Probe into suicide of film director could take weeks yet

Director Tony Scott.
Director Tony Scott.

MYSTERY looks set to surround the apparent suicide of North Tyneside-born film director Tony Scott for weeks to come.

Although it is all but certain that the 68-year-old, originally from North Shields, intended to kill himself by jumping off a bridge in the US on Sunday, it is not known what drove him to take his own life.

The results of an autopsy carried out on Scott may not be known for up to six weeks, according to the coroner’s department for Los Angeles, as further tests are being undertaken.

The movie-maker, famous for box-office blockbusters including 1986’s Top Gun and 1995’s Crimson Tide, died after leaping from a 185ft-high suspension bridge spanning Los Angeles harbour.

The Hollywood veteran, the younger brother of fellow film director Ridley Scott, is said by police to have left several notes to his loved ones and his death is being investigated as a suicide, said county coroner’s lieutenant Joe Bale.

There have been reports that Scott was suffering from inoperable brain cancer, but they have been refuted by his family.

A dive team pulled Scott’s body from the water several hours after witnesses alerted emergency services, having seen him jump from the bridge.

A suicide note is said to have been found at his office, and he had left contact details in his black Toyota Prius, parked close to the scene.

A coroner’s spokesman denied reports Scott had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, saying: “I spoke with Mrs Scott yesterday and she said that was totally false.”

Scott, the youngest of the three sons of Army colonel Francis Scott and his wife, Elizabeth, was born in North Shields in June 1944.

Sir Ridley, born in South Shields, was seven years his senior, and they had an elder brother, Frank, a sailor. Frank died of skin cancer in 1980 shortly before Tony made it big in Hollywood.

The family moved back south of the Tyne while Sir Ridley, knighted in 2003, and Tony were both still youngsters.

The brothers both studied at Grangefield School in Stockton and West Hartlepool College of Art.

Scott completed a fine arts degree at Sunderland Art School, now the city’s university, and later graduated from the Royal College of Art in London intending to carve out a career as an artist. He made his first venture into film at the age of 16 in the form of a role as a truant in a black-and-white short, called Boy and Bicycle, directed by Sir Ridley during his student days.

In the late 1960s, Scott turned his back on his intended career in fine art to join Ridley Scott Associates, his big brother’s TV commercial production company, later moving on to feature films.

Scott had lived in Beverly Hills for years with actress Donna Wilson Scott, his third wife, and their twin sons Frank and Max, born in 2000.

The expatriate North Tynesider ran Scott Free Productions with his brother, and, at the time of his death, the pair were working on a TV movie called Killing Lincoln, to be directed by Adrian Moat.

Scott’s other big-screen hits included 1982’s The Hunger, 1993’s True Romance and 2001’s Spy Game.