Tony Scott

Active - 1963 - 2019  |   Born - Jul 21, 1944 in Stockton-on-Tees, England  |   Died - Aug 19, 2012   |   Genres - Action, Thriller, Drama, Crime

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Biography by Cammila Collar

While still a teenager, producer and director Tony Scott made his first foray into film with an appearance in his big brother Ridley Scott's first short film, Boy and Bicycle. He later attended London's Royal College of Art, as did his brother, and proceeded to get his feet wet behind the camera, at first by directing TV commercials for his brother's production company Ridley Scott Associates. He became a leader in the British commercial industry, directing countless ads and building up an impressive resumé over the years.

By the early '80s, Tony Scott was ready to begin directing films, and for his first project, he agreed to tackle MGM's artful vampire pic The Hunger, starring David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. The movie was released in 1983 to a disappointing silence at the box office, and for the next few years Scott returned to commercials as he waited for his next opportunity to come along. That project came in the form of an offer from producer Jerry Bruckheimer to direct a fun action drama about hotshot fighter jet pilots -- Top Gun. Scott's darker artistic sensibilities didn't jive with Bruckheimer's ideas at first -- he had images of Apocalypse Now and The Road Warrior in mind, while the producers were envisioning something poppier and easy to digest. Finally, Scott understood what they were asking for and created the rock & roll and blue-skies flick that they had in mind. The movie was a massive box-office hit, ushering Scott into the next tier of filmmakers and making a star out of Tom Cruise.

Scott almost instantly became the man to call on for fun action romps, directing films like Beverly Hills Cop II in 1987, Days of Thunder in 1990, and The Last Boy Scout in 1991. He also directed a script written by a then unknown named Quentin Tarantino called True Romance. Starring a top-notch ensemble cast including Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, and Brad Pitt, the film was something of a sleeper at the box office. The exuberant tribute to cinematic expressions of love, crime, violence, and rock & roll quickly became another cult hit -- and a preview of things to come from the writer behind it. The movie also served as a reminder that Scott was capable of more sensitive and artistic sentiments than the testosterone-driven pictures that encompassed much of his filmography.

That is not to say Scott was not quite at home in the action and thriller areas of film, as he spent the 1990s churning out popular titles like Crimson Tide, The Fan, and Enemy of the State. He continued with his trademark action-with-a-sense-of-humor style in the new millennium with films like Spy Game, Man on Fire, and Domino, but by this time he was trying his hand at producing as well. Scott produced and executive produced TV ventures like The Last Debate, The Gathering Storm, and Numb3rs, as well as features such as Tristan + Isolde and In Her Shoes, and his own Man on Fire and Domino. Scott's next three films, 2006's Deja Vu, and 2009's The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and 2010's Unstoppable, found the director becoming something of a frequent collaborator with Hollywood heavyweight Denzel Washington. Yet just as his career would circle back with the development of Top Gun 2, Tony took his own life by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro. He left behind a wife, two twin boys, and a breadth of work that was unique, satisfying, and always delivered with a stylish flair that only became more daring as his career went on.

Movie Highlights

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  • Made his acting debut in older brother Ridley Scott's first film, the 1965 short Boy and Bicycle.
  • After unsuccessfully attempting a career as a painter for several years, broke into the entertainment industry as a partner and director for Ridley Scott Associates (RSA), the UK-based commercial production company his brother founded in 1968.
  • First big box-office success came in 1986 with the Tom Cruise-starring Top Gun, which grossed more than $175 million in the U.S. and nearly $350 million worldwide.
  • Received nearly 20 Television/Cinema Clio Awards for directing commercials for British Airways (1985), Marlboro (1989), and United Airlines, Holiday Inn and the Oldsmobile Intrigue (all 1998), as well as for producing and directing a series of popular 2003 BMW short films-ads.
  • Was good friends with the real-life Domino Harvey, subject of his 2005 film Domino.
  • Keeps a portion of LSD guru Timothy Leary's ashes in his bathroom.
  • Worked with actor Denzel Washington on five films: Crimson Tide (1995), Man on Fire (2004), Deja Vu (2006), The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009) and Unstoppable (2010).