Clues sought in suicide of Tony Scott

British film director Tony Scott posing in Paris during a photocall to present his movie "The Taking of Pelham 123". Picture: AFP.

LOS ANGELES - Investigators sought clues on Monday to what prompted British-born filmmaker Tony Scott to take his own life in Los Angeles, while much of Hollywood focused on conflicting media reports about whether he was suffering from brain cancer.

Scott, director of such blockbuster films as Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II, jumped nearly 200 feet (61 meters) to his death on Sunday from a suspension bridge over Los Angeles Harbour, leaving behind a suicide note in his office and a list in his car of people to contact, authorities said.

Medical examiners on Monday performed an autopsy on Scott, whose body was recovered from the harbour nearly three hours after he jumped in, said Ed Winter, assistant chief of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

He said results of the exam likely will be kept confidential until toxicology and other tests are completed. A coroner's spokesman said that could take four to eight weeks.

Winter said he could not confirm an ABC News report that said Scott, the younger brother of director and three-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott, had inoperable brain cancer. The report cited an unidentified source close to Scott.

The celebrity news website reported later on Monday that Scott's wife had told investigators that rumours of an inoperable brain cancer were "absolutely false," though TMZ did not specify the origin of its account.

Asked whether the suicide note found by friends in Scott's office or any other writings referred to an illness, Winter said, "not to my knowledge." Authorities have not disclosed the content of the note.

Winter also said investigators had no theories about what led Scott, who was 68, to kill himself.

Witnesses reported seeing Scott stop his car at about the midway point of the bridge shortly after noon on Sunday, climb a fence along the edge of the span and leap into the water, coroner's officials said.

His body was recovered from the water about three hours later.

California transportation officials said the centre of the span, its highest point, is about 185 feet (56 meters) above the harbour surface, and the fence at that point, installed in the 1970s to keep debris from falling into the channel, is 18 feet (5.5 meters) tall.

Members of the film industry expressed shock at the death of one of Hollywood's most prolific and bankable producer-directors with reactions from Tom Cruise, Ron Howard and others.

Cruise, who shot to stardom in Scott's 1986 fighter-jet adventure Top Gun, described the director as "my dear friend" and said in a statement: "I will really miss him. He was a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable."

Cruise was reported by Hollywood trade paper the Hollywood Reporter to be working with Scott on plans for a Top Gun sequel and toured a naval air station in Nevada late last week with the director as part of their research for the movie.

Gene Hackman, who starred in Scott's 1998 spy thriller Enemy of the State and his 1995 submarine drama Crimson Tide, remembered him as "always sensitive to the needs of an actor. We've lost a wonderful, creative talent."