Tony Scott went to work at Scott Free Productions last Thursday and ran a staff meeting without giving the slightest hint that three days later he would drive to the Vincent Thomas Bridge in the Los Angeles Harbor, park his car, climb the fence and leap 180 feet to his death in the sparkling waters below.
So it’s little wonder that shock from the director’s dramatic death on Sunday spread Monday through the entertainment industry, throwing projects into question and leaving people shocked, saddened and reflective.
Those who knew Scott — those who worked closely with him — were especially stunned.
“There was a life force pulsating through his movies, and suddenly he’s ripped away – how could that be?” asked producer Paula Wagner, who was Tom Cruise’s agent during both “Top Gun” and “Days of Thunder.”
She told TheWrap: “He so symbolized Hollywood with his passion and energy. He was someone who always seemed on top of things, always positive, so vital.”
Denzel Washington, who owed much of his career to working with Scott, said in a statement: "It is unfathomable to think that he is now gone. He had a tremendous passion for life and for the art of filmmaking and was able to share this passion with all of us through his cinematic brilliance."
Those who saw Scott at work last week were confused by the disconnect between the man they knew — friendly, warm, engaged — and the man in the news headlines who witnesses said leaped “without hesitation.” Conflicting reports about Scott’s health on Monday did not clarify the picture, and Monday's autopsy results were deferred pending more tests.
In a career that spanned more than 30 years, Scott made a lot more friends than enemies. The nature of his death and how it contrasted with the vibrancy of his work echoed through table-side conversation at industry watering holes like The Grill on the Alley, and across social media where celebrities shared their grief with the world.
“He was quite simply a wonderful man, generous, kind hearted and gracious,” said Fox chairman Tom Rothman, in a heartfelt statement that was echoed in many conversations around town.
“Taking a moment to reflect on Tony Scott's life & work!” tweeted Samuel L. Jackson.
He was “the sweetest man I have ever worked with… so sad to see you go,” tweeted Patricia Arquette, who was in 1993's “True Romance.”
“I’d chat with him at Mr. Chow’s every few weeks,” one prominent producer told TheWrap, who added that the news led him to quietly hug his children.
Also read: Tony Scott Death: Hollywood Reacts
Scott’s movies marked the ‘80s, ‘90s and '00s with the adrenaline force that his titles — “Days of Thunder,” “Man on Fire,” “Top Gun,” “The Hunger” — suggested.
But his career continued to thrive as he expanded his range of projects, many of which were thrown into limbo following his death.
Ridley Scott, Tony’s brother, shut down production on “The Counselor” in London to fly back to Los Angeles. The future of “Top Gun 2,” on which Cruise and Scott were meeting in recent days, was cast into doubt.
Tony Scott himself had no fewer than 47 projects in development, including directing “Narco Sub,” whose title suggests the subject, and “Puerto Rico Platz,” about a couple of hitmen sent to whack a little girl.
He was attached to produce a sequel to “Prometheus,” which his brother directed, a futuristic remake of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” and was producing TV projects, including a miniseries, “Coma,” and a biographical drama, “Killing Lincoln.”
People die every day in Hollywood and make headlines without causing a stir. The comedic icon Phyllis Diller died on Monday. William Windom, an Emmy-winning actor, died on Saturday.
But it was the thought of a 68-year-old, cigar-chomping guy with tow-headed twins, a beautiful wife, a brother who was mentor, partner and friend — leaving that all behind on a bridge — that caught people short.
Some were reminded of the shock caused in Hollywood when veteran publicist Ronni Chasen was shot and killed two years ago on her way home from a movie premiere. Like the death of Scott, her killing was a tear in the fabric of the close-knit community that is Hollywood. A warp in the grid of daily working life. A short circuit in the wiring.
“You see this thin line, this fine line,” Wagner said. “We’re all on this track in this business together, running toward something, embracing things. When something happens to someone, every piece of this community feels it means something. And Tony Scott occupied a really key position as a director in what may become considered the golden years of movie-making.”
She said: “It’s hard to believe that that’s gone. And it’s hard to accept. I hope we all reflect a little bit on who we are and what we’re doing, and the value of our lives.”