Tony Scott

From Academic Kids

Tony Scott (born July 21, 1944) is a British film director. His brother is the director Ridley Scott.


Pre-filmmaking years

Born in Stockton-on-Tees in the farmlands of Northern England, Tony Scott's first foray into filmmaking was not from behind the camera, but rather in front of it. At the age of sixteen, Scott appeared in Boy and Bicycle, a short film marking the directorial debut of his then-twenty-three-year-old brother Ridley. Following in his older brother's footsteps, Tony graduated from first the West Hartlepool College of Art and then the Royal College of Art. Fully intending to become a painter, it was the success of his older brother's fledging television commercial production outfit, Ridley Scott Associates (RSA), that turned his attentions towards film. "Tony had wanted to do documentaries at first. I told him, 'Don't go to the BBC, come to me first.' I knew that he had a fondness for cars, so I told him 'Come work with me and within a year you'll have a Ferrari'. And he did".

In the course of the next two decades, Scott directed literally thousands of television commercials for RSA, while also overseeing the company's operation during periods in which his brother was developing his feature film career, ultimately realized with 1977's The Duellists, and Alien in 1979. Tony also took time out in 1975 to direct an adaptation of the Henry James story The Author of Beltraffio for French television, a project he landed by virtue of a winning coin-flip against his brother. After the considerable feature film successes of fellow British commercial directors Hugh Hudson, Alan Parker, Adrian Lyne and his elder brother in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Scott was beginning to receive overtures from Hollywood himself when tragedy struck. In 1980, his older brother Frank died of cancer.

The 1980s

Grieving, Scott nevertheless persisted in trying to kickstart a feature film career. Among the projects interesting him was an adaptation of the Anne Rice novel Interview with the Vampire then in development. MGM, however, had a vampire yarn of their own that they wanted Scott to direct, and after failing to convince the company to drop their project and tackle Interview instead, Scott instead decided to accept the MGM project, and pour into it all of the visual design concepts he had bandied about for Interview. In 1982, Scott began production on The Hunger.

A sensual, downbeat, self-consciously "arty" endeavour, The Hunger starred David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve as chic Manhattan socialite vampires, desperately searching for a medical cure to arrest Bowie's rapid aging. With its remarkably beautiful photography and sumptuous production design, The Hunger was altogether unlike any other picture at the time of its release in 1983. Perhaps not surprising, the picture failed to find an audience, being mauled by critics and ignored at the box-office. Finding himself largely unemployable in Hollywood for the next two and a half years, Scott returned to commercials until his next shot at feature success presented itself.

That opportunity presented itself in the form of an offer from producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to direct a picture called Top Gun. Among the few admirers of The Hunger during its initial release (the film has, however, subsequently earned cult status on home video), Simpson and Bruckheimer had settled upon choosing Scott largely on the basis of a commercial he had done for Swedish automaker Saab in the early 1980s: in the spot, a Saab 900 Turbo is shown racing a fighter jet. Sensing they had found their man, they offered the project to Scott. Scott, however, was initially reluctant.

"I kept talking about it in terms of movies like Apocalypse Now and The Road Warrior, which scared the hell out of them. Having come from an arts background, my sensibilities tended to be a little dark. I kept thinking of it terms of 'Apocalypse Now on an aircraft carrier'. They (Simpson and Bruckheimer) kept saying, 'No, no, no.' Then, one day, it hit me. I understood what they were after. It wasn't Apocalypse Now, it was silver jets racing against bright blue skies. It was rock 'n' roll in the skies." Simpson and Bruckheimer's instincts proved correct. Scott's visual talents helped make Top Gun one of the highest-grossing films of 1986, taking in more than $176 Million, and making a star of its young lead, Tom Cruise.

