A man drives his car to an LA street, climbs a fence, and jumps off of a bridge to his death with no hesitation. No, this is not the beginning of some creative, twisted thriller; this is the end of a creative, twisted director’s life. Tony Scott, the younger brother of famous director Ridley Scott, committed suicide August 19 in Los Angeles at the age of 68. Quite a bit of mystery still surrounds this event, but it has been widely reported that an unreleased suicide note has surfaced in the late director’s office. Regardless, this type of occurrence really casts a shadow over an otherwise highly laudable career and life.
Critically, Tony Scott has gotten more acclaim from his TV work as producer of hit shows like The Good Wife. However, he has been a solid action director for over 30 years, working with major stars like Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington. Scott’s style as a director was very unique. He combined industrial noises with quick, gritty, and frantic camera movement and cutting, creating a signature look. His films mostly revolved around some derivation of the hot-head hero who has a passion for the cause, but no patience for confining rules. He took this format from the streets of Beverly Hills up into the skies with the US Naval Flying School, deep down undersea within the claustrophobic confines of a submarine (where he started his five-time collaborative relationship with Denzel Washington). His movies may not have been something we’ve never seen before, but dammit they were slick, entertaining, and fun. Scott wasn’t afraid to get dark either. This darkness, which I hesitate to celebrate given the events that brought his life to an end, did elicit the greatest performance of Christopher Walken’s career as Vinceenzo Coccotti in the film True Romance. And he did it in just a five minute scene, additional credit going to Quentin Tarantino for the dialogue. Walken would later appear in two other Tony Scott directed films. All in all, it comes as quite a shock that someone who has enjoyed such success, appreciation, and approval would want to kill himself. Clearly, there are many unknowns and it is trivial to speculate about it. It also feels bittersweet to maintain an air of celebration over his work after such an abrupt event. Nonetheless, this particular article comes from an affectionate place regardless of Scott’s life choices. As is true in many situations in life, we need to separate the personal from the professional. Professionally, Tony Scot was an inspiration and a talent worthy of remembering. It is a shame to see it end so soon.