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Hunt for answers in ‘Top Gun’ director’s death

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Director Tony Scott at the premiere of "Unstoppable" in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES >> Director Tony Scott loved fast cars, riding fast motorcycles and creating some of the most memorable action sequences of the past quarter century. He was even planning a sequel to his hit "Top Gun."

Yet on Sunday, police removed the director’s body from Los Angeles Harbor hours after they say he stopped his car on the towering Vincent Thomas Bridge and jumped.

His death stunned friends and fans and left Hollywood buzzing about what could have prompted one of the industry’s more successful filmmakers to take an 18-story leap to his death.

An autopsy and notes he left for loved ones will offer investigators clues, but any answers that authorities obtain will not be released for several weeks.

The bridge is a favorite filming location for action directors, although the 68-year-old Scott apparently never used it for one of his films.

The avid rock climber directed more than 15 movies that included such unforgettable sequences as the dog fights of "Top Gun" and the raw power of a runaway train in "Unstoppable."

As a director and producer, Scott worked with Hollywood’s top actors, including Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, Will Smith and Robert Redford, and helped influence a generation of action buffs.

Cruise, who starred in "Top Gun" and confirmed he was working with Scott on a sequel earlier this year, said he’d lost a dear friend.

"He was a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable," Cruise wrote in a statement. "My deepest sorrow and thoughts are with his family at this time."

Notes to loved ones were found in his Scott’s and at another location, Coroner’s Chief of Operations Craig Harvey said. The death was being treated as a probable suicide, but a formal determination could take a month or more as toxicology and tissue tests are completed.

In the meantime, investigators will look into Scott’s health and whether any other factors contributed to his death.

"The family asks that their privacy is respected at this time," said Simon Halls, a spokesman for Scott and his older brother, Oscar-winning director, Ridley Scott.

The bridge where Scott jumped has appeared in "The Fast and the Furious," ”Gone in 60 Seconds," ”Charlie’s Angels" and "To Live and Die in L.A." It has been used in filming 13 times since 2011, according to the California Film Commission.

Motorist David Silva told the Los Angeles Times that Scott appeared to hesitate before climbing a fence along the bridge, and again before leaping. He said fellow motorists at first thought the director was performing an extreme sports stunt, but quickly realized he didn’t have a parachute or other safety equipment.

The brothers frequently collaborated on movies, and their company also produced the successful TV series "Numb3rs" and "The Good Wife." CBS, which aired both shows, said "one of the brightest lights in the industry has gone out."

Scott, who was born in Great Britain and lived in Beverly Hills, is survived by his wife, actress Donna Scott, who appeared in several of her husband’s films, and twin sons. He had been planning a sequel to "Top Gun," the movie that helped propel him to other big-budget films.

Scott often said he got his greatest thrills from filmmaking.

"The biggest edge I live on is directing. That’s the most scary, dangerous thing you can do in your life," Scott said in an interview about his 1995 naval adventure "Crimson Tide." ”The scariest thing in my life is the first morning of production on all my movies. It’s the fear of failing, the loss of face and a sense of guilt that everybody puts their faith in you and not coming through."

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