In an interview with The Times on the eve of the release of "Crimson Tide," Scott said: "The biggest edge I live on is directing. That's the most scary, dangerous thing you can do in your life." But he also saw a parallel with his passion for rock climbing: "The true strength of rock climbing is in the head, not the body.... It's controlling the fear as I do while I'm directing."
Based on the strength of a Saab commercial he directed that featured jets, Scott was hired by Bruckheimer and producer Don Simpson to direct 1986's "Top Gun," Epps said.
"He had the skill to photograph jet planes flying 400 miles per hour," Epps said. "It was pretty remarkable work. That movie became iconic because of choices he made, and it influenced the way other action movies were shot and edited."
"Top Gun," a profile of Navy fighter pilots, cemented Cruise as one of the industry's biggest stars. The film, which grossed a then-spectacular $354 million worldwide, transformed Scott into a Hollywood A-lister.
The next year, Scott directed Eddie Murphy in "Beverly Hills Cop II" and then went on to make the big-budget thrillers "Days of Thunder," "Crimson Tide," "Enemy of the State" and "Man on Fire," along with edgier fare such as "True Romance" and "Domino."
In an industry that considers most people older than 50 past their prime, Scott was inundated with assignments at the time of his death.
"He seemed like he always seemed: supportive and funny, but at the same time serious about the work," said composer Henry Gregson-Williams, who collaborated with Scott on eight films, the last being 2010's "Unstoppable," and spoke with the director about three months ago. "Tony was always juggling lots of projects.
FOR THE RECORD
Tony Scott: An article in the Aug. 21 Section A about the death of Tony Scott gave the first name of composer Harry Gregson-Williams as Henry.
"Tony was always an adventurer," he said. "He was fiercely loyal. And he was very sensitive. Looking at his films, you might not think that. But he was an incredibly sweet, sensitive man."
Scott's most recent television commercial was for Diet Mountain Dew, released this month. It featured Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban trying to tempt a Diet Dew fan with riches, including a speedboat and a helicopter, if he would just give him the last bottle of the soda at a mini-mart. Scott also directed commercials for BMW, Dodge, Italia Telecom, Marlboro, theU.S. Army and Barclays Bank.
"I feel blessed to have known and worked with Tony," said cinematographer Paul Cameron, who shot Scott's "Man on Fire" and "Deja Vu." "He was way beyond a mentor to me. He was by far the most gracious, talented and hard-working man I have ever met."
"In person, Tony was a real man on fire," said Tom Rothman, a chairman of 20th Century Fox, which made a number of Scott's films, including "Unstoppable." "He had indefatigable energy and a burning creative energy. As good a filmmaker as he was, he was a better person. You never had a meeting with Tony that wasn't funny, that wasn't followed up by some handwritten note he would send to you."
Times staff writers Ben Fritz, Steven Zeitchik, Mark Olsen, Andrew Blankstein, Richard Winton, Amy Kaufman and Claudia Eller contributed to this report.