ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

AN EDITORIAL- JER’S TURN: REMEMBERING DIRECTOR TONY SCOTT (1944- 2012)

“The biggest edge I live on is directing. That's the most scary, dangerous thing you can do in your life.”- Tony Scott

JER: The date was August 19, 2012 when reports swarmed the Los Angeles Police Department just shortly after 12:30pm about an apparent suicide that took place off the Vincent Thomas Bridge. The location is a suspension bridge that connects San Pedro and Terminal Island in California. An identified man had been reported to have taken a 185- foot fall from the bridge to the waters of the Los Angeles Harbor below. Witnesses could only describe the jumper as a middle- aged man wearing sporty orange and gray attire with shorts… some onlookers believed that he was performing an extreme- sports stunt, but appeared nervous before climbing the fence and finally throwing himself off the top. The body was recovered later that Sunday evening by divers for the Los Angeles Port Police and later identified by the coroner’s office that evening…the unidentified man was 68- year old Director Tony Scott.
The Vincent Thomas bridge

At the time of his death, Scott was said to had suffered from an inoperable brain tumor, that rumor was later announced to be “absolutely false” by his widow. Investigations are still on- going at the time of this posting.

Born Anthony David Scott on June 21, 1944, he was the youngest of three sons and immediately found himself following in the footsteps of his eldest brother, Director Ridley Scott. Showing an early love and talent for art and painting, Scott attended various schools including Leeds College of Art and Design and received a degree at the School of Art at the University of Sutherland. He struggled financially with work as a painter and decided to forge a partnership within brother Ridley’s advertising establishment, appropriately titled Ridley Scott Associates… it is there that Tony began shooting commercials.

1983 marked his first feature debut with the vampire cult film THE HUNGER starring David Bowie (LABYRINTH), Catherine Deneuve (THE LAST METRO) and Susan Sarandon (DEAD MAN WALKING). Although not a box- office success, it definitely caught Hollywood’s attention with what would be known as a signature visual presentation and style of photography that had not been seen before. Atmospheres appear murky and moody with the use of filters and shadows. The film primarily takes place in England and a constant lack of direct sunlight is apparent in both the topic of the film and the director’s intent to cast bright light on any specific details. Scott allows the actors, all respectfully great in their own ways, to really (excuse the term) ‘flesh- out’ their roles in the story telling. The photography aspect would apparently be a similar trademark for older brother Ridley Scott’s earlier films including ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER as well.
Opening sequence from THE HUNGER...A must see! (contains brief nudity)


Paramount Pictures’ head producing moguls Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer approached Tony to direct their next film entitled TOP GUN (1986) with established up and comer Tom Cruise to star. The collaboration of the great production team, actor and director created one of Paramount’s all- time biggest films grossing over $344 million worldwide. Scott was given the chance to work with real Top Gun men and women as well as actual training facilities. Shot primarily at the Miramar Flight School located near San Diego, CA. Scott also spent many hours in the air, shooting various dogfight and action sequences would continue his working relationship with Paramount on his next film as well.

1987 would have Tony Scott directing the sequel to a highly- successful film for Paramount as well as work with one of its popular and lucrative actors as well. BEVERLY HILLS COP II, starring Eddie Murphy, for another blockbuster hit for the studio and director… grossing $300 million. The sequel played with a more gloss appeal and presentation than did its original, which was a lot grittier looking. Scott spoke for a generation, as MTV was huge and the look of music videos as it presented more shine and used the technology of video replay to its advantage. Nonetheless, the timing couldn’t have been any better in the marriage of Scott’s visual presentation and the new generation of video watchers! Another great add- on that soon became the staple of the Scott brothers was the use of filtered lenses, which were used primarily to extenuate the appearance of outdoor lighting or scenery. As an example, a sun could be coming over a mountain view and a colored filter gave the scene a look of color being drowned over by the light of the sun with highlights or yellows, oranges and reds blending like a prism. The upper- crust of Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and other hotspots are shown with that ‘larger than life’ appeal that only Hollywood can create. Murphy is given an opportunity to show off his credits…as a comedian, an actor and having the ability to ad- lib when appropriate and be the actor when called upon as well.

Scott would not always be as successful as with his two back- to- back Paramount hits, but he would still bring his sense of style and trademark maverick direction all of his upcoming projects. 1990 marked the start of a new decade and Scott would now try a hand at working with Columbia Pictures on the heavy- hitting REVENGE starring Kevin Costner (THE UNTOUCHABLES) and Madeline Stowe (THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS). The film performed poorly in the box office… lacking from a powerful soundtrack, unlike TOP GUN and BEVERLY HILLS COP II and it definitely didn’t take on the appearance of a feel- good Summer flick, either. The direction was new for Scott, as a sense of drabness took over the polished- up look of his previous two films, reflecting back to the style presented in his first feature, THE HUNGER. Colored filters were beautifully used in some of the desert scenes around the outskirts of Mexico, giving a nice wash- out of colors to the desert landscape. The title alone gave you a hint of what subject the storyline would take. The film, over the course of the years, has found an audience that appreciates what it set out to do and many various ‘cuts’ of the film have been released. Colombia Pictures finally settled with a “Director’s Cut” and have released it as their definitive DVD and Blu- Ray release.
Documentary for REVENGE with Tony Scott discussing sex & violence


