Clues sought in suicide of film director Tony Scott

LOS ANGELES Mon Aug 20, 2012 6:10pm EDT

Director Tony Scott poses during a photocall in Paris in this July 20, 2009 file photo. Hollywood filmmaker Scott, director of such big-screen action hits as ''Top Gun'' and ''Crimson Tide,'' jumped to his death on August 19, 2012 from a bridge over Los Angeles Harbor, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Files

Director Tony Scott poses during a photocall in Paris in this July 20, 2009 file photo. Hollywood filmmaker Scott, director of such big-screen action hits as ''Top Gun'' and ''Crimson Tide,'' jumped to his death on August 19, 2012 from a bridge over Los Angeles Harbor, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said.

Credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier/Files

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Investigators sought clues on Monday to what prompted British-born filmmaker Tony Scott to take his own life in Los Angeles, while much of Hollywood focused on an unconfirmed news report that he was suffering from brain cancer.

Scott, director of such blockbuster films as "Top Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop II," jumped to his death on Sunday from a suspension bridge over Los Angeles Harbor, leaving behind a suicide note in his office and a list in his car of people to contact, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said.

Medical examiners were scheduled on Monday to perform an autopsy on Scott's body, which was recovered from the harbor nearly three hours after he jumped in, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said.

Results of the exam will likely be kept confidential until toxicology and other tests are completed, he said.

Winter said he could not confirm an ABC News report that said the filmmaker, the younger brother of fellow director and three-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott, had inoperable brain cancer. The report cited an unidentified source close to Scott.

Asked whether the suicide note found by friends in Scott's office or any other writings referred to an illness, Winter said, "not to my knowledge." Authorities have not disclosed the content of the note.

He also said investigators had no theories about what led Scott, who was 68, to take his own life.

A spokeswoman for Scott confirmed his death on Sunday night and asked that the media respect his family's privacy.

Members of the film industry expressed shock at the death of one of Hollywood's most prolific and bankable producer-directors with reactions from Tom Cruise, Ron Howard and others.

Cruise, who shot to stardom in Scott's "Top Gun" in 1986, described him as "my dear friend" and said in a statement: "I will really miss him. He was a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable.

"No more Tony Scott movies. Tragic day," Ron Howard, the Oscar-winning director behind "A Beautiful Mind," said in a Twitter message. Actor Samuel L. Jackson tweeted that he was "taking a moment to reflect on Tony Scott's life & work."

Gene Hackman, who starred in Scott's "Enemy of the State" and "Crimson Tide", remembered him as "always sensitive to the needs of an actor. We've lost a wonderful, creative talent."

Scott was seen parking his car on the Vincent Thomas Bridge and leaping into the water at about 12:30 p.m. local time (1930 GMT) on Sunday, according to Lieutenant Joe Bale, a watch commander for the coroner's office.

Bale said the body was recovered from the harbor shortly before 3 p.m. (2200 GMT) and subsequently identified as being that of the filmmaker.

MAN IN THE RED CAP

Scott, frequently seen behind the camera in his signature faded red baseball cap, directed more than two dozen movies and television shows and produced nearly 50 titles.

He built a reputation for muscular but stylish high-octane thrillers that showcased some of Hollywood's biggest stars in a body of work that dated to the 1980s and established him as one of the most successful action directors in the business.

Two of his biggest hits were the 1986 fighter jet adventure "Top Gun," which starred Tom Cruise as a hot-shot pilot, and the 1987 Eddie Murphy comedy "Beverly Hills Cop II."

Other directing credits include the 1990 racing drama "Days of Thunder," which also featured Cruise; the 1995 submarine thriller "Crimson Tide," co-starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman; and the 1998 spy thriller "Enemy of the State," which paired Hackman and Will Smith.

Washington became Scott's most frequent star, appearing in four other films including a 2009 remake of subway hostage thriller "The Taking of the Pelham 1 2 3," co-starring John Travolta, and the 2010 runaway-train blockbuster, "Unstoppable."

He got his start making TV commercials for his older brother's London-based production company, Ridley Scott Associates, and moved into movies for television and film.

His feature directorial debut, 1983 vampire movie "The Hunger" starring British rocker David Bowie and French actress Catherine Deneuve, was a flop that later became a cult favorite. Scott bounced back three years later with "Top Gun."

The brothers later formed a film company, Scott Free Productions, that made many of their films and TV shows.

The two were executive producers of two successful prime-time television dramas, "Numb3rs," which ran on CBS from 2005 to 2010, and "The Good Wife," which is still running on CBS.

Filmmaker Richard Kelly, who wrote the screenplay for Scott's 2005 film "Domino," joined the thousands of online tributes on Monday.

"Working with Tony Scott was like a glorious road trip to Vegas on desert back roads, a wild man behind the wheel, grinning," Kelly said.

Kevin Costner, who worked with Scott on 1990 movie "Revenge" said: "Tony was one of the good guys. He was a man's man who lived life as hard and as full as anyone I've ever met, but there was always a sweetness to his toughness."

Actor Val Kilmer, who appeared in both "Top Gun" and the 1993 film "True Romance," called Scott "the kindest film director I ever worked for," and U.S. film critic Roger Ebert called him "an inspired craftsman."

Scott is survived by his third wife, Donna, with whom he had two children.

(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White in London and Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; Editing by Vicki Allen and Doina Chiacu)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.