“I’ll shoot it like “The Girl”" Tony Scott said.
We were walking out of a meeting in Malibu where Tony was pitching himself to direct the movie, Top Gun.
Midway through the pitch, Tony had fallen asleep.
We were at the house of Ned Tanen, Paramount’s Studio Chief, on Channel Road.
The producers for the movie, Don SImpson and Jerry Bruckheimer were lagging behind in the house, trying to convince Ned that Tony’s falling asleep was due to jet lag. Tony had just gotten off the plane from London and went right to Ned’s house for the meeting.
I was the executive for Paramount accountable for the production.
We had been to 38 directors for the movie.
Everyone had passed.
We had the biggest new star in the world, Tom Cruise , hot off of Risky Business, attached.
Still, no one in Hollywood had wanted to do it.
We were now looking under any rock — including Ausssie and British directors (not that there was anything wrong with that).
“I’ll shoot it like ‘The girl’!” he said again to me.
He was now suddenly awake.
“Huh?” I replied, trying to figure out who could direct Top Gun, because this British sleeper-loser was not going to.
“Listen, mate. It’s never been done. I’ll shoot the jets, the air carrier and even Tom — I’ll shoot the whole bloody thing like it was the ultimate woman — the girl of our fantasies.”
Ah, I thought. The girl.
The girl. The high-flying girl. The movie girl. She seldom had a name — but she was the ultimate puzzle piece to the hero’s desire — the trickster, the temptress, the lover, the prize
“I dunno, Tony. Isn’t that the way you shot The Hunger ?”
When we got to the car, he took my shoulders and jerked me towards him.
We were staring at one another, face to face.
He was wearing a baseball cap and his eyes were shimmering.
The afternoon Malibu sun was blinding…but I could see the stress and the tears in his eyes. The Hunger, was a bomb. He hadn’t worked in three years.
“Give me this chance, mate. I will promise I will not let you down.”
Even though I did not know him and I hated the Hunger, his tears and purity of heart moved me.
His desperation became my desperation.
Suddenly, we were brothers.
Tony Scott can do that to you.
He got in the limo.
I laughed to myself. He was asleep again as I closed the door.
Stricken by Tony’s desperation, I went back into Ned’s house where there was lots of screaming and yelling.
“You can’t find a g— d— director to save this g—d— turkey script.” Ned was screaming. We called those rants “his green pea soup days”.
As I came into the room, Ned saw me.
“Well?” Ned shouted. “Are you going to let this guy with narcolepsy direct?”
“It’s not my decision.”
“Yes it is. It’s your ass, my friend.” Ned said.
I was a pip-squeak at the bottom of the Paramount hierarchy.
I looked at Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. Don had his shades on in the house. It was clear that they wanted Tony to direct it.
I took a deep breath.
“I’m going to look at The Hunger again tonight and then talk to Tony and the guys in the morning.”
“Okay,” Ned said, surprised that I had taken his bait. He looked at me with his furrowed brow.
“What did he say to you?”
I didn’t tell him. I did not want to set him off into green-pea-soup land. I would keep the secret.
“He was tired,” I said.
That was all.
That night I watched The Hunger again. The storytelling was just awful. There were no master-shots so you never knew where you were. Lots of fire-engine-red lipstick and camosole bras amidst the neck-sucking vampires. I had nightmares that night but I kept seeing Tony.
He was a light amidst the dark soul-snatching creatures of the night….
We met in the morning at the hotel….to be continued.
Tom Cruise’s makeover …the casting of Kelly McGillis over Demi Mooore…forcing Tony to pay for air freighter fuel…Tony shopping for bed sheets…Tony’s firing from the film, my fist-fight with Ned Tanen and a pending trumped-up lawsuit. In six parts….
Note: Like countless others who share this grief, I’ve had trouble making sense of a world suddenly without Tony Scott. These stories on Top Gun are, I suppose, a cathartic way to work through the inherent sadness of his passing. I apologize in advance to anyone who thinks these stories might be untimely.