Why, Tony Scott, why?

Bert B. Sulat Jr.
The prolific Hollywood director’s life story ended differently from those of his box-office hits

DIRECTOR TONY SCOTT. Screen grab from YouTube (BBCNews2012)

MANILA, Philippines – That Unstoppable English-born director Anthony David “Tony” Scott is dead is unbelievable, more so since he apparently took his own life. 

(Coincidentally, the Vincent Thomas Bridge — from which the US-based filmmaker made his fatal jump — had figured in movies. For example, in the 2000 Charlie’s Angels remake, Cameron Diaz’s “Natalie” is seen racecar-chasing Crispin Glover’s “Creepy Thin Man,” who opts to drive his own dragster off that bridge and into the water some 185 feet below, off the Los Angeles Harbor.)

The 68-year-old Scott did seem unstoppable. He had directed some 16 movies in the past 30 years, most of them action-packed bonanzas that, for better or worse, helped reinforce the modern-day blockbuster. 

He also produced several movies, be they his own or those of other helmers, including some by his elder brother Ridley, such as this year’s Prometheus

Tony also directed several TV commercials throughout his career, including a 2012 softdrink spot featuring Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. With his more critically-acclaimed sibling, Tony co-ran Scott Free Productions, which has been producing — among others — TV’s Numb3rs and The Good Wife.

Far too busy?

As reports of Tony Scott’s out-of-the-blue demise poured in, details of his recent engagements trickled in as well. 

For one thing, shooting on 2013’s Out of the Furnace, a Christian Bale starrer for which Scott was a producer, had just wrapped. He was also said to be at work towards two directorial efforts, Emma’s War and Loving Memory, in addition to continued TV-producing duties.

Top Gun, which came out in May ’86 and is perhaps Scott’s best-known flick, is not just slated for a 3D re-release this year but was also sequel-bound, possibly starring Tom “Maverick” Cruise anew. (With the director gone, it might be best for all else involved to drop this Part II idea.)

Scott’s directorial debut and lone horror effort, 1982’s The Hunger, was critically panned yet gained goth fans — such that, as of 2009, it was up to be remade by Warner Bros. Pictures. (I can’t help but wonder how Scott’s career would have turned out if The Hunger, the closest thing he did to a full-length art film, was better received.) 

So much for a happy ending

Tony Scott’s million-dollar movies are mostly tidy rushes of adrenalin made by a craftsman, as opposed to vague, ponderous fare by a provocative artist. And his protagonists are often placed in harrowing scenarios that, casualties or damage aside, result in the hero’s conclusive triumph.

(Spoilers in the next few paragraphs start here.) 

  • In Top Gun, Cruise’s reckless “Maverick” loses fellow Navy pilot “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) before regaining resolve and gaining redemption. 
  • In 1993’s True Romance, a fast-marrying couple (Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette) narrowly survive bullets from cocaine-chasing baddies and cops. Scott was said to have insisted that the couple stayed alive in the end even if they did not in Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay. (The Pulp Fiction director supposedly did not mind Scott’s alteration and overall take on his script.) 
  • In the 1995 submarine thriller Crimson Tide — an epitome of how a popcorn action movie can elicit strong viewer empathy — a cautious junior officer played by Denzel Washington subverts an impulsive senior officer (Gene Hackman), thus preventing the start of a nuclear war with Russia. Scott’s 4 other collaborations with Washington are rife with mostly lone rangers setting things right despite so many wrongs along the way. 
  • In 2004’s Man on Fire, the hero rescues his kidnapped ward, offing bad guys in the process. 
  • In the imagination-stretching Déjà Vu from 2006, the hero saves the token damsel in distress as well as hundreds of ferry passengers via time travel. 
  • In Scott’s 2009 remake of 1974’s The Taking of Pelham 123, Washington is a subway dispatcher who involuntarily lands his toughest assignment: thwarting a greedy hostage taker (John Travolta). 
  • In 2010’s Unstoppable — now Scott’s directorial swan song — Washington shared protagonist duties with Chris Pine, doing all it takes to succeed at stopping a runaway train from a deadly, costly collision. 


(The spoilers end there.)

In short, Scott’s filmography is mostly about good guys — imperfect, but good — prevailing right before the end credits roll, no matter the astounding difficulties that first come their way.

For a director who made such positivist testosterone-driven fare to willfully end his life is dumbfounding, and ironically raises the kind of introspective questions that his work did not.

Still a mystery

It’s not just Scott’s kids Frank and Max (by 3rd wife Donna Wilson Scott) who are orphaned by the director’s demise. 

After all, Scott’s succession of directorial and producing endeavors require the handiwork of not just actors and writers but also countless other off-camera personnel — men and women who help put a big movie together “piece by piece,” to quote a Denzel line from Man on Fire.  

What indeed could have prodded Scott to commit his sad final act? 

As of this writing, given that the contents of his suicide note have yet to be revealed by the authorities, people can only speculate.

A media-spread hypothesis went that it had to do with Scott being diagnosed with an “inoperable brain cancer,” a health issue that his family has refuted. 

Could it be that, despite his decades of experience, Scott still felt the trepidation of sitting in the director’s chair?

Scott did say, per a Wall Street Journal story, that “The scariest thing in my life is the first morning of production on all my movies. It’s the fear of failing, the loss of face and a sense of guilt that everybody puts their faith in you and not coming through.”

Until the true answer to the big “Why” question is revealed, one thing is certain: Perhaps for the first time in his life, Tony Scott left movie fans with a cliffhanger. – Rappler.com



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