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The Best of Shane Black's Reddit AMA: 'I am Shane Black - I Love Dogs. Sometimes I Put Them in Films'

By Petr Navovy | Social Media | May 20, 2016 |

By Petr Navovy | Social Media | May 20, 2016 |

So Shane Black has a new movie out. It’s called The Nice Guys, and we here at Pajiba are quite excited about seeing it. Especially those of us slightly fatigued by the endless procession of superhero movies, sequels, other franchise extensions, reboots, and cinematic universe launchers.

So a mid-budget original property is always something to look forward to. A mid-budget original property written and directed by Shane Black?


Anyway, as is the custom, he is now doing the rounds to promote the movie. He stopped by Reddit last night to do an ask me anything (AMA).

Here are some highlights:

I’d go so far as to say that you completely rejuvenated Robert Downey Jr’s career with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. What was the process casting him like? Did you have to push hard for him to get the part, or did you prefer it go to someone else?

Downey was the man. Period. Down-at-his-heels, previously uninsurable, the whole deal — fuck it. I trusted him. I was so right. That said, the movie tanked; but I’m still intensely proud of it, and so SO grateful for what Downey and Kilmer brought. Lightning in a bottle.

What kind of future do you think films like The Nice Guys have in the studio system where it seems harder and harder to create something based off original IP (as opposed to an existing universe)?

Well, this is where I need your help, frankly. Increasingly, there seems to be the encroaching giants (the superhero tent poles) at one end of the spectrum and the Oscar-bait drama at the other; with precious little attention to the no-man’s-land in between. SO. I need you to get on board with the notion of our picture The Nice Guys, which (despite big stars) finds itself firmly seated between superhero tent poles and summer sequels. Help us bust it out, would you? Tell your friends. I think it’s important fo people to find these smaller movies, rather than simply dutifully attending the inevitable summer spectacle.

Iron Man 3 is one of, if not my favourite, Marvel film. Obviously a project like that is beholden to the studio at large and continuity with the films to come after it but what I’m curious about is how different your original idea was to the finished product? I had read something recently about a female villain? How’d that fit into the script? Also any advice for a recent film studies graduate looking to break into the production biz (it’s always worth a shot)!

Can’t wait for “The Nice Guys” looks slick!!

Marvel was an education and a half. I remember I was a bit headspun, early on, trying to find out how exactly I fit in, when Joss Whedon approached me. Sensing my distress, he said, “You don’t have to keep ahold of every moving part. Trust the machine.” And so I took the cotton out of my ears, put it in my mouth, and proceeded to LEARN from the most efficient, well-oiled superhero delivery system in history. Everyone should be so lucky.

Hey Shane!

What’s your favorite “behind the scenes” story that happened with an actor while on or off set? Like, something completely ridiculous that no one would know of outside of the film crew?


I took a dump in a trailer I thought was mine (identical) and then Ryan Gosling opened the door on me. I basically had waltzed into his identical trailer and casually besmirched his toilet. To this day I wonder if he thinks it was some power thing. Like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.
Mr. Black, I would like to hear more about your Lethal Weapon 5 treatment. Any chance it could still happen?
Sadly, the Lethal 5 boat has sailed, more so now with the advent of the television show. Ah, well…

Hey Shane!

My question is, what is your opinion of the film Hot Fuzz? Although it is alot more than this, it is a film which acted as homage in many ways to classic buddy cop films (namely Lethal Weapon). It is my favorite film and was just wondering what someone like yourself (who I believe perfected the buddy cop formula) thought of this film which acted as a tribute of sorts for the genre.

Edgar can do no wrong.

I saw Nice Guys and I loved it! Only one problem though, there was no Christmas! I come to a Shane Black film for witty violent shenanigans during Christmas, so why no Christmas?

Also in the Q&A Russel said that Ryan kept cracking him up to the point of ruining many takes. Do you remember any particular funny line from Ryan?

In the scene in the elevator — the “Munich” bit — Ryan could not stop elaborating on the concept of a man without balls. I couldn’t get a single straight take out of Russell. We’d almost get there, and then sadist Ryan would says “balls…” really slowly and Russell would be gone.

What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced while working in the industry?

There’s an old adage that to stay on top, you must always remember to touch bottom; to me, that means going back to the well and reminding myself why I started doing this in the first place. THAT, it seems, is the challenge; to stay excited, to stay woken up to a sense of wonder and urgency when confronted, for the 50th time, with the blank page. My co-writer Fred Dekker used to tape a piece of paper above his keyboard that simply said: “This is important.” A reminder to stop fucking about, wake up and get started. It IS important. It’s a chance to be something slightly better than yourself. To get excited all over each time and stay viable, that to me is the challenge. I owe it to myself, and I owe it to you.

Is Val Kilmer, like, the coolest? He seems like the coolest. Keep on keepin’ on, love your work.

Coolest. Unbeatable.


Hi Shane. If you could pick any franchise, be it comic book, film, or TV, what would you like to work on?

Wow. I guess I’d have to say Bond. Why not?

I’ve heard many of the directors that worked for Marvel recently had issues with how little time they had to make the film, the demands from executives, having to tie in all the cinematic universe stuff, etc. Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon have been vocal about it, and this is why they’re done directing in the MCU.

Can you tell me your experience? Did you face these same issues?

I love the Marvel folk. They’re making the best superhero movies around, largely because they’re not elaboately calculated products; they’re labors of love for these guys. They grew up on the shit.


Hey Shane big Fan! My question is: How do you feel about the style of modern movies? I feel like movies nowadays are laden with a lot of CG, shaky camera, quick cuts and transitions. This kind of stuff tunes me out and I feel disconnected from the movie. Whereas slower, thinker movies really pull me in and make me feel a better connection. For example, compare the movie Alien with Transformers. One’s a masterpiece, the other a master shit piece.

Wow, I hate shaky-cam. Isn’t it funny — in a real life crisis (earthquake, let’s say) the documentarian is desperately trying to HOLD STILL, BUT CAN’T. This results in a very diferent look than when the camera is being shaken on purpose.

Mr Shane, who do you consider as a major influence in movie making? What one line advice can you give to an aspiring writer? And what is your childhood favorite food?

To write is a lonely experience. To sit endlessly in some dusty attic or apartment, slavishly churning out content whose enthused audience might be limited, ultimately, to your mother. So don’t be alone, I say. Join a writers’ group. If you can’t find one locally, FORM a writers’ group. Be generous and supportive of the like-minded people who share your enthusiasm. Meet, swap pages; don’t be competitive or litigious. Making it a group effort will lighten the burden. And should the boat sink, you’ll at least have a smiling drowner to comisserate with.

Do you ever get lost in Ryan’s eyes? I would find directing him very difficult for that reason

Every day. Then I would go for a swim in Matt Bomer’s.

You can check out the full thing here.


Petr Knava lives in London and plays music