Take My Breath Away: The Tony Scott Tribute
By Mother Brain
On August 19, the Hollywood community and the world morned the sudden death of legendary filmmaker Tony Scott. The brother of Alien director Ridley Scott and the director of such classics as Top Gun and True Romance fell to his death from a Los Angeles County bridge. While the circumstances of his suicide are still being speculated in the media, Scott left behind a body of work that transcended three decades in cinema. As a filmmaker myself, Scott was one the major influences in my work and films inspired me to pursue my career.
I was a small child when Top Gun was rocking cinemas in 1986. I can only remember seeing brief clips of it when it hit the video stores sometime after. Yet, the earliest Tony Scott film I can recall seeing was Beverly Hills Cop II when it first premiered on television while I was in second grade. Eddie Murphy was still the king of comedy and the movie was full of action and laughs. It was not until years later when I bought the first two Cop movies on video when I read on the back of the box that Tony Scott had done both Cop II and Top Gun.
By the time 1998 rolled around with Scottâ€™s Enemy of the State, I started to rent a number of his previous films because I was drawn to his MTV-style of directing. He had a number of popcorn flicks under his belt at the time like Days of Thunder, The Last Boyscout, Crimson Tide, and The Fan; however, it was True Romance that drew me the most. Few people could appreciate how Scott adapted Quentin Tarantinoâ€™s screenplay with a great deal of respect apart from the minor changes he made to the story structure and the ending. Romance was a film filled with colorful characters which Scott would cast with a number of hot actors of the day like Christian Slater as well as future superstars like Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini. As brutal and cynical as the film was, Scott truly loved these characters; an aspect that a director must have to produce a successful movie.
With every movie that Scott put out, I always sought inspiration from his cinematic style. In the early days of Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II, he would be known for adding orange filters and smoke into his shots to capture an extremely humid atmosphere. He loved adding eye candy wherever he could whether it was Tom Cruise and company playing shirtless volleyball, Eddie Murphy ripping down the streets of Detroit in a Ferrari, or Halle Berry dancing in cowgirl getup in a strip club. All of his movies were edited so quickly youâ€™d never be bored watching them. Over time, the editing of his films only got faster with cuts every several seconds along with over-colorizing shots with high contrast colors to heighten the reality of his scenes. By the time Domino was released, people began to backlash against his style for being too chaotic for the viewer to follow and he slowly toned the chaos down.
Scott was also unique from most caucasian directors in Hollywood because he often cast protagonists of color. Denzel Washington would be his muse over the course of five films. Where most directors often failed to utilize Denzelâ€™s strengths in the action genre, Scott always cast Denzel in compelling roles to capture as much realism as possible while establishing a trust between Denzelâ€™s characters and the audience. Whether it was the revenge-seeking bodyguard in Man on Fire or the veteran railroad conductor in Unstoppable, Scott always found a way to show Denzel in a new light. He could also take a comedian like Damon Wayans as well as superstars like Will Smith and Wesley Snipes down to a more human level in their performances, placing their ordinary characters in extraordinary situations only to come out of them in heroic fashion.
The legacy of Tony Scott influenced a good majority of todayâ€™s filmmakers including Simon West, Antwone Fuqua, Joe Carnahan, and most notably Michael Bay. He helped to change the way movies are made today because at the time when Top Gun was in pre-production, producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer sought to break away from traditional American filmmaking in favor of the overseas talents like Scott and his brother Ridley who brought a unique vision that broke standard Hollywood conventions. He knew exactly how to enhance an actorâ€™s performance with the camera and how to get the audience invested in the story.
Sadly, there will be no new Tony Scott movies for me to look forward to anymore. I can only hope to produce my work in his spirit so I can inspire those certain young aspiring filmmakers as he had done for me.