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‘Top Gun’ director Tony Scott leaps to death from bridge

Known for ‘Days of Thunder’ and ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’

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LOS ANGELES — Tony Scott, director of such Hollywood hits as "Top Gun," "Days of Thunder" and "Beverly Hills Cop II," died Sunday after jumping from a towering suspension bridge over Los Angeles harbor and leaving behind several notes to loved ones, authorities said.

Mr. Scott's death was being investigated as a suicide, said Lt. Joe Bale with the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

"I can confirm that Tony Scott has passed away. The family asks that their privacy is respected at this time," said Mr. Scott's spokesman, Simon Halls.

An autopsy was scheduled Monday, said coroner's Chief of Operations Craig Harvey. He said investigators located several notes to loved ones that Mr. Scott, 68, left in his car and at another location, but that they were not described in initial reports as suicide notes.

He said Mr. Scott parked his car at the crest of the bridge, which is 185 feet above water, before leaping to his death.

Several people called 911 around 12:35 p.m. to report that someone had jumped from the Vincent Thomas Bridge spanning San Pedro and Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor, according to police Lt. Tim Nordquist.

A dive team with Los Angeles Port Police pulled the body from the murky water several hours later, Lt. Nordquist said. Mr. Scott's body was taken to a dock in Wilmington and turned over to the county coroner's office.

One lane of the eastbound side of the bridge was closed to traffic during the investigation. Cargo vessels moved at reduced speeds through the east side of the port's main channel during the search, said Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey.

The British-born Mr. Scott, who lived in Beverly Hills, was producer and director Ridley Scott's younger brother. Tony Scott was known for hyperkinetic action and editing on such films as his most recent, the runaway-train thriller "Unstoppable," starring regular collaborator Denzel Washington.

Mr. Scott was a thrill-seeker himself in his personal life, an avid rock climber who also liked driving fast cars and motorcycles. Still, filmmaking was his real thrill.

"The biggest edge I live on is directing. That's the most scary, dangerous thing you can do in your life," Mr. Scott said in an interview for his 1995 naval adventure "Crimson Tide." "The scariest thing in my life is the first morning of production on all my movies. It's the fear of failing, the loss of face and a sense of guilt that everybody puts their faith in you and not coming through."

Mr. Scott first enjoyed blockbuster success with "Top Gun," starring Tom Cruise, the top-grossing film of 1986 at $176 million. Mr. Scott teamed with Mr. Cruise again four years later on the hit "Days of Thunder." He also had a sequel to "Top Gun" in development.

But Ridley Scott would manage more and bigger hits than his brother and earned a level of critical respect never achieved by Tony Scott. "Gladiator" won the best-picture Academy Award for 2000 and earned Ridley Scott one of his three best-director nominations; Tony Scott never was in the running for an Oscar, and critics often slammed his movies for emphasizing style over substance.

Even Mr. Scott admitted that it was a challenge to infuse drama into some of his scenarios — for example, cars racing in circles in "Days of Thunder." In an interview for that 1990 summer hit, Mr. Scott was blunt about where some of the ideas came from.

"I went back and I stole from all race movies to date," Mr. Scott said. "I took the better elements, then tried to build on them. Really, the speed, the energy and the placement of the audience inside some of the cars came in the editing room. …

"I'm always pushing for something new and fresh in the way things are shot, and the rest happens in the editing room. … The real speed comes from the cutters and what they do with the celluloid."

Mr. Scott bombed with his debut, 1983's supernatural romance "The Hunger," with David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve. He vaulted into Hollywood's top ranks the next time out, with "Top Gun," followed a year later by "Beverly Hills Cop II," both with producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

The two brothers ran Scott Free Productions and were working jointly on a film called "Killing Lincoln," based on the best-seller by Bill O'Reilly. Along with countless commercials, their company produced the CBS dramas "NUMB3RS" and "The Good Wife" as well as a 2011 documentary about the Battle of Gettysburg for the History Channel.

Tony Scott said he gained perspective by mixing things up between film, TV and commercials. "I like changing the pace of my life, changing my discipline. It gives me ideas for how to see the world differently," Mr. Scott said in a 2007 interview.

Besides "Unstoppable," Mr. Scott worked with Mr. Washington on four other movies: "Crimson Tide," "Man on Fire," "Deja Vu" and "The Taking of Pelham 123."

Other Tony Scott films include "True Romance," written by Quentin Tarantino, "The Fan," with Robert De Niro, and "Enemy of the State," starring Will Smith.

Mr. Scott was married to actress Donna Scott, who appeared in several of her husband's films. They have twin sons.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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