Tony Scott: A tribute to his work with some of the greatest actors of our time

For someone who was a latecomer to Hollywood (he made his first movie only at the age of 38), Tony Scott was fortunate to have worked with the who’s who of the film industry. After years directing commercials along with his brother Ridley Scott, he came to Hollywood to direct his first film, the vampire thriller The Hunger in 1983. He made 16 films over the course of the next 27 years and worked with the biggest names of the day.

  • Catherine Deneuve – French acting legend Deneuve played vampire Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger, Tony Scott’s debut film in 1983.
  • David Bowie – Rock star Bowie typically plays roles that require an ‘exotic’ look, such as the alien in The Man Who Fell to Earth in 1976. He played vampire John Blaylock in The Hunger.
  • Susan Sarandon – By 1983, Sarandon was already a well-established Oscar-nominated actress. She completed the love triangle in The Hunger, playing Dr. Sarah Roberts. She went on to star in Ridley Scott’s hit film Thelma & Louise 8 years later.
  • Tom Cruise – Tony Scott made Tom Cruise a bona fide household name with his second directorial effort, Top Gun in 1986. In the same year, Cruise appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Color of Money opposite screen legend Paul Newman and the rest was history for Cruise. Tony Scott and Tom Cruise continued their affair with speed in Days of Thunder in 1990, but couldn’t recreate the magic of Top Gun.
  • Val Kilmer – Val Kilmer got his big break playing Tom Cruise’s rival in Top Gun. He worked with Tony Scott again in True Romance in 1993.
  • Kelly McGillis – McGillis had just come off the critically acclaimed drama Witness opposite Harrison Ford and her star climbed even higher after appearing as the flight instructor and love interest in Top Gun.
  • Eddie Murphy – The next big star to work with Tony Scott after Top Gun was Eddie Murphy in the highly anticipated sequel Beverly Hills Cop II, released in 1987. The sequel didn’t reach the heights of the original…it was the 3rd highest grossing film of the year in the US…but was a big hit overseas.
  • Kevin Costner – Kevin Costner was perhaps the hottest actor in America in the late ‘80s having consecutive critical and commercial success as a leading man with The Untouchables, No Way Out, Bull Durham and Field of Dreams. His next collaboration was with Tony Scott in the crime thriller Revenge. Unfortunately, the film was a rare failure for Costner, although he recovered quickly with Dances with Wolves and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
  • Anthony Quinn – International acting legend Anthony Quinn entered his 7th decade in the movies by playing crime boss Tibby Mendez in Revenge.
  • Nicole Kidman – After grabbing attention in the boat thriller Dead Calm, Kidman got her big break acting opposite Tom Cruise in Days of Thunder and they got married soon after.
  • Bruce Willis – Tony Scott’s next film after Days of Thunder featured one of the biggest action stars of the day, Bruce Willis, fresh off his two Die Hard movies. The Last Boy Scout was one of 4 Bruce Willis films released in 1991, though none of them got any box office traction.
  • Christian Slater – By the early ‘90s, Slater had emerged as a young heartthrob in films like skateboarding drama Gleaming the Cube and western actioner Young Guns II as well as a supporting role in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Tony Scott signed him on for the crime-romance-thriller True Romance, based on a script by Quentin Tarentino, who had just rocked the establishment with Reservoir Dogs. The film was a box office failure, but retains a strong fan following to this day.
  • Denzel Washington – Denzel Washington’s star was on the rise when he signed up for Tony Scott’s acclaimed submarine thriller Crimson Tide. He had just acted in some of the biggest critical and commercial hits of the early ‘90s, such as Mississippi Masala, Malcolm X, The Pelican Brief and Philadephia. Crimson Tide was one of the bigger hits of 1995. Nearly a decade later, they worked together again in the kidnap thriller Man on Fire and this sparked a string of collaborations over the next few years, such as Déjà Vu (2006), The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) and Unstoppable (2010).
  • Gene Hackman – Veteran character actor Gene Hackman played Captain Ramsey opposite Denzel Washington’s Lt. Commander Hunter in Crimson Tide. He went on to appear in Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State 3 years later.
  • Robert de Niro – In 1996, acting legend de Niro played unhinged baseball fan Gil Renard in the adaptation of Peter Abrahams’ novel The Fan. The film was a major failure at the box office.
  • Wesley Snipes – Tony Scott got Wesley Snipes to play baseball player Bobby Rayburn in The Fan. Snipes had just come off a series of high profile action films like Passenger 57, Demolition Man, Drop Zone and Money Train. He also demonstrated his acting chops playing drag queen Noxeema in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.
  • Benicio del Toro – del Toro had just come off the sleeper hit The Usual Suspects when he was cast in The Fan. Four years later he would go on to win an Oscar for his role as Javier Rodriguez in Traffic.
  • Will Smith – In 1996, Will Smith rocketed to fame as Capt. Steven Hiller in Independence Day, one of the biggest blockbusters of modern times. A year later, he cemented his position as an A-list star by anchoring Men in Black. He followed up these two monster hits by teaming up with Tony Scott in the surveillance thriller Enemy of the State opposite Gene Hackman.
  • Robert Redford – At the start of the millennium, Tony Scott got the most charismatic star of the ‘70s to pair off with his modern counterpart in Spy Game. The expensive film failed to recover its money at the box office although it had reasonable reviews from critics.
  • Brad Pitt – Brad Pitt had a small role in Tony Scott’s True Romance in 1993, soon after being ‘discovered’ in brother Ridley’s Thelma & Louise a couple of years earlier. By the time, he appeared in Spy Game, he was a major global star with hits like Interview with the Vampire, Se7en, Twelve Monkeys and Fight Club. At the time of Tony Scott’s death, Brad Pitt was filming Ridley Scott’s The Counselor.
  • Keira Knightley – Domino, released in 2005, is an unusual entry in the resumes of both Tony Scott and Keira Knightley. Other than The Hunger, this is Tony Scott’s lowest grossing film ever. It received mostly negative reviews and it appears the studio New Line Cinema didn’t really want to release it after having made it. The real life subject of the movie, Domino Harvey died of a drug overdoes a few months before the release of the film.
  • Mickey Rourke – Troubled actor Mickey Rourke had a supporting role in Man on Fire in 2004 and reunited with Tony to play the key role of bounty hunter Ed Moseby in Domino.
  • John Travolta – Travolta had just appeared in two of the big comic hits of 2007 – playing Edna Turnblad in drag in the musical hit Hairspray and Woody Stevens in the buddy road comedy Wild Hogs. He followed these up by signing up for Tony Scott’s remake of The Taking of Pelham 123. This marked a return to the over-the-top bad guy roles he had perfected in earlier films like Swordfish and The Punisher (not to mention his unmentionable performance as the alien Terl in Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000).

The majority of Mr. Scott’s work remains firmly pinned in the genre of formulaic summer action thriller, but he somehow tapped into the dynamics of human conflict and used that to tell engaging stories. He leaves behind a legacy of having worked with the biggest names in Hollywood and in the case of actors like Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and Nicole Kidman, he made them household names across the world. In addition, he was brother Ridley’s creative partner and co-producer. It is difficult to imagine the personal and professional impact of his untimely death on Ridley Scott and the actors that he worked with over the years.

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