Remembering 'Top Gun' Director Tony Scott
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Film director Tony Scott died yesterday after jumping off a Los Angeles bridge. His legacy in film includes movies that were brash and bombastic, the cinematic equivalent of an adrenaline rush.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TOP GUN")
TOM CRUISE: (as Maverick) I feel the need - the need for speed.
CORNISH: "Top Gun" was one of his earliest films and still his most famous. But he also directed "True Romance," "Enemy of the State," "Crimson Tide" and "Unstoppable," among others. Scott's films have long divided critics. To some, he was an impeccable stylist. To others, his kinetic style ushered in a generation of films and filmmakers that couldn't seem to sit still.
For more on the legacy of Tony Scott, we're joined by Thom Geier, senior editor at Entertainment Weekly. And, Thom, I've heard the word, kinetic, so many times in the last couple of hours. But what exactly do we mean by that? I mean, how do you describe the style of Tony Scott?
THOM GEIER: Tony Scott's approach to filmmaking was very much a visual style, but it was a visual style that owed more to fast cuts, use of smoke, light beams through windows and really high energy. We ordinarily associate visual filmmaking with a more ethnic David Lean approach, and his was a much more high energy approach.
CORNISH: So are we talking about the pace of editing or the sort of color of the film? What do we mean by that?
GEIER: We're talking both about the pace of the film, as well as the actual use of visuals and whether it seems like the fly-over sequence in the opening sequence of "Top Gun" with the fighter planes zooming just above the base or that classic scene in "True Romance" with the exchange between Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken, which is backed by the use of opera.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "TRUE ROMANCE")
DENNIS HOPPER: (as Clifford Worley) Tell me, am I lying? Because you, you're part eggplant.
CHRISTOPHER WALKEN: (as Vincenzo Coccotti) You're a cantaloupe.
GEIER: All of these were kind of surprises, both visually and sonically and they really provided a high energy to his work.
CORNISH: Now, what kind of movies and filmmakers, at this point, you think owe a debt to Tony Scott in terms of style?
GEIER: I don't think you would have films like the "Transformer" series from Michael Bay or the "Fast and Furious" series or, in some ways, the "Bourne" series without the works of Tony Scott paving the way with his fast cuts, his highly visual style and his approach to action filmmaking.
CORNISH: Now, Thom, to be honest, we called several critics who will remain nameless here who didn't want to talk about Tony Scott. While they respected his work, they didn't necessarily like it. And I wanted you to help us understand why he's such a divisive figure, considering how much money he made for Hollywood.
GEIER: (Unintelligible) was a very successful filmmaker, but particularly in comparison to his older brother Ridley Scott, who made not only sort of blockbuster popcorn fare, but also award (unintelligible) film like "Gladiator," for instance, or "Alien" and seems to have a much better critical reputation. Tony Scott really leaned much more toward the popcorn fare.
CORNISH: In the end, did Tony Scott essentially coincide with a trend that was already happening in the wider culture? I think, as someone who's grown up with, say, MTV, I've sort of always seen this kind of filmmaking. And did he usher it in or did he help just kind of connect it to Hollywood?
GEIER: I think Tony Scott having a background as a commercial film director in the 1970s was really in the right place at the right time. Arriving in Hollywood in the '80s, just as MTV was getting off the ground, he really was the right person at the right moment to sort of help spread this style of filmmaking that we've come to associate with a Hollywood blockbuster. In many respects, I think it's the Tony Scott brand of filmmaking that has come to sway throughout Hollywood these days.
CORNISH: Thom Geier is senior editor at Entertainment Weekly. Thom, thank you.
GEIER: My pleasure.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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