Tony Scott with Tom Cruise on the set of DAYS OF THUNDER
The question that the powerhouse producing duo of Simpson and Bruckheimer asked was: could lightning strike twice in the same place? Paramount Pictures was willing to find out for themselves! With a screenplay by the highly- respected Robert Towne (CHINATOWN), DAYS OF THUNDER (1990) would invite Tom Cruise to bring his love for race car driving to the silver screen. Tony Scott as director would complete the fold for those responsible for the success of TOP GUN. There was a huge undertaking in filming a NASCAR film, with the number of fans to please as well as the Tom Cruise elite. Race sequences are intense and strong while the camera work allows the audience the true feeling of what it is like to be in the pit and riding along with the driver. Filters once again highlight some great moments and are used gingerly throughout the production. The action is screen- filled when needed and Scott still finds the right moments to apply a love interest for Cruise with co- star (and eventual wife) Nicole Kidman. Although it didn’t perform as well, it still brought in over $165 million dollars.

Producing titan, Joel Silver (THE MATRIX) also saw the talents of Tony Scott and felt he had the right film for him to helm as well. 1991’s THE LAST BOY SCOUT paired off the very popular Bruce Willis (DIE HARD) and funnyman Damon Wayans (TV’s In Living Color) playing off a wise- cracking and action- packed story and script by Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON). The film grossed a cool $60 million dollars. The direction was very quirky and free- handed, giving both Willis and Wayans an opportunity to really show off their talents, respectfully. Wayans, in particular, was played off as a more serious version of Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley from BEVERLY HILLS COP II, but still allowed him rein for ad- lib, when necessary. Scott’s popularity kept escalating and his work was sought after by many producers and studios throughout Hollywood...

Success, as Tony Scott would prove, is not always in the box office dollars. Many of his films are recognized from its own stem of popularity that has been forged by real film- goers and fans of the genre alone. Take into account Scott’s next project, 1993’s TRUE ROMANCE. The film, box office- wise, performed under the actual budget of the film… yet, the film goes well detected and has formed quite the cult following along the way. Written by a then- unknown Quentin Tarantino and starring a cast of many talented actors including a strong supporting team including Christian Slater (HEATHERS), Patricia Arquette (ED WOOD) along with Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini! Returning, somewhat to the techniques used in BEVERLY HILLS COP II and melding that along with REVENGE, Scott was able to tell his tale of crime with a spark of excitement and intensity!
The action- packed 1993 trailer for TRUE ROMANCE


1995 would introduce director Tony Scott to an actor he would gain the respect of and acquire on his acting talents for many films to come. The actor: Denzel Washington and the film would be the underwater suspense drama, CRIMSON TIDE. Mixing it up with the ever- talented Gene Hackman (THE FRENCH CONNECTION), the film played off the emotions and fine- acting, as opposed to the actual action as seen in many of Scott’s earlier films. The ability to use limited spacing within the submarine and sill create a sense of tension and panic really works well for this type of film. The film’s storyline and high- profile actors were able to attract an audience to the box office creating a revenue of about $157 million dollars. The producing team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer had since moved away from Paramount by this time and had Scott work for Touchstone Pictures, a division of Disney with the duo producing.

Scott Free Productions was a film production company brought forth by Ridley and Tony Scott and produced the 1996 sports thriller, THE FAN starring Robert DeNiro (RAGING BULL) and Wesley Snipes (BLADE). DeNiro plays an obsessed stalker to Snipes Pro- Baseball player and both actors bring the tension to its fullest. Again, Scott allows the actors to work off of each other and both do an excellent job in doing so. Not as much an action film as it is more of a taunt suspense thriller with plenty of un-nerving moments throughout the film. The tension is taken up to another degree with its high- impacting photography and original music score by famed composer Hans Zimmer (THE DARK KNIGHT). 

The original trailer for THE FAN... intense!


As the 90s quickly comes to a close, Scott cannot help but make a film that deals with the world of new digital technology and allows viewers to decide if we are headed into a world of “big brother” watching us too closely. ENEMY OF THE STATE was released in 1998 starring CRIMSOM TIDE’s Gene Hackman and brought forth the first (and final) collaboration with the highly profiled Will Smith, just coming off the successes of INDEPENDENCE DAY and MEN IN BLACK. After the very untimely death of co- producer and collaborator Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer produced this on a solo basis for Disney and was pleased to work with Scott once again. The film dealt with espionage and shot most of the film using blue filtering to give the film a colder and industrial look to fit the premise of the storyline. The film grossed over $111 million worldwide.

