No one ever mistook Tony Scott for a great dramatist. He was a director critics loved to hate for his slick barrage of images at the expense of story. The filmmaker did not dazzle the imagination with visions of lost or alien worlds, like brother Ridley Scott.
Scott was as populist as they come in Hollywood, a man of action films, pure and simple. From Tom Cruise as a daring fly boy in 1986’s “Top Gun” to Denzel Washington mutinying against an unstable captain in 1995’s “Crimson Tide” or trying to slow a runaway train in 2010’s “Unstoppable,” director Scott mastered sky, sea and earth in the name of movie adrenaline.
The 68-year-old Scott died on Sunday after jumping from a Los Angeles County bridge, authorities said. His death was being investigated as a suicide, Los Angeles County Coroner’s Lt. Joe Bale said. Scott leaped from the Vincent Thomas bridge spanning San Pedro and Terminal island at 12.30pm local time on Sunday. Several witnesses reportedly saw Scott climb a fence on the south side of the bridge’s apex. He “jumped without hesitation”, said official sources quoted in the Daily Breeze.
Authorities found a suicide note in his car, a black Toyota Prius, which was parked on one of the bridge’s eastbound lanes, a coastguard spokesman, Lt Jennifer Osburn, told reporters.
The Los Angeles Police Department, California Highway Patrol, firefighters and the coastguard conducted a search, while cargo vessels slowed during their passage through the main channel so as to minimise disturbance.
Sonar equipment helped divers locate and recover the body around 4.30pm. It was taken to a dock in Wilmington. A county coroner confirmed the identity later on Sunday evening.
It was a puzzling end for a filmmaker who had maintained a busy pace, with a sequel to “Top Gun,” his biggest hit, in the works.
“I can confirm that Tony Scott has passed away. The family asks that their privacy is respected at this time,” Scott’s spokesman, Simon Halls, said in a statement.
The younger brother of Ridley, whose Roman epic “Gladiator” won best-picture at the Academy Awards for 2000, Tony was partners with his sibling in a production company, collaborating on film, TV and advertising projects.
But despite blockbuster success on some of his own movies, Tony always was overshadowed by his brother, a three-time directing nominee at the Oscars whose films include “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Thelma and Louise” and this summer’s “Prometheus.”
Tony never was in the running for an Oscar, and critics often slammed his movies for his hyper-kinetic style and an emphasis on style over substance.
Still, he was the first of the Scott brothers to enjoy blockbuster success with “Top Gun,” the top-grossing film of 1986 at $176 million. Scott teamed with Cruise again four years later on the hit “Days of Thunder,” and he made five films with Washington, including “Man on Fire,” “Deja Vu” and “The Taking of Pelham 123.”
Other Scott films include “True Romance,” written by Quentin Tarantino, “The Fan,” with Robert De Niro, and “Enemy of the State,” starring Will Smith.
While Ridley had an auspicious start to his film career with 1977’s acclaimed period drama “The Duellists” and 1979’s “Alien,” Tony bombed with his debut, 1983’s supernatural romance “The Hunger,” with David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve.
He vaulted into Hollywood’s top ranks the next time out, with “Top Gun,” followed a year later by “Beverly Hills Cop II,” both with producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
The two brothers ran Scott Free Productions and were working jointly on a film called “Killing Lincoln,” based on the best seller by Bill O’Reilly. Along with countless commercials, their company produced the CBS dramas “NUMB3RS” and “The Good Wife” as well as a 2011 documentary about the Battle of Gettysburg for the History Channel.
Tony said he gained perspective by mixing things up between film, TV and commercials.
“I like changing the pace of my life, changing my discipline,” he said in a 2007 interview. “It gives me ideas for how to see the world differently.”
Tributes immediately flowed on Twitter. “No more Tony Scott movies. Tragic day,” tweeted the director Ron Howard. “RIP Tony Scott. So sad to hear this,” said the documentary-maker Morgan Spurlock. “We are absolutely devastated by the passing of director Tony Scott. He will be truly missed,” said a statement from Tribeca Film.
Film director Duncan Jones, who directed Moon and Source Code, tweeted: “Just heard about Tony Scott news. Horrible ... Tony was a truly lovely man who took me under his wing ignited my passion to make films.” Jones added: “Awww Tony. Wish you had felt there was a way to keep going. What a sad waste. My thoughts go out to his wife and beautiful children.”
Scott was married to Donna Scott, who had starred alongside Tom Cruise in Scott’s 1990 film Days of Thunder. The couple had twin boys, Frank and Max.
The director, whose full name was Anthony David Scott, lived in Beverly Hills, about 30 miles north from Long Island and the Vincent Thomas bridge, a 1,500ft structure built in 1963 to augment ferry services between San Pedro and Terminal Island.