Shane Black made headlines by selling his first “Lethal Weapon” script for $250,000 at age twenty-five. After netting $4 million for “The Long Kiss Goodbye” in 1995, he took a 10-year break.
Last week, Shane resurfaced as a double threat, the writer and director of “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” which kicked off the Hollywood Film Festival on Oct. 18.
Just because a gun goes off more than once in the film, Shane says not to confuse it, as his previous work has been, with an action picture. Consider this: Robert Downey Jr. plays a conman who inadvertently gets cast in a Hollywood movie, and together with a washed-up actress (Michelle Monaghan) and a gay detective (Val Kilmer), unearths a real murder. It is not “Lethal Weapon.”
But Black says he doesn’t regard his earlier films as pure action, either. “I was emulating a different model that’s about style and wit. Swerving cars, blowing chunks off the landscape are just elements of thrillers,” he says, adding that people don’t refer to the original “Dirty Harry” movies, “North by Northwest” or the “French Connection” as action films.
” ‘KKBB’ was a chance to re-invent the private detective story using realistic characters, in a modern setting but with the spirit of 1950s and 1960s,” says Black, dubbing it “the bastard child of two fathers.”
First, there was comic kingpin Albert L. Brooks, who gave him an office to write in, and then Joel Silver, kingpin producer of action suspense, whose door finally yawned open after several years of Black banging his head against closed ones.
“It was a humbling experience,” Black says of trying to make the film on his own. “I thought people would remember me and I’d have more cachet. They were sadly more influenced by how much money I managed to make than the work. It wasn’t the identity I wished for,” he says, going some way toward explaining why he stepped out of the spotlight for a decade.
The directing process has left a sweeter taste. “It was a sublime blur. I spent six months breathing movies from Spielberg to David Fincher.”
At present, he’s working on a horror script that will have more in common with classic English ghost stories than slasher movies. “I’ve always favored a cross pollination of
genres,” says Black.