Thinking about Tony Scott’s last TV commercial and whether it was “too soon” to call it junk.

August 22, 2012

I took a fair amount of criticism for my curt dismissal of director Tony Scott’s last ad before killing himself. The trades posted the commercial for Mountain Dew and I linked it to Facebook and Twitter calling it an “ignominious end to a brilliant career.” Among other things, I was told it was “too soon” for such a negative commentary. One guy in England called me a “cunt.” Yikes.

Many reminded me of how great a person Tony Scott was and how fine a director. I don’t discount that. As a matter of fact, I count some of his films as all-time favorites. Not Top Gun by the way. But The Hunger and True Romance are badass and beautiful. Scott directed movies that pleased crowds and chewed up the screen. He also made a lot of TV commercials, many of them wonderful.

Yet, his last one wasn’t. A paint-by-numbers soft drink ad in a tired campaign, the Mountain Dew commercial is not a fitting epitaph. The last line of copy is “But I’m Mark Cuban!” Need I say more?

Getting back to the “too soon” theme. I wonder what does that mean anymore? I know what it used to mean: a grace period granted to the maimed and dead. Usually referring to the press. But the press ain’t what it used to be. Nowadays, a wily blogger or rogue cop will post a story long before the traditional news media. Why isn’t that “too soon?” Shouldn’t a story, especially one featuring terrible news, be verified and fact checked before getting told? Like it or not, the answer is “no.”

In my case I re-posted a film Mr. Scott made calling it mediocre. Yet, the commercial was already out there. Since the TV spot is what I said it was don’t you think the trades knew it too? Why didn’t they post one of the directors many, many better films? By deeming this lessor piece newsworthy they were passing commentary as well. Without sounding defensive, I was merely providing the caption.

Finally, I would suggest –we can never know- that Tony Scott would have agreed with my assessment. Despite all the pain he was likely going through, because his death was premeditated I’m wagering it crossed his mind that his last commercial outing was a dud. In the big picture, this means nothing. But as a creative guy, who will also die some day, I can’t help but wonder what my last creation will be? Likely some forlorn trade ad or random blog post. Sigh.

As always, I welcome your comments. Even if you agree with the Englishman.


14 Responses to “Thinking about Tony Scott’s last TV commercial and whether it was “too soon” to call it junk.”

  1. Wheaten said

    For me, it’s not a question of too soon, it’s a question of intent and motivation. I think the default setting when somebody respected passes is to celebrate their life. You chose the opposite route. You of course have the right to do that, but without a proper framing of your reasoning, it calls into question your motivation for choosing the “mourning route less traveled”

  2. Nope. In my opinion it wasn’t too soon. Others may disagree. And that’s kind of the point. We all have our opinions and in the world we live in today, a right to express them whenever we so choose. After all, you weren’t personally attacking the man, or his entire body of work. You were simply expressing your opinion that, tragically, a man who was recognized for being such a skilled filmmaker and a talented commercial director, his final commercial, his final work – in your opinion doesn’t hold up to the standard we expect from Tony Scott. And as you pointed out, and in my opinion, knowing what a perfectionist he was, having personally worked with the man, like you, I think Tony would probably agree. To those who think it was too soon, a few questions: Exactly how long isn’t too soon? And who gets to decide that? And what makes you think you get to decide that?

  3. […] “The last line of copy is ‘But I’m Mark Cuban!’ Need I say more?” Leading Advertising Creative Considers Whether It Was Too Soon To Say Tony Scott’s Last Commer… […]

  4. Rob said

    1. I just can’t imagine why you’re A. judging the final quality of a film director based on a cash-grab commercial and B. why you think the last bit of business he did really matters in light of a suicide. Seems so disconnected and superficial. Nobody’s going to defend a bad commercial. The question is, why bother attacking it? Tony Scott will be remembered in 10 years, that commercial will not be remembered in 1. It’s not “too soon” it’s why fucking bother at all? It’s commerce, it’s meaningless in the grand scheme.

    Also, do you really give a shit about what your last bit of creativity is going to be? Here’s a hint — if you live as long as Tony Scott did, it’s going to probably be shittier than the commercial you don’t care for. I’d recommend you start worrying about your relationships over art that may or may not be good or come to fruition.

    • Steffan1 said

      Rob- You make some good points albeit in a hostile manner. Tony Scott was only 68 when he died, so I will likely outlive him. And, honestly, I do sort of care what my last piece of creativity will be. Why wouldn’t I?

      • Rob said

        I apologize for you took my comment as “hostile.” As I read it back I think I seem merely annoyed with some profanity thrown in, but my intention was not to shit on your porch.

        With all that said, when you are mixing art and commerce, it’s completely unfair (and somewhat irrelevant) to make a minor job into something important. Do you believe his heart was in a soda commercial? Should it be? If anyone is completely invested in Mountain Dew commercial with dancing girls at 68 then I suggest they re-examine their lives.

        Was Orson Welles shit because his last job was Transformers the Movie? Does anyone who thinks about Heath Ledger think about the Terry Gilliam movie he made after Dark Knight? Not really. So again, why bother writing two blogs about Tony Scott cashing a paycheck? Nobody is going to care if your last ad is a trade blog or whatever. Hopefully, they’re just upset that you’re dead.

        If you want to worry about the enduring legacy of your last commercial, that’s your business. That is your primary job. It was not Tony Scott’s, and since he had issues floating around in his head that caused him to take his own life, I truly doubt he gave a shit what anyone thought of his last “creative.”

      • Steffan1 said

        Orson Welles was in Transformers?!

        Seriously, thank you for your second reply (the first one, too). One motive I did not list or writing the piece in question (and all of them, really) was that I love creating a debate. I think it’s stimulating to think about difficult things (like death and what IT means) and I invariably learn something about myself and the human condition…

  5. Ciaran McCabe said

    Why wouldn’t you? Maybe you could tell us why. Because you’ve acted like a cunt? Rob is absolutely right, why did you bother? Do you really think TS thought about that commercial before he died? Seems to me you haven’t actually told us why you felt compelled to write it. Love to know.

  6. Bill said

    Anyone can comment on anything instantly–and it’s done every second of every day. It’s life in today’s big city. But I’m in the why bother camp, not the “don’t speak ill of the dead” side. As an accomplished feature film director, I have to believe making commercials was really just his job to pay the bills and take care of his family. So commenting on the last thing he did at work seems like a waste of time. Still, you’re not a cunt for the commentary.

  7. I’d call you a cunt based on your avatar pic alone. Tony probably would have as well. Probably ‘look at that smarmy cunt’ would be accurate.

    As to the spot – the writers deserve the slap. It’s lazy and thin. At least Tony got them to get a few extra lights out of the truck.

    • Steffan1 said

      MT- Avatar pictures are tough sledding.
      You either come off looking like a dick or a cunt.
      FYI: Referring to the director as “Tony” works if you’re a close, personal friend. From the Internet peanut gallery you just sound like a dick. That’s it! You’re a dick.

  8. Min said

    Steffan, I know you to be a creative, good guy. But this comment, “Despite all the pain he was likely going through, because his death was premeditated I’m wagering it crossed his mind that his last commercial outing was a dud.” is truly offensive.

    I hope no one ever writes such a sentence when you go.

    • Steffan1 said

      Mindy- Obviously, I disagree. Why is it offensive? You never explain. You just assume it’s offensive the same we we assume death is sacred and above human concerns. I don’t think it is. If Mr. Scott was planning to jump off a bridge I’m certain in the days leading up to it he pondered many, many things including banal stuff like his last crappy commercial. Why wouldn’t he? With all respect, you need to explain… not me.

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