Director’s Chair Introduction: Shane Black

by Tony Cogan · November 26, 2018 · Director's Chair, Uncategorized · 5 Comments

Deadline: 5th January 2019

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Hello everyone, it’s time to announce the director that will be featured for December’s Director’s Chair and, seeing how it’s Christmas time, I thought it would be best to look at a director who has based most of his work around Christmas: Shane Black.

Now Black first came to prominence as a writer, spending a few months at the start of his career getting a script called The Shadow Company written. Once it was written, Black was able to use the script to get him an agent, with this getting the attention of Fox, who wanted Black to work as a script doctor for some of their films. During this time, Black wrote the script for Lethal Weapon in 6 weeks, which landed him a deal with Warner Bros and started a working relationship with Joel Silver. Alongside his work on Lethal Weapon, Black also worked as a script doctor for Predator, getting a role acting in the film so he could continue to contribute to the script on-set, and helped write The Monster Squad. With those 3 films all coming out in 1987, Shane Black established himself as a go to writer, helped by the style of his scripts making them as much fun to read on the page as they are to watch.

After he was asked to write Lethal Weapon 2, Black wrote what he considered to be his best script, but one which Warner Bros didn’t want due to the dark nature of it. After conflict with the studio, Black left the film and went on a sabbatical for 2 years, coming back with The Last Boy Scout, along with doing a re-write of Last Action Hero and setting a record for the highest pay day for a writer with his script for The Long Kiss Goodnight.

However, The Long Kiss Goodnight ended up being a critical failure and this, combined with him being rejected for membership of the AMPAS, led to him wanting to go outside of action. Following the advice of James L Brooks, Black started writing a more comedic film, but as his writing went on, he started to lose focus. Listening to Brooks again, Black decided to add some action to the film, along with the influence of thrillers, such as the works of Raymond Chandler, leading to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Whilst the film was not a commercial success, it was a critical success, becoming a cult classic and being one of the stepping stones for Robert Downey Jr to revive his career with the dual successes of Iron Man and Tropic Thunder.

Aside from some TV work, Black didn’t direct again for a while until, after Jon Favreau announced he would not direct Iron Man 3, Robert Downey Jr reached out to Black to take over the series. Even though there was conflict between Shane Black and some of the higher ups at Marvel (specifically Ike Perlmutter, who didn’t want Black to write in a female villain, like he intended, due to his misogynistic belief that toys of women don’t sell), Black ended up making the most successful Marvel film. It is still polarising, mainly due to Black’s decision (along with Drew Pearce) to have it be that The Mandarin was a fake, but for me, that twist works incredibly well and creates a much more interesting character dynamic than making The Mandarin real.

After Iron Man 3, Black went back to a script he had been working on since 2001, The Nice Guys. Whilst there were initial issues with the script, and even plans at one point for it to be a TV series, Black found himself able to make the version of The Nice Guys he wanted to make after Joel Silver asked what Black wanted to do following the success of Iron Man 3, and once Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe were cast in the film the production of the film ramped up. However, like with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, whilst The Nice Guys was a critical success, it was a commercial disappointment.

After his work on The Nice Guys, Black went back to one of the series that started his career, being hired to write and direct The Predator, with a desire to make it more small scale, taking the series away from the likes of the Alien vs Predator series. However, production on The Predator was fraught with studio interference, with the third act being re-shot a few months before its release due to poor test screenings and the film being edited to within an inch of its life, with it being insanely obvious. Not helping matters was the fact that Black cast a convicted sex offender in the film, without telling anyone in the cast. Once Olivia Munn found out she, rightly, lobbied for the actor to be removed from the film and the lack of support offered by Black for Munn initially was disgraceful, no ifs or buts, what he did was wrong.

The next work Black is going to be involved in as a director is a re-imagining of one of the pulp adventure icon Doc Savage, with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson signing on to play Doc Savage, and there is the potential for Black to make another Predator film, but I’m not on board with that any more.

As a reminder, I’m looking for any pieces you’ve done on the films of Shane Black, if you want a quick reminder of his films, see the list below:

  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
  • Iron Man 3
  • The Nice Guys
  • The Predator

I look forward to reading whatever you send me.