Tony Scott il gigante
Tony Scott: Painter|Gypsy|Adrenaline Junkie|Rock Climber|Auteur
I’d rather be writing about my recent return to any number of Tony Scott’s films than his untimely death but the shock of which remains clouding my every attempt to do anything else. I tell myself it’s about the work, his life’s work and the man-made endless hours of enjoyment and befuddlement he gave me between all those damn walls he spent a lifetime climbing. Cutter, rock climber, gypsy adrenaline junkie – going way back to the beginning of beginnings, to films like The Hunger and later Days of Thunder, True Romance and Crimson Ride, so many others, I’m flooded with an endless chorus of thrills and colorful escapes, jet plane joy rides and blockbuster summer times. Ahhh. Scott rewards his audiences in my remembering, turning our movies into personal excursions of communal experiences that will continue long after the shock and sadness fades, the thrills and inspiration and entertainment for me and audiences all over the world. I can’t fully articulate the sadness, not here, perhaps not at all in conventional ways or words of remembering and praise, the best I have is the promise I’ll review all those films and hold fast to critical commentary as much as praise. I just keep thinking how I’ve lost another great influence, one of a handful of filmmakers I grew up with and made a list of those who I’d give anything to work with one day even if it were on some set of theirs to take it all in, the fleeting magic that happens to make movies come alive, learn their trade and take it into my own work. For all the reasons people will write about Tony today and in the days, months and years to come, for all the good and bad things, the private matters that should be excluded but sadly will not be, I’m adding my own thoughts and remorse, words for all the words that can’t possibly touch on such a loss to the ones of many and all the rest.
Tony’s filmography is a venerable A-list of Hollywood’s golden best, Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis (Top Gun, Days of Thunder), Gene Hackman, Jerry Bruckheimer and Will Smith (Enemy of the State), Denzel Washington(Man on Fire, Taking of Pelham, Unstoppable), Mickey Rourke (Domino), Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop) Kevin Costner (Revenge), Robert Redford and Brad Pitt (Spy Game), Chris Walken and Hopper and Gandolfini and Bruce Willis (True Romance), Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon (The Hunger) and dozens of others. He was a director for the people, always more favorable to moviegoers than critics who often relegated his films as serving the greater common denominator of action fueled stories, less on character refinements and more on star powered performances. So often we got it wrong, missed the substances from whence all his films came from. The trouble with dismissing the talents of pop culture filmmakers is the sheer artistry of their designs, their brand name appeal and ability to tap into what people want and need to get away from all the things that films can do to ease the hearts and minds of our everyday woes. Tony’s unyielding command of the plasticity of the medium is what gave his films a vibrancy that few have equaled and many have copied, his clear vision to bring often opposing forces together to make some of the biggest big screen films of the last thirty-five plus years. Of course Tony played to our love of adrenaline and he did it with zealous affection for the thrill of our entertainment as much as his own.
Scott’s ability to weave kinetic energy with specificity in character and concept was at the heart and soul of his films, his command of the cut and the point of movement using action to further story and character while simultaneously making familiar plots somehow new again. Charting a course over his career from film to filmmaker, actors to producers and passion projects, fantasy films and blockbusters all lining up with the man at the helm of every one of them exuding passion and relentless fear of failure and success – the true sign of greatness, that undercurrent of potential for ruin and box office success giving film after film the drive to be bigger and better year after year.
Perhaps one need not go any further than this quote at Wikipedia from the man himself:
“The 80s was a whole era. We were criticized, we being the Brits coming over, because we were out of advertising—Alan Parker,Hugh Hudson, Adrian Lyne, my brother—we were criticized about style over content. Jerry Bruckheimer was very bored of the way American movies were very traditional and classically done. Jerry was always looking for difference. That’s why I did six movies with Jerry. He always applauded the way I wanted to approach things. That period in the 80s was a period when I was constantly being criticized, and my press was horrible. I never read any press after The Hunger.”
—Scott reflecting on his career in June 2009
In my shuffling way, there was this quip from CNN of all places but no less poignant:
“I always get criticized for style over content, unlike Ridley’s films like ‘Alien’ or ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Gladiator’ that go right into the classic box right away. Mine sort of hover,” he said. “Maybe with time, people will start saying they should be classics, but I think I’m always perceived as reaching too hard for difference, and difference doesn’t categorize you as the ‘classic’ category.”
The thing so many people seem to be missing, not that I’m suggesting I’m cornering the market of opinions about Tony’s intent and intentions, is that he was a driven man in pursuit of the elusive celebrity of success. He owned his successes nevertheless, the success of accomplishment and the beauty of fathered films and entertaining productions, what he called his “indirect family” in the same crew of 15-20 years, yet it burdened him to the very end that he never obtained the recognition of so much time dedicated to our entertainment. Perhaps like his first film, The Hunger, the way it failed miserably in nearly all aspects of audience and critics reaction only to resurface later, as first a calling card that took him back to the Hollywood that shunned him where he gave us Top Gun, then with audiences who recognized the beautiful manipulation of movement in and out of our lives. Tony loved what he did for us, the challenge to create worlds and make them move for us, find the dirty prettiness of shared experiences of good and bad and give us a place to explore together, enjoy together, get away with the great unknown that’s scary and exciting and necessary. “I love a challenge,” he’s said time and time again, “I love what I do”.
Tony spent nearly a decade in art school, became a painter, rode a bicycle and got the java in his brother’s films, detoured to commercials, rock videos and television. It was inevitable, thankfully, that he would find feature films or they found him, gave him a bigger canvas upon which to take us on adventures together. He used to escape by climbing rocks after he finished his films, where ever he was in the world, finding the tallest walls that were always near him, seemingly at every other turn through out his life. He hung there high above the ground with the fear of it all tugging at him, reminding him of the inevitable falls facing us all, the finite of the greatest unknown in art and life. He became a rock climbing movie maker of stars and never looked back. Writer, editor and producer, celebrated director and visionary cutter, father and brother, filmmaker for sure – he lived with a lust for life that drove him mad for the celebrity he would never know fully while simultaneously making millions. It is terrible that we lost him but not even death can change his magnanimity after all and I suspect there’s not a one of us that would suggest otherwise.