Director who helped invent 1980s

Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 01:00

Obituary:  Tony Scott, who has apparently killed himself at the age of 68, could be credited (or blamed) for helping to invent the 1980s.

True, Top Gun, the director’s second film, did not emerge until 1986. But its combination of surface gloss, stainless energy and Darwinian bravado chimed perfectly with the high era of Reaganism.

Tony didn’t always get on well with the critics. He did, however, perfect an unmistakable signature style. Does light filter through venetian blind? Is much of the frame shaded in cobalt blue? Do shiny cars or planes hum sexually? You must be watching a Tony Scott picture or a project by one of his many, many imitators.

Younger brother of Sir Ridley Scott, director of Alien, Scott was – like Adrian Lyne and Alan Parker – a member of the generation that emerged from the British advertising scene in the 1970s. He was never allowed to forget the fact.

“Adrian and I were particularly slaughtered for favouring style over content. And we deserved it,” he told this writer in 2009. “We were all jeans commercials and rock ‘n’ roll. We had picked up a few habits that didn’t suit the long form. It was all about the visuals. Where’s the light falling on David Bowie? That sort of thing.”

A great talker, who never lost his Tyneside accent, Scott could afford to shrug off the critics. Following the flop that was The Hunger (1983), starring Bowie as a vampire, he turned Top Gun, a tale of US fighter aces, into a sensation and went on to score further hits with Beverly Hills Cop II, Crimson Tide and True Romance.

That last film, based on a script by Quentin Tarantino, even managed to land a host of excellent reviews. Tarantino always declared himself a fan and felt Scott’s Revenge, a thriller from 1990, was something of an overlooked classic.

Raised in South Shields, he studied art at Sunderland Art School and – like his brother – went on to take a degree at the Royal College of Art. After graduation, Ridley lured Tony into his production company and the two men appear to have worked together harmoniously ever since.

“We’re not so competitive,” Ridley told The Irish Times earlier this year. “Being the older brother helps a bit. I think the elder brother always backs down if he’s smart.”

Generally seen wearing a baseball cap, a large cigar clamped between his teeth, Tony married three times and is the father of two young sons. At time of writing, the motivations behind his apparent suicide remain obscure.

Police reports suggest he leapt from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles Harbour a 12.35pm local time, and it is believed a note was later found in his car.