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Barry Cutler: RIP Tony Scott

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I don't claim to have been a friend of Tony Scott. I was barely an acquaintance. I met him three times and, over the decades, communicated with him, perhaps, two or three times more. 

If I remember correctly, we first met in 1980 or 1981, when I was a wiry, long-haired actor in my early thirties. My agent had sent me to a casting session for a Canadian Dry commercial and Tony was the director.  I was up for the role of a hippy getting busted by a redneck cop. I think Tony was fairly new to the United States.  

Although I'd seen the movie Alien, I didn't know he was the brother of its director, Ridley Scott, and Tony never mentioned it. He was just some short, energetic Brit I was trying to impress. 

I read my couple of lines and he did not seem impressed. He then handed me his cap and sunglasses and asked me to put them on and read the role of the redneck cop making the arrest. As stated earlier, I was this skinny, long-haired guy at the time and I had, and still do (though it seems to produce much more hair) a prominent Jewish nose. I wasn't especially marketable as a redneck cop. But that's how Tony cast me. 

The shoot was in three parts and the segment in which I appeared took place on a lonely road in the Mojave desert. At the time, my car was barely capable of crossing an intersection, let alone making it to the Mojave desert. So Tony asked his limo driver to fetch me. I guess the drive out was about two hours and Tony made it great fun. He was put up at the Chateau Marmont and having a great time. He described the parties he attended and the celebrities he was meeting. But what excited him most were the pretty young women. "I've never seen so many lovely titties. Beautiful titties! Lots of titties!" 

When we arrived in the desert it was pouring rain - non-stop. The shoot was canceled and, since most of the remainder of the week was scheduled for shooting the other two segments, my shoot was rescheduled for very late that week. Later that week, my car still refusing to make the trip, Tony picked me up again. And, again, he was full of funny stories about titties and how disastrous the commercial shoot was going.

One of the segments was to take place on a boat with a bunch of extras partying. Unfortunately, the boat sank. 

The commercial was being produced by a French company and when we arrived in the desert, there were several men in business suits near tears as they cast their eyes toward the overcast skies. Mon Dieu! I watched as one of the suited producers sank to his knees in the middle of a road, apparently praying for a break in the weather. It seemed to work. The clouds parted and Tony prepared to shoot. 

While he was preparing, I was introduced to my stuntman. They'd hired a bearded biker type to don my redneck cowboy cop hat and drive the cop car which stopped the hippies. He wanted to practice his moves and asked me to sit in the car. I did so and, as he told me how he sometimes had death wishes, he sped the car to over 100mph before slamming the breaks and wildly spinning the car. "Wasn't that fun?" he asked. Fortunately, I didn't cause the French producers any further grief by soiling the cop outfit. 

When I was driving, Tony had himself strapped to the hood of the car and shot the scene himself. And, just as the rain began to fall again, we finished the shoot. 

A year or two later, I went to see Tony's first feature film, The Hunger. It starred Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve. The was one scene in which the topless Susan and Catherine made love. I imagined Tony jumping about behind the camera, clapping his hands, and singing, "titties, titties, titties!" 

In the mid-1980's, I decided to spend about a year traveling Europe. As an emergency contact, I had left the telephone number of an old friend who lived in Paris. After spending a couple of weeks in England, Scotland and Ireland, and falling in love with a lovely, young, Swedish woman, I arrived in Paris with the young woman at my side.  

My friend told me that a casting director had been trying to contact me. I called the casting director, a fellow I'd known as an actor and who knew me and my work. He said that Tony Scott had wanted to see me for the role of a redneck cop for a film called Top Gun. The casting director laughed and said he'd tried to explain to Tony that he must be thinking of the wrong actor because Cutler looked nothing like a redneck cop, but Tony kept insisting. Probably foolishly, I turned it down. I had just arrived in Europe and I was in love with the young Swede. But I certainly appreciated Tony's memory and insistence that I was the guy for the role. 

Finally, years later, after spending a year in Mexico to write a few screenplays, I contacted Tony to ask if I could submit the scripts to be read by his office. He got back to me almost immediately and said absolutely yes.  

 

Nothing ever came of the screenplays but, again, I was moved by his memory and generosity of spirit. That spirit will be missed. 

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