Saturday, 22 December 2012

Tony Scott: a tribute

I realise I haven't yet written anything about the late great Tony Scott. As the year draws to a close, let me say what a sad loss of a very talented director and superb chap. I first met Scott, briefly, in 1993, at the LA press junket for True Romance, probably my favourite of all the Quentin Tarantino-scripted films. Though it was a couple of years later, when I was living in LA, that I got to know him better. 

Scott was working on his excellent submarine flick, Crimson Tide. Introduced by Tarantino's then-publicist, the wonderful, and wonderfully named, Bumble Ward, Tony agreed to my doing a piece about him and the film for Empire magazine (at that time I was its US Editor). Instead of the usual interview/profile stuff, I had ventured whether we might do something a bit different — how about, for example, if I tagged along with him while he was editing the film? (This would have been in the Spring of 1995.) Given Hollywood's twitchiness about films in anything other than a finished condition, not to mention extreme paranoia about the press penetrating its inner sanctum, I didn't fancy my chances — they were under huge pressure to deliver the film on deadline only days before general release. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Scott got straight back and agreed for me to sit in the editing suite with him and his team for a couple of days at the post-production studios in Santa Monica. 

It proved not only an education but a highly entertaining encounter which got written up in full (I can't find the piece online, but if I do I'll post the link). This was no mere case of an inconvenient journalist being shoved in the corner — as so often happens — but of the director fully involving me, steering me through every detail as he put the final touches to the film. As if he didn't have enough on his plate. Featuring some great laddish humour, an unruly Great Dane and an impromptu drop-in by überproducers Simpson and Bruckheimer, who insisted on changing the movie's ending, it was quite an experience I can tell you ("Uh-oh, the fuckin' boys are here. I think there's gonna be a row" he warned, in that gruff and familiar Northeastern strain, instructing me to pretend to be someone from the sound department).

He was an absolute gent to the last thread of that battered old, omnipresent red baseball cap — which even then had faded to a pale pink — and was indulgent way beyond the call of duty. I had recently been sailing to Catalina, I remember — well, pulling a few ropes while the skipper shouted at me — and we talked about that. He was a keen sailor himself, a great outdoorsman, a lover of rock climbing in particular. Being a fellow Brit (as indeed is Bumble) certainly helped. In a candid moment, he did intimate that all "this" (Hollywood/films, etc.) was "bollocks"... Yes, I do believe that is a direct quote. And if it isn't, it's not far off the mark. 

Not long after that he agreed to pen the foreword to the Tarantino biography I was writing at the time. In some places online the book is even listed as by "Tony Scott and Jeff Dawson", which isn't strictly correct, but if one were to have a co-pilot, I could think of none finer.

Scott's suicide was a real shock and continues to be for my industry colleagues in Tinseltown. What a great bloke. Glad to have known him, however brief the acquaintance. Strangely enough, not long before his death, I had dug out Crimson Tide to watch again, the first time in many a year. A tremendous film. When he was on song, there were few entertainers to match him.

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