This is the second in our new series, Mindhole Blowers (read the first, on Cameron Crowe’s Singles) where we troll the Internet and listen to DVD Commentaries of our favorite films and bring you some of the fascinating minutia about them. Today, we look at Shane Black’s 2005 cult hit, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which helped revitalize the career of Robert Downey, Jr., who has since become a huge action star in the Iron Man franchise. Shane Black, the director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, will direct RDJ in Iron Man 3.
Johnny Knoxville was originally attached to play the role that eventually went to Robert Downey, Jr. Harrison Ford was also once considered for the role taken by Val Kilmer (under a bigger budget version of the film). Hugh Grant and Benecio Del Toro were also briefly considered for the lead roles.
The very cool title sequence was created by Danny Yount, the graphic designer who also created the title sequence to “Six Feet Under,” Iron Man and RockNRolla. The Kiss Kiss Bang Bang title sequence was voted as one of the 50 Best All Time by IFC.
The film was based, in part, on Brett Halliday’s novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them. Halliday, who died in 1977, was a writer on the television series, “Ironside.”
The chapter titles in the movie are all derived from Raymond Chandler novels.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is European slang for spy movies; it was also the title of Pauline Kael’s second published collection of reviews. The title of the movie itself was a reference to an unused theme song in the James Bond film, Thunderball.
Before it was titled Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the movie worked under the titles You’ll Never Die in This Town Again, L.A.P.I. and then simply, Bang.
The film was the first produced by Public Media Works, a production company owned in part by Corbin Bernsen.
Gay Perry is often considered the first openly gay character lead in an action film.
At the end of the movie, Val Kilmer asks the audience to stick around and watch the credits, remarking, “If you’re wondering who the Best Boy is, he’s someone’s nephew.” In fact, the best boy’s name is Jack Bauer (no relation to the “24” character), who has been a key grip and best boy in numerous movies since 1983.
At one point in the film, Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) uses the line, “Thrill Me,” a reference to an oft-repeated line in Night of the Creeps, which was directed by Fred Dekker, who was once a writing partner of Shane Black’s. (Coincidentally, Night of the Creeps starred Jason Lively, the older half brother of Blake Lively). Fred Dekker also directed The Monster Squad, which he co-wrote with Shane Black.
One of the songs on the soundtrack, “Broken,” was written and performed by Robert Downey, Jr., originally for his album, The Futurist. It’s not a great song (I own the album; RDJ is a much better singer than he is a composer). If you want to hear a great RDJ performance, check out his absolutely gut-wrenching rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “The River,” which he originally sang on “Ally McBeal,” before he was fired by David E. Kelley for relapsing.
In order to play his character in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Val Kilmer had to lose 50 pounds he gained for Oliver Stone’s Alexander. He apparently gained those 50 pounds back, added another 50, and has never looked back:
The DVD contains this fantastic gag reel:
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, now a cult hit, only made $4 million during its theatrical run. It made nearly $12 million internationally. The $4 million domestic gross was the lowest grossing film that producer Joel Silver had been involved in since 1982’s Jekyll and Hyde Together Again. (The $15 million film did turn a profit after accounting for International grosses and the $12 million it made on DVD Sales/Rentals).
Michelle Monaghan once joked that, were there a sequel, it should be called Kiss Kiss Gang Bang.
Four of Shane Black’s scripts, including Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, take place during Christmas.
Shane Black took off for nearly a decade between writing The Long Kiss Goodnight and directing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. During that interim, he fell into a depression, and it was Hollywood legend James L. Brooks who pulled him out of his funk, although Brooks encouraged him to write a romantic comedy.
Because of Robert Downey’s troubled drug past, it was Mel Gibson — Downey’s co-star in Air America — that vouched for Downey with director Shane Black before Black agreed to sign him on.
In 2005, Robert Downey, Jr. appeared in films with all three of the Batman actors from the original Batman film franchise: Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, George Clooney in Good Night and Good Luck and Michael Keaton in Game 6.
Shane Black has written several films, including the Lethal Weapon series, but Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is still the only film he has directed. That will change, however, when he directs Iron Man 3 with his Bang Bang actor, Robert Downey, Jr.
The film received near unanimous praise from critics, but among the few who didn’t care for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang were the NYTimes A.O. Scott, Roger Ebert, and Rex Reed, who called it “Vulgar, noisy, pointless and stupid.” In an unrelated note, Rex Reed was once arrested for shoplifting Mel Torme CDs.