A new decade and new century gave Scott a new look in some of his featured films, now using more composite digital shots to enhance the photographic look of the film…straying away from the film- like quality of a motion picture and joining the ranks of directors embracing the polished high- definition look. Case in point, 2004’s MAN ON FIRE proved to be an experiment in new technology in cinematography and editing for Scott. Starring CRIMSON TIDE’s Denzel Washington and the ever- popular presentation of the young Dakota Fanning, the film played with a number of eye- popping visual candy that had not been seen before. Scott was allowed to do many quick- edits, use filtered lenses and maneuver the look of film with digital effects as well as use some actual captions to help extenuate the dialog. The film was considered by some to be too quirky and out of place, while others accepted the new look as well as the taunt storytelling and nature of violence in the film. Tony Scott served as co- producer as well.
The original theatrical trailer for 2004's MAN ON FIRE


Where MAN OF FIRE might have began, 2005’s DOMINO only continued on with the frenzied photography pace and digital design of the film’s look. Starring Keira Knightley (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN), the film was the recounting of Domino Harvey’s life story, turning away from the life of a model to become a bounty hunter. The story’s wild premise only gave more juice for Scott to fuel- up the screen with many visual shots and plenty of action and violence to spare. The film was dedicated to the real Domino Harvey who died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl on June 2005, months before the film’s release. Tony Scott attended her funeral.

DÉJÀ VU (2006) would mark the third collaboration with Denzel Washington in this high- tech action sci- fi thriller! Borrowing from the genre of time- travel, Scott devised the continued use of digital technology but pared- down on the use of the quirky photography/ editing that he had most recently became fond of using. The story was intense and Washington brings home his expected best in carrying the film through the tension and sophisticate storyline. Scott is again given the opportunity to work with producer Jerry Bruckheimer for a Buena Vista/ Disney release as well. The film’s science- fiction premise seemed a bit out of line for Tony and more the alley of brother Ridley’s, since his hits BLADE RUNNER and ALIEN were widely known and treasured. Still, Tony executed the challenge very well and proved to be a director ever- willing to accept new avenues to travel on.

Tony Scott’s last two films probably marked two different sides of what made him the director he will always be remembered for.

To begin with, 2009’s THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 is a remake of the 1974 action thriller, this time starring John Travolta (PULP FICTION) and continued collaborator Denzel Washington. The film was somewhat flawed in the approach and Travolta was not detained from his over- the- top antics as the villain of the story. The film was not considered appealing by most and suffered in the box office.

The film. however, does not lack in its presentation with Scott paying close attention to photography. editing and smart direction. There is no shortage of suspense and plenty of intense moments to please the action fans.

2010’s UNSTOPPABLE proved to be more of the type of film Scott would be known for doing. His last film had long- time actor Denzel Washington return playing opposite newcomer Chris Pine (STAR TREK). The odd similarities between these two films are that Washington is in both and they deal with trains. Though PELHAM is more the crime thriller, UNSTOPPABLE lives up to its name as the action film Scott is synonymous for.

2010 interview with Tony Scott where he reveils "fear of creative failure"


JOHNNY CHAZZ: We can appreciate Tony Scott's quote - well, to a point at least. The primary concern I have is "What caliber of films" this Director involved himself in. Thus, I will make my response this week short and brief as this is Jer's focus and I do think he makes some strong points above.

Probably known best for 'Top Gun,' 'Crimson Tide,' 'Enemy of the State,' and 'Man on Fire,' Tony Scott did add something to Hollywood.

One might recall that I was a huge fan (no pun intended here) of the 1996 Tony Scott release of "The Fan" during our 'Sports' genre last posting.

As for his work in the 80's, "Top Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop II" fans are still supporting his films as time marches on. As we moved into the 1990's, I can recommend "True Romance" as well as "Crimson"- which are probably worth about $2 to $3 at your local Wal-Mart DVD sale basket.

 Perhaps I feel as though Scott incorporated better "actors" as time marched on. We examine films such as "Crimson Tide" with the strong casting - and the latter may have the edge however Denzel and Hackman are indeed a formidable duo.
The original trailer for CRIMSON TIDE
In the past decade, "Deja Vu" and "Man on Fire" were fairly gripping but "Domino" was basically a disaster and synonymous with watching paint dry.

I am not a fan of "action" films for a variety of counts. However, I do respect the words of Jer this week and his tribute to a Director who did "get it right" with regards to this genre.

We never like to see a director "leave us" and it is certainly a sad day for Hollywood and the movie industry with this loss.

JER: Like his films, Scott was unstoppable. A statement by Pepperdine University film professor Craig Detweiler probably summed up the best definition of Tony Scott by referring to his taking his own life by jumping from the bridge as a “high- adrenaline ending, which matches his dramatic style.”
 
His trademark cigars and beaten- up red baseball cap will lay to rest as we can only be left with the memories of the man through his films. Scott was not a high- profile person, but his films will always be. Rest In Peace, Mr. Scott.

What reflections do you have in regards to the talented works of Tony Scott? Of the mentioned, were there any films that you claim to be your favorite(s) and why? As always, we welcome your comments and replies are always given back in a matter of days.

Please join us on Wednesday September 26th as JOHNNY CHAZZ makes his return with an exciting blog topic that only he can produce! Thank you for joining us!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

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