The 68-year-old Scott once called himself a “hired gun” for Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, the producing team known for testosterone-laden action movies, as well as other producers.
Mr. Scott didn’t pretend he was Orson Welles or Martin Scorsese, artists who have elevated the craft of moviemaking. Nor did he aim for the slightly more philosophical approach to crowd-pleasing fare practiced by his older brother, director Ridley Scott, on films such as “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise” and “Gladiator.”
“Ridley makes films for posterity,” Mr. Scott quipped in 2005. “His films will be around for a long time. I think my films are more rock ‘n’ roll.”
As a young man out of art school, Mr. Scott collaborated with his brother to build a commercial advertising business. They gained major corporate accounts by injecting action-movie panache to the traditional pitchmanship of commercial advertising on European television. That brought the Scott brothers to Hollywood’s attention — part of a wave of other British TV commercial veterans such as Adrian Lyne and Alan Parker.
As a director, Mr. Scott made his feature movie debut with “The Hunger” (1983), a vampire drama starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon. Critics gave it two fangs down, and Mr. Scott considered his maiden effort “arty and indulgent.”
Simpson and Bruckheimer, who were impressed by Mr. Scott’s TV advertising portfolio, hired him for “Top Gun” (1986), which helped solidify Tom Cruise’s screen persona as the coolest and cockiest man in the known universe.
It was sleek escapism at its best: the film’s hook-laden rock soundtrack, the virtuoso aerial sequences, the screenplay that trafficked in stereotypes (the maverick, the rival, the doomed), and the attractive leading stars (Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer).
“Top Gun” was, of course, ludicrous: Kelly McGillis as an astrophysicist discussing “negative G pushovers” with a group of Navy aviators? And the dogfights were fairly low-stakes, mostly training exercises masquerading as Navy recruiting fodder. But critics who usually salivated at the thought of puncturing overbaked blockbusters were for the most part disarmed by the exhilarating somersaults of F-14 Tomcats.
(The film also inspired a terrific satire, “Hot Shots,” a compliment to how pervasive and enduring “Top Gun” was with audiences.)
The commercial success of “Top Gun” — it reportedly grossed $176 million domestically — led Simpson and Bruckheimer to hire Mr. Scott for “Beverly Hills Cop 2” (1987) with Eddie Murphy and “Days of Thunder” (1990) with Cruise as a hotshot rookie on the stock-car circuit.