I was all set to do a blog post this morning about working in different genres when you’re established in one, but that was before I woke up to the news that director Tony Scott — whose films included Man on Fire, Revenge and True Romance — had committed suicide at the age of 68. I think it probably goes without saying that I was shocked.
I’ve been a fan of Scott’s for many, many years, though my favorites of his films were generally not the ones people liked the most. I never enjoyed Top Gun, though I did like making fun of its blatant homoeroticism. Scott’s film, The Hunger, was unbelievably sexy, especially for an impressionable 13-year-old as I was at the time, and it made an indelible imprint on me. Tony Scott would always play second fiddle to his brother, Ridley, in my affections, but that didn’t mean I esteemed his skills any less.
All creative types talk about influences. Any writer or director or musician who claims to have emerged fully formed into the world with a vision all their own is a liar. We all begin building the pyramid of our creativity using the blocks provided for us by other artists. Some never manage to break away from the people they started off imitating, but most eventually manage to combine the initial spark provided by their influences with the kindling of their own imagination and become the creative artists they want to be.
I absolutely wear my attachment to Tony Scott’s best work on my sleeve. When writing The Dead Women of Juárez, I often thought of Man on Fire, a film I consider among the very best crime movies ever made. If I could capture even a fraction of the energy and style of that movie, I would have something truly great. It’s really not up to me to say if I pulled it off, but I’ll freely admit that when I dreamed of a film being made of my book, I imagined it being directed by Tony Scott. He knew how to tell an earthy story filled with shades of gray.
One of my favorite Scott films is the aforementioned Revenge, an oft-overlooked gem starring Kevin Costner. Like Man on Fire, it too was set in Mexico and captured the grimy, coarse spirit of the country as viewed through the lens of a crime fiction. In Juárez Dance there is a character named Amador who only briefly makes an appearance, but who is in my mind was played by Miguel Ferrer as in Revenge. Perhaps my homages are too subtle, but it makes me happy to think that I’m playing at the edges of the field Tony Scott marked out so well.
I see from Scott’s IMDb page that he was not attached to direct anything in the near future. His last film in the director’s chair was Unstoppable, back in 2010. He was producing a whole slew of projects, so maybe he’d grown tired of directing and preferred the less intense role of producer. Unstoppable wasn’t a bad movie, but it makes me sad that it was the last movie Tony Scott will ever direct. He had done so much better so many times before.
Writing this makes me want to go back and watch all of my favorite Tony Scott films again. I want to re-experience the sweat and heat and blood of Man on Fire and the cold rhythms of Revenge. I might even watch Domino one more time, flawed though it may be.
If it’s not obvious by now, I will miss Tony Scott very much. The creative world is poorer for his passing.