Remembering Tony Scott

08.20.12

Cause of Tony Scott’s Apparent Suicide Still Being Determined

As an autopsy is performed, questions remain as to why the director might have taken his own life. Christine Pelisek reports.

An autopsy was performed today on the body of famed British director Tony Scott, who plunged to his death from a Los Angeles bridge Sunday. Although his death is widely believed to have been a suicide, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said the cause of death has been deferred until  toxicology tests are completed, which could take up to six or eight weeks.

“The cause of death has been deferred pending the receipt of additional test results that have been requested by the Deputy Medical Examiner,” said Chief Coroner Investigator Craig Harvey in a statement.

Scott, 68, left a letter with contact numbers in his black Toyota Prius and a detailed suicide note in his Los Angeles office that was discovered by his friends, according to the coroner’s office. “His friends found a note in his office and we found a note with names and contact numbers in his vehicle,” said Ed Winter, a deputy chief coroner. The content of the suicide note has not yet been released.

Questions still remain as to why the director of such movies as Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop II, and The Taking of Pelham 123 took his own life. ABC News reported on Monday that a source close to the director said Scott was suffering from inoperable brain cancer but there have been no public reports of health problems.

Scott’s longtime publicist Simon Halls said the reports that his client had cancer were speculation. “A sweet sweet man has passed away, the father of two boys, and his family is asking for privacy,” he said.

Harvey, the chief coroner investigator, also debunked the cancer claim to the Daily Beast: "The family told us that there was no truth to the story." In addition to looking at Scott’s toxicology results, deputy chief coroner Winter said they are going to look at his past medical history in hopes of finding out why he might have taken his own life.

Around 12:35 p.m. on Sunday, Scott drove his black Toyota Prius onto the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which spans across the port city of San Pedro and Terminal Island, and parked at the bridge’s highest point, officials said. Witnesses reported that Scott got out of his car and climbed the 10-foot-high fence on the south side of the bridge before plunging 185 feet into the cold murky water below. Los Angeles harbor patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Los Angeles port police were able to pinpoint Scott’s location by using underwater sonar equipment regularly used to find explosives, and after they discovered his sneakers floating in the water.

Scott was eerily no stranger to the Vincent Thomas Bridge, the fourth largest suspension bridge in California. In a 2009 interview with Rotten Tomatoes about his plans to do a remake of the movie, The Warriors, Scott talked about why he planned to switch the movie location from New York to Los Angeles. "It's a city which is horizontal,” he said. “New York is vertical, all skyscrapers, and Los Angeles is horizontal. I'm hoping to get a hundred thousand real gang-members standing on the Vincent Thomas Bridge for one shot."

At the time of the interview, Scott was busy interviewing LA’s gangbangers. "I've been meeting the various gangs as part of the research," he explains. "I never meet the gang leader, always his second-in-command. I have to do this little tap-dance and sell the film to them. I've met them all, Crips, Bloods, The 18th Street Gang, The Vietnamese and so on. The all love The Warriors. So it was, 'yeah, fuck yeah we'll be in that!'"

Since his death, dozens of Scott’s friends have sent out special tributes on Twitter, and in personal statements. Tom Cruise, who was directed by Scott in Top Gun and Days of Thunder, sent out a statement that read: “Tony was my dear friend and I will really miss him. He was a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable. My deepest sorrow and thoughts are with his family at this time."

"So sad to hear the news about Tony Scott. His movies made growing up more fun for me. My prayers and condolences to the Scott family," Justin Timberlake tweeted.

Known for his trademark red baseball cap, Scott and his 74-year-old brother, Prometheus director Ridley Scott, operated Scott Free Productions. The duo co-produced the hit CBS dramas The Good Wife and Numb3rs, and were working together on Killing Lincoln, based on the best seller by Bill O'Reilly.

Scott had recently finished shooting the drama Out of the Furnace, starring Christian Bale. His first big break came after he directed his debut film, 1983's vampire movie The Hunger, starring Catherine Deneuve and rocker David Bowie.

Scott, who was married three times, lived with his wife, actress Donna Wilson and two sons in Beverly Hills.