Getting Direct With Directors...
Tony Scott
No.33: Tony Scott

British director Tony Scott followed in the footsteps of older brother Ridley and wound up in Hollywood working for hotshot producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. He helmed Tom Cruise vehicles Top Gun (1986) and Days Of Thunder (1990) before shooting Quentin Tarantino's trigger-happy love story True Romance (1993). Since then he's worked with Denzel Washington in Crimson Tide (1995) and Man On Fire (2004) and cast Keira Knightley as a bounty hunter in Domino (2005).

Here, Scott reveals why big brother is still his favourite director, the awful truth about Robert Duvall and why he doesn't mind loaning out his underpants...

Why did you become a director?

I couldn't think of anything better. It's the best job in the world!

If you weren't a filmmaker, what would you be?

Painter. Not a house painter - a painter on canvas.

What other director would you like to see at work?

My brother [Ridley Scott]. I've never seen him at work because we might kill each other on the same set. He and I are so very close in terms of family and business so we couldn't be on the same set.

The Constant Gardner

What was the last movie that you paid to see?

It was The Constant Gardener. I loved it.

What was the last movie you walked out of?

It seems like such a long time ago so I'm trying to remember... You know I always try to find positives in the negatives and I'm always looking for something I can steal - I'm the best plagiarist in the world - so normally I'll sit through a movie till the end. Honestly I think the only reason I've walked out of a movie was because I had a row with the wife in the middle of it.

Do you believe in God?

I believe other forces are at work, but I wouldn't call it God.

Who's the most famous person in your contacts book?

David Bowie.

What's your favourite movie quote?

Damn. That's stumped me. If only you were asking Quentin Tarantino who can remember every line from any movie. Actually I've got a favourite scene in True Romance [written by Tarantino and directed by Scott]. It's Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper and my favourite quote from that is, "You're a cantaloupe."


Which filmmaker do you consider the most underrated?

Robert Rodriguez. He might be underrated - it depends who you talk to.

And which filmmaker do you consider the most overrated?

That’s so hard...I don't want to hurt anyone, I don't want to hurt any of my peers so I have to pass on that one.

Who's the biggest pain in the arse you've ever worked with?

Damn. I'm going to end up in trouble here. Robert Duvall. Why? Because he's crazy and that's his strength. He is difficult to handle but he is brilliant. Since I worked with him [on Days Of Thunder] I've offered him every movie I'd done, but it's just... He's a handful.

What's the dumbest question you've ever been asked?

"We gather Edgar is wearing your underwear?" You know in Domino, Edgar [Ramirez] who plays Choco, when he's in the launderette? I was winging it. The scene where he strips down to his underwear wasn't in the script, but I thought it would be an interesting idea so I asked him to take his jeans off and he was wearing this terrible, grubby pair of Y-fronts. So I gave him my Speedos.

Do you believe in test screenings?

Yes, I do, because you've got to try and divorce yourself from the movie because you get so close to it and it's hard to be objective about it. So, yes, they can be useful but you've also got take them with a pinch of salt. You've got be judicious in terms of what you take from it and what you get rid of.

How seriously do you take reviews?

I stopped looking at reviews after my first movie The Hunger (1983), because I got slagged off so badly. They can be brutal so I just don't look at reviews anymore. You know with my movies I reach for difference and I reach for change and I think - especially the American press - they're not up for change. They're too comfortable with what they know.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

It's from my brother because he's always giving me advice. "Slow down."

Is that just in terms of your work or life in general?


And the worst?

Anyone who says: "don't". Once people say "don't" to me, I do. So the answer to your question would be, "Don't do this movie." I'm sort of perverse and very childlike. I'm 61 and very childlike in terms of being a spoilt brat. If I'm told can't have something, I'll just take it.

Do you have a particular film in mind that you were advised not to do?


Do you want to name it?


What's your biggest regret?

Honestly, I don't have any regrets. I love what I do and I love my life. I love how I conduct my life - I even love the mistakes that I've made. I don't think I have any big regrets because I've always learned from my mistakes. Actually, I'm the best at taking a negative and turning it into a positive.

There are five minutes left till the end of the world - what do you do?

Um. Get laid a lot. Or at least once in five minutes!

Which performer would you love to work with?

Mick Jagger.

What film makes you want to spit?

Wow. Many! Many, many...

What is it about films these days that grates on your nerves?

Their mediocrity. It's formulaic films. It's the three act structure, or it's just laziness. I mean laziness in terms of not doing their homework. I'll tell you what I think is great about what I do as a director; it's that I get to touch and research lives. I get to see people and places that I never would if I wasn't a director and you have to love that research.

Blade Runner

What are your three favourite films and why?

Blade Runner - obviously that's Ridley. It's funny because it's very personal. I saw so much of our growing up in it, in terms of what he brought to the tone of the movie - which is rain! It's such a clear stamp on the environment we grew up in, in terms of the overcast skies and grey - we grew up in West Hartlepool and Stockton-On-Tees up in the north of England. Number two is City Of God, because it was such a brilliant examination of a very dark, dangerous world. And I thought the cast was fantastic. I thought the whole movie was fantastic. It was unforgiving in its pursuit of honesty so it's probably the opposite of Domino. I stole a lot of that movie for Man On Fore, but stole in a good way - I paid homage to City Of God. The third film is 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was one of the first, or earliest movies I saw and I don't know why I like it. I suppose because it was intellectually stimulating and it was beautifully shot and just 100 percent in terms of how it was crafted and the performances too and the world it took me to... I was never into science fiction before that.

What do you think of Norman Wisdom?

I love him. Fantastic. I still laugh like a drain watching Norman Wisdom. He was like the first rapper - the way he wore that cap on one side. Norman Wisdom was the original rapper. Goddamn, the kids don't know who Norman Wisdom is, do they?

Maybe not but he’s still around.

Is he? Wow! I thought he was dead.

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