Tony Scott, half of the Scott Free international filmmaking empire leaves a large vacancy with his untimely death. His legacy as a filmmaker will live on.
The inevitable comparisons with brother Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) will crowd the web and print media over the next several days and certainly in the coming weeks, and justifiably so. The brothers were part of a commercial and filmmaking empire Scott Free that made some of the slickest ads and compelling films of the last 3 decades. And while elder brother Ridley got most of the critical acclaim, Tony Scott’s films (among them The Hunger, Top Gun, True Romance, Enemy of the State) have made their mark. His remarkable filmmaking career began with the promise of a gleaming red Ferrari from brother Ridley. Knowing his weakness for slick motorcars, Ridley now had a partner who would produce and direct dozens of commercials to support both their artistic ambitions early in their film careers.
And even though Tony Scott was often self-deprecating about his films, many stand out for their innovative contributions to their genres.
The Hunger (1983) starring Susan Sarandon, David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve, in style and substance, finally and overtly took the ‘vampire’ film out of its Victorian roots and gave it currency as a metaphor for our culture’s obsession with youth. It was a box-office flop but in retrospect and in the context of the subsequent explosion of the vampire genre in film and television, it has become a respected ‘cult’ classic.
Top Gun (1986) catapulted, literally and figuratively, Tom Cruise to superstardom and in Tony Scott’s hands was yes, a patriotic ‘flyboy’ movie. Lost in the enthralling aerial scenes were Scott’s deft handling of Maverick’s (Tom Cruise) motivations and the infusion of strong female characters in an otherwise familiar plot. Unlike the box office failure of The Hunger, Top Gun was the highest grossing film of 1986.
Enemy of the State (1998) posed a serious question for most of us in a post Orwellian universe where the shock of state intrusion is no longer a shock. ‘Unsuspecting’ and ‘naïve’ are no longer excuses that we can use when we are complicit in an electronically data collecting and controlled culture. Again the action sequences for which Tony Scott is re-known are only part of this film’s strength – all the gadgetry and ingenuity deployed by Edward Lyle (Gene Hackman) are in service of the indomitable will of the protagonist Robert Dean (played by none other than Will Smith) to survive and prove his love for his wife.