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Tony Scott is best remembered as maker of memorable action movies

Director Tony Scott committed suicide Sunday after being diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, a source close to him told ABC News.

Scott, 68, leaped from a Los Angeles County bridge wearing his signature cap purchased during the filming of Top Gun, which had faded from red to pink with wear.

An autopsy was planned Monday in L.A., and Scott's reported brain cancer would be a focal point of the investigation.

Scott's older brother and production partner Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Blade Runner, Alien) was reportedly en route Monday from England to join his brother's wife, Donna, and their two children.

Up to the very end, Tony Scott was a man of action, not wishing to be known for dying of a ravaging disease. He would likely prefer to be remembered as a maker of memorable action movies, of which these are our five favorites:

1. True Romance (1993)

The setup: Quentin Tarantino blessed Scott with the best screenplay of his career, a serpentine romp through Southern California lowlifes, some in high places like movie studios. A comic book store clerk (Christian Slater) falls in love with a hooker (Patricia Arquette) and steals a cache of cocaine from her pimp (Gary Oldman). The buyer is a movie producer unflatteringly based on Joel Silver, who wasn't happy with that.

Best scene: Much to choose from but one scene is a certified classic of mano-a-mano tension: The face-off between Christopher Walken's mobster ("You got me in a vendetta kind of mood") and Dennis Hopper as Slater's dad, who knows he's good as dead and doesn't care.

The payoff: Tarantino was on such a roll at the time (post-Reservoir Dogs, pre-Pulp Fiction) that Scott's direction was widely underrated, and the movie criminally ignored until home video.

2. Top Gun (1986)

The setup: Elite U.S. Navy pilots with macho nicknames (chiefly Tom Cruise's Maverick and Val Kilmer's Ice Man) compete to be the best. Maverick falls in love with his incredibly sexy instructor (Kelly McGillis) and melts Ice Man's heart, earning the chance to be his wingman any time.

Best scenes: Any time Scott takes his cameras into the wild blue yonder, chasing jet fighters in mock dogfights. Scott enlisted the full assistance of the U.S. Navy, who saw the opportunity for a recruitment tool and were right.

The payoff: Top Gun earned the most Academy Award nominations (four) of any movie directed by Scott, and won for best song (Take My Breath Away). It remains his most popular movie ever, and Scott was planning a sequel when he died.

3. Crimson Tide (1995)

The setup: Russian rebels aim nuclear warheads at the U.S., and a submarine commanded by Gene Hackman is dispatched to make a pre-emptive strike. The skipper's trigger-happiness is countered by a pragmatic executive officer (Denzel Washington) wishing to avoid nuclear warfare, even if it takes mutiny.

Best scene: After a garbled order to launch missiles is received, the captain and lieutenant stage a protocol showdown leading to a change in command.

The payoff: One of Scott's biggest box office hits, and the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Washington lasting through five movies.

4. Man on Fire (2004)

The setup: Washington again, this time as a former mob assassin hired to protect the daughter (Dakota Fanning) of a Mexico City industrialist. When the girl is kidnapped, the old killer instinct flares up again.

Best scenes: The action is up to Scott's standards but he also finds more heart than usual with Washington's character grudgingly bonding with Fanning's.

The payoff: Only a moderate box office hit but Fanning proved she's more than just a child actor automaton.

5. The Last Boy Scout (1991)

The setup: Cynical, burned-out detective (Bruce Willis) and former pro quarterback (Damon Wayans) investigate the murder of a stripper. All clues lead back to football and a scheme to legalize sports gambling.

Best scene: Wayans climbing a stadium lights fixture and heaving a football a couple hundred yards, hitting a U.S. senator in the face to force him out of an assassin's gun sights.

The payoff: Scott's movie was so over the top in violence, profanity and misogyny that it effectively ended the action-buddies trend of the 1980s.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365.

Tony Scott is best remembered as maker of memorable action movies 08/20/12 [Last modified: Monday, August 20, 2012 11:06pm]

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