsen, Dean Stockwell, Paul Guilfoyle and Paul Reiser were some of the names involved and the film continued to cement his place in Hollywood.

Revenge in 1990 followed although it didn't do well. The film starred Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn and Madeleine Stowe which probably doesn't get remembered so much as it is eclipsed by the films around it, for on one side there is Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II and on the other we have Days of Thunder which was delivered that same year.

Days of Thunder is another film that stands out like Top Gun and also stars Tom Cruise this time along with Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall and Randy Quaid. It's another macho film that manages to attract audiences across the board and still has a strong following, but much like all his other films to this point they aren't really dripping with critical praise, and yet audiences love them and enjoy them.

He directed The Last Boy Scout in 1991 an action comedy led by Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans, and while it is an enjoyable film it didn't do as well as hoped in the cinema and is surely eclipsed by the film that followed, True Romance in 1993 and considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best film that Tony Scott has directed.

Starring a whole host of names the Quentin Tarantino written film delivered one of Scott's biggest and most memorable films to date, although the praise it received came as the film was watched again and again since commercially it didn't do that well. True Romance starred Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, James Gandolfini, Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn.

Although many would say that was his best film, I personally think it was Crimson Tide in 1995, that epic submarine based drama that pitched Denzel Washington and the superb Gene Hackman against each other to deliver a hell of an exciting film. It also stars the names of George Dzundza, James Gandolfini, Ricky Schroder and Steve Zahn. I watched that film time and time again and even now I'll watch it and get caught up in the power of those two performances butting heads and the palatable tension. Scott directed that film superbly well and it's the one I can watch over and over and not get bored of.

In 1996 he directed the legend Robert De Niro in The Fan along with Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, John Leguizamo and Benicio Del Toro. It's another stylishly directed and well cast film but it isn't one that really excited me. Yet even these films which are less than expected were gathering huge audiences, receiving nominations in popular awards and were visually exciting and entertaining, much more so than many films around them.

Another of my personal favourites arrived in 1998, the excellent Enemy of the State which, along with Crimson Tide, I still love watching to this day. It fires the film forward at a superb pace and has one of my personal favourite actors in it, Gene Hackman if you didn't already know, along with Will Smith who delivers a strong dramatic performance. It's a really good thriller that delivers a breakneck speed and co-stars Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Stuart Wilson, Barry Pepper, Jake Busey, Jason Lee, Gabriel Byrne and Jack Black.

Interestingly he returned to directing a couple of television episodes of a series he was producing called The Hunger, yes based upon his film and starring David Bowie and Terence Stamp. It's interesting to realise that despite all these notable films that he directed Tony Scott is perhaps more known for his production work for while he directed twenty-six films he produced forty-nine television series and films.

His production career really took off from 2000 onwards and amongst that list, other than his own films of course, is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Numb3rs, Welcome to the Rileys, The A-Team (Filmstalker review), Life in a Day, Gettysburg, The Grey (Filmstalker review), The Good Wife and recently Prometheus (Filmstalker review).

Lined up on the production slate were a number of projects including a few that had just completed, the Chan-wook Park directed Stoker and the television series Coma, as well as Prometheus 2.

Spy Game was the next film he directed in 2001 and now he's directing Robert Redford alongside Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. This was another solid action thriller with visual style galore which Scott is synonymous for.

You may remember the short film/advert he made for BMW in 2002 called Beat the Devil, part of a series of adverts that were made with big name directors and Tony made this short which starred Clive Owen, Gary Oldman, James Brown, Marilyn Manson and Danny Trejo. The film saw Owen playing a driver who was to deliver James Brown to the devil, played by Oldman, to renegotiate the terms on the ownership of his soul. It was a cracking short series and this one was particularly good as well as rather reminiscent of a couple of his films.

In 2004 he directed a rather good action thriller called Man on Fire, one that had a surprising tone and progression for the main character. Denzel Washington, fast becoming his leading actor, delivered a really interesting and edgy character for the film which also starred Dakota Fanning, Marc Anthony, Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken and Giancarlo Giannini. There were mixed views about the film and the alternate endings delivered on the DVD release didn't help any, but I rather enjoyed the film especially the beaten and broken character that Washington played.

A short in 2004 called Agent Orange seemed to be a little bit of a test of what was to come, the frenetic and multi camera style for the 2005 Domino, and boy was that a frantic film to watch. To be fair the style had been building for some time and in Man on Fire it was prominent, but it came to the height in Domino where multiple cameras of different types were used on single shots including the hand cranked cameras and the footage all mixed together to give a crazy visual pace and some very stylised shots. Domino was an unusual film made more unusual by the fact that it was based on a true story. Starring Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Édgar Ramírez, Mena Suvari and Jacqueline Bisset, the film tells the story of Domino Harvey who dropped her modelling contract to become a bounty hunter and was soaked through with stylistic choices that weren't to audiences' tastes.

Things were toned down with the 2006 Déjà Vu (Filmstalker review) which delivered an interesting story and added science fiction to the usual Tony Scott action thriller and returning again was the excellent Denzel Washington along with Val Kilmer and Paula Patton, Jim Caviezel, Adam Goldberg and Bruce Greenwood. I didn't like the ending of the film but running all the way to there it was hitting a high mark, again an entertaining and exciting film with a strong pace.

2009 saw The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Filmstalker review) a film which teamed up two John Travolta and Denzel Washington, both in roles you might not have first expected of them. It was a good action thriller with Travolta delivering a great bad guy and it gained a fair degree of praise.

In 2010 his last film Unstoppable was released and it seemed that the title spoke for the director who had a number of films on his production slate including the seemingly un-makeable Top Gun 2 was even moving closer to production. Unstoppable was another well received film that saw Denzel Washington in the leading role once again this time with Chris Pine taking the passenger seat beside him.

Tony Scott delivered action thrillers galore, steeped in style and sometimes rather experimental, while critics might have not taken to his later work he definitely entertained audiences and delivered huge blockbusters, and none of them could be described as a bad film or a dud, and that's rather surprising considering the amount of films he's made. More so he directed some films that people will not stop watching or talking about, Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide or indeed Enemy of the State.

His work has undoubtedly had a huge influence on many talented people and the comments appearing online from those who have worked with him remind us how much of an influence and mentor he was outside of directing and producing.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Producer and Director
Tony Scott



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