Following Top Gun's success, Scott found himself on Hollywood's A list of action directors. Reteaming with Simpson and Bruckheimer in 1987, Scott directed Eddie Murphy in the highly anticipated sequel Beverly Hills Cop II. A critical failure, the picture nevertheless became of the year's highest grossers. His next film, Revenge, was something of a change of pace for the director. Starring Kevin Costner and Madeleine Stowe, the film was a lurid, brutal thriller of adultery and (not surprisingly) revenge set in Mexico. The production, however, was not a pleasant one for Scott, as the film was taken out of his hands in post-production, and re-cut at the insistence of producer Ray Stark. The film was both a critical and commercial failure, although like The Hunger, its reputation began to improve as the years passed.

The 1990s

In 1990, Scott returned the Simpson-Bruckheimer fold to helm the big-budget auto racing saga Days of Thunder. Once again directing Tom Cruise in a tale of a talented-but-reckless young man who must master his emotions as well as his machinery, the similarities to Top Gun did not go unnoticed. Unlike its predecessor, the film was a box-office disappointment when released in the summer of 1990.

Scott's next film, The Last Boy Scout, faired little better, its grim, downbeat tone (with notable overtones of misogyny) and punishing violence proving to be a little much for Holiday moviegoers at the time of its release in December 1991. It was, however, a modest commercial success, particularly in comparison to star Bruce Willis' previous vehicle, Hudson Hawk. Sensing that he was perhaps being pigeon-holed as a director of glossy, high-tech, big-bang action pictures, Scott then turned his attentions to a much smaller-scale production, albeit one every bit as technically polished and visually accomplished as the rest of his work. Through a meeting arranged by a former employee, Scott was introduced to a bright, extremely enthusiastic video store clerk turned fledging filmmaker by the name of Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino offered him samples of his work to read, among them the screenplays for Reservoir Dogs and True Romance. Scott told Tarantino that he would love to make them both. Tarantino, however, showed remarkable tenacity for a filmmaker who had not yet made even one finished film, and politely replied to Scott that he could not have the rights to Dogs, as Tarantino intended to direct it himself. He was, however, able to make True Romance.

Made for $13 Million in 1993, a fraction of what his previous four pictures had cost, True Romance was a bold, exuberant, turbo-charged variation on well-worn Bonnie and Clyde themes. Boasting a first rate cast including Christian Slater, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Tom Sizemore, Chris Penn, Val Kilmer and, in bit roles, James Gandolfini and Samuel L. Jackson, True Romance was the picture that helped change the perception of Scott from that of well-paid Hollywood "hack", to that of highly skilled action auteur. Although reaction to the film was initially lukewarm, like most of Scott's work, it quickly developed a strong cult following. And while most of the press coverage of the film centered on its star screenwriter, True Romance is every bit as much a tour-de-force for Tony Scott as it was for Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino himself was a self-confessed "huge Tony Scott fan", and was enormously pleased with the final product, even consenting to record a commentary track for the special edition DVD release of the film.

Scott's next film returned him back into the Simpson-Bruckheimer fold for a big-budget thriller, but unlike their previous collaborations, this one showed a renewed interest in strong characterizations. Crimson Tide, a submarine thriller starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, was a box-office hit in 1995 and confirmed Tony Scott's status as an A list director, capable of drawing top level acting talent. His follow-up film, 1996's The Fan, contained a similarly strong cast (Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, Benicio Del Toro, etc.), but was perhaps the low point in Scott's filmography, a film which pleased neither critics nor moviegoers, and unlike The Hunger, seems unlikely for rediscovery anytime soon. Scott bounced back in 1998 with Enemy of the State, a paranoid thriller starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman. Playing like an amphetamine-charged version of Francis Coppola's The Conversation (1974), Scott's high-tech thriller was well received by critics and audiences alike.

The 2000s

His subsequent films, Spy Game (2001) and Man on Fire (2004), though further demonstrating his technical skills, did so at the expense of his storytelling abilities.

The influence of Scott's work on a whole generation of commercial and music video directors can be found in the films of Michael Bay and Antoine Fuqua, among others.

Partial director filmography

External link

ja:トニー・スコット sv:Tony Scott


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