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Clues sought to explain British filmmaker Tony Scott's suicide

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Investigators sought clues on Monday to what prompted British-born filmmaker Tony Scott to take his own life in Los Angeles, while much of Hollywood focused on an unconfirmed news report that he was suffering from brain cancer.
/ Source: Reuters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Investigators sought clues on Monday to what prompted British-born filmmaker Tony Scott to take his own life in Los Angeles, while much of Hollywood focused on an unconfirmed news report that he was suffering from brain cancer.

Scott, director of such blockbuster films as "Top Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop II," jumped to his death on Sunday from a suspension bridge over Los Angeles Harbor, leaving behind a suicide note in his office and a list in his car of people to contact, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said.

Medical examiners were scheduled on Monday to perform an autopsy on Scott's body, which was recovered from the harbor nearly three hours after he jumped in, Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said.

Results of the exam will likely be kept confidential until toxicology studies and other tests are completed, he said.

Winter said he had no information about the accuracy of an ABC News report, citing an unnamed source close to Scott, that said the filmmaker suffered from inoperable brain cancer.

Asked whether the suicide note found by friends in Scott's office or any other writings referred to an illness, Winter said, "not to my knowledge." Authorities have not disclosed the content of the note.

He also said investigators had no working theories about what led Scott, the younger brother of fellow director and three-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott, to take his own life.

A spokeswoman for Scott issued a terse statement on Sunday night confirming his death and asking that the media respect his family's privacy.

Members of the film industry expressed shock at the death of one of Hollywood's most prolific and bankable producer-directors.

"No more Tony Scott movies. Tragic day," Ron Howard, the Oscar-winning director behind "A Beautiful Mind," said in a Twitter message. Actor Samuel L. Jackson tweeted that he was "taking a moment to reflect on Tony Scott's life & work."

Scott, who was 68, was last seen by an onlooker parking his car on the Vincent Thomas Bridge and leaping into the water at about 12:30 p.m. local time (1930 GMT) on Sunday, according to Lieutenant Joe Bale, a watch commander for the coroner's office.

Bale said the body was recovered by law enforcement from the harbor shortly before 3 p.m. (2200 GMT) and subsequently identified as being that of the filmmaker.

The bridge, the surface of which clears the harbor's navigation channel by a height of about 185 feet, connects the port district of San Pedro at the southern tip of Los Angeles to Terminal Island in the harbor.


Scott, born in northern England and frequently seen behind the camera in his signature faded red baseball cap, is credited with directing more than two dozen movies and television shows and producing nearly 50 titles.

He built a reputation for muscular but stylish high-octane thrillers that showcased some of Hollywood's biggest stars in a body of work that dated to the 1980s and established him as one of the most successful action directors in the business.

Two of his biggest hits were the 1986 fighter jet adventure "Top Gun," which starred Tom Cruise as a hot-shot pilot, and the 1987 Eddie Murphy comedy "Beverly Hills Cop II."

Other directing credits include the 1990 racing drama "Days of Thunder," which also featured Cruise; the 1995 submarine thriller "Crimson Tide," co-starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman; and the 1998 spy thriller "Enemy of the State," which paired Hackman and Will Smith. The 2001 espionage drama "Spy Game" teamed Robert Redford with Brad Pitt.

Denzel Washington became Scott's most frequent star, appearing in four other films by the director, most recently a 2009 remake of subway hostage thriller "The Taking of the Pelham 1 2 3," co-starring John Travolta, and the 2010 runaway-train blockbuster, "Unstoppable."

He got his start making TV commercials for his older brother's London-based production company, Ridley Scott Associates, and moved into movies for television and film.

His feature directorial debut, 1983 vampire movie "The Hunger" starring British rocker David Bowie and French actress Catherine Deneuve, was a critical and box office flop that later became a cult favorite. Scott bounced back three years later with the success of "Top Gun."

The brothers later formed a film company, Scott Free Productions, that made many of their films and TV shows.

The two were executive producers together on two successful prime-time television dramas, "Numb3rs," which ran on CBS from 2005 to 2010, and "The Good Wife," which premiered in 2009 and is still running in CBS.

Filmmaker Richard Kelly, who wrote the screenplay for Scott's 2005 film "Domino," joined the thousands of online tributes on Monday.

"Working with Tony Scott was like a glorious road trip to Vegas on desert back roads, a wild man behind the wheel, grinning," Kelly said.

Actor Val Kilmer, who appeared in both "Top Gun" and the 1993 film "True Romance", called Scott "the kindest film director I ever worked for," and U.S. film critic Roger Ebert called him "an inspired craftsman."

Scott is survived by his third wife, Donna, with whom he had two children.

(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White in London and Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; Editing by Vicki Allen)