being an avid fan of films means that every now and then you wake up to news that, perhaps irrationally, affects you in a most negative way. i can still remember the numb shock from just over four years ago, waking up, switching on the news and learning that the exceptionally talented actor Heath Ledger had died. i guess it's just those that admire extraordinary work and talent on film feel a great loss when someone who has made movies that have entertained and inspired passes on.
today, for reasons unknown and indeed reasons i will leave well alone for others to speculate if they must, Tony Scott decided to join those who have passed on.
for whatever reason Tony Scott decided to end his own life, and no doubt such information will be brutally exposed by the darker elements of the press and internet, he has, and the world has lost a great maker of wonderfully entertaining films. his brother Ridley might well have got (rightly) all the critical, artistic acclaim in the world, but Tony made films that you wanted to see and enjoy.
as far as i am concerned there's no such thing as a bad Tony Scott film, i've enjoyed them all. some were of course better than others, and so as a way of tribute to the loss of one of the world's great entertainers here's what are, for me and many others, his five best.
as mentioned above, Ridley, rather than Tony, tended to get the plaudits for his striking visual work. by the time Tony made what's regarded as his first major film, The Hunger, Ridley had already delivered to the world Alien and Blade Runner. these are two films that to this day attract awe, wonder and praise as much for their visual style as they do their content.
this, as The Hunger testifies, doesn't mean that Tony wasn't as gifted visually. far from it.
The Hunger was one of the first films to try and do something with the concept of vampires other than simply retell Dracula or make a scary movie. it's a haunting, beautiful minimalist piece, addressing the lonliness and lacking in the life of an immortal in a way not previously seen. Bowie's brief but brilliant cameo was one of his early 80s acting highlights, but the film is a must see for Susan Sarandon's amazing performance.
up next for Tony Scott was one of those films that comes to be seen as "era defining". at face value you wouldn't have thought a film inspired by a magazine article, produced in co-operation with and with the approval of the US Navy and featuring the kid who was quite amusing in Risky Business would carve such a place for itself, but Top Gun did just that.
sure, Top Gun at face value was little more than a loud celebration of American military supremacy and their status as the defender of freedom. it was, however, very very cool in the way it set about doing that. i am pretty sure i went to the Odeon in Middlesbrough to see it at least 6 times, mostly probably thanks to their 99p a ticket special.
Top Gun made a star of Tom Cruise, gave the world the wonders of Berlin's Take My Breath Away and said to a generation of us growing up with the threat of nuclear war "bring it on Commie, we will win". just how wise such a gung-ho celebration of the military is shall remain something for you to decide on yourself, but there's no denying that this was a brilliant, dazzling and truly entertaining film. if nothing else, it also gave the world that volleyball scene, routinely and accurately described as "the most homoerotic thing in the world ever".
sadly skipping over Beverly Hills Cop II, for i would just go on and on about Brigiette Nielsen if i stayed with the film, Tony Scott's gift for making films that made huge stars of actors came along in the riotous action flick The Last Boy Scout. Bruce Willis owes Tony Scott a big thanks.
what, you ask? surely Bruce was a big star by the time this came out in 1991? not as clear cut a star as you may think. in 1991 Bruce Willis was a big star only as far as he was when he was John McLane in the (at this point) 2 Die Hard films. every other film he featured in, be it the horrid adaptation of Bonfire Of The Vanities or the misguided Hudson Hawk, was a monumental disaster. The Last Boy Scout was the first film that showed Bruce could carry a film in a role beyond "man in vest stuck in building".
not that this was the only element of the film. other than the very young Halle Berry featuring, this is one of those non-stop action films that just keeps on getting bigger, better, louder and indeed funnier as it rolls on, giving one 100 minutes of sheer entertainment. "dancing the jig" never looked quite so good.
if i was forced to pick out just one film as being the best Tony Scott did then the winner is quite easy. it would have to be that devastating use of an ensemble cast, made from the script of at the time Hollywood's hottest talent, only putting everything in a linear order. yes, never ever forget that Tony Scott made the brilliant, epic True Romance.
Tarantino enthusiasts and apologists often baulk at the films made from his scripts, but that's there loss. Tony Scott turned a very rough script into a brutal, brilliant symphony of celebration for the bizarre and the gratuitous, making a film that is as difficult to watch as it is compulsive viewing. an incredible cast give close to career-best performances across the board to deliver the epic love story of Clarence and Alabama.
one of the best stories around Tue Romance revolves around the casting of Gary Oldman. legend has it that Tony Scott had a hard time getting Oldman to look at the script or discuss anything to do with the project. eventually, Tony Scott cornered Gary at an airport. when asked if he had read the script, Oldman went off on one of his celebrated foul mouthed tirades, basically saying he "didn't have time" to read scripts. he asked Tony Scott exactly what part he wanted him for anyway. Tony Scott said "Drexl, a white pimp whose convinced he's black". the legend goes that Gary Oldman paused for a few seconds, staring at Tony Scott as he thought of this, eventually saying "OK, i am in, tell me when you need me to be where".
that Drexl is only one of many fascinating characters in the movie should tell you what you need to know. the "main cast" is routinely celebrated for this epic film, but please a brief shout out for Bronson Pinchot, often overlooked for his insane performance as the willing and misguided Elliot.
finally, and this in no way should discount the other, superb films he made after this one, no look at the films of Tony Scott would be complete without celebrating the brilliant Enemy Of The State.
a dazzling, ahead of its time look at paranoia in the face of rising technology and its use for both monitoring people and destroying their lives digitally, Enemy Of The State in many respects personifies what made Tony Scott films so great - as much action and noise as you like, but always grounded in a formidable, well thought out story and played out with fine acting.
Gene Hackman in all but name recreates the brilliant Popeye Doyle some 25 years after The French Connection and Will Smith, in a rare instance (Ali perhaps being the only other case of this) actually does something more substantial that stand around and be Will Smith, as entertaining as that can be. Enemy Of The State is an elaborate cat and mouse chase affair, given some depth and meaning in the hands of a master film maker.
Tony Scott made films that dazzled the audience. high paced, often franky insane action pieces were matched by a strking, interesting story, presented with the kind of visual flair that only a few directors seem to deliver constantly in each and every film. i do not know why Tony Scott decided it was time to end his own life, but i do know the world of cinema is quite a lot less entertaining without him.
be excellent to each other.