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Shane Black

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Shane Black
Black in 2018
Born (1961-12-16) December 16, 1961 (age 62)
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BA)
  • Film director
  • film producer
  • screenwriter
  • actor
Years active1986–present
Notable work

Shane Black (born December 16, 1961)[1] is an American filmmaker and actor who has written such films as Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. He is also known as the original creator of the Lethal Weapon franchise. As an actor, Black is best known for his role as Rick Hawkins in Predator (1987).

He made his directorial debut with the film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005. Black went on to write and direct Iron Man 3 (2013), The Nice Guys (2016), and The Predator (2018).[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Black was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,[4] the son of Paul and Patricia Ann Black. His father was in the printing business,[1] and helped Black develop his interest in hardboiled fiction, including the works of Mickey Spillane and the Matt Helm series.[5] He grew up in the suburbs of Lower Burrell and Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and later moved to Fullerton, California, during his sophomore year of high school.[4] In Fullerton, he attended Sunny Hills High School.[6]

He attended UCLA, where he majored in film and theater and graduated in 1983.[7] During his senior year, he decided to make a living from it once his classmate Fred Dekker showed him a science fiction script he did for an assignment.[5] Black's older brother, Terry Black, also wrote short stories and decided to move into screenplays starting with 1988's Dead Heat, in which Shane had a cameo.[8]


Screenwriting and acting[edit]

After graduating, Black worked as a typist for a temp agency, a data entry clerk for the 1984 Summer Olympics and an usher in a Westwood movie theater. Eventually he asked for financial support of his parents during the six-month development of a script, The Shadow Company, a supernatural thriller set in Vietnam.[5] With Dekker's help, the script landed him an agent and several meetings with mid-level studio executives. This attracted 20th Century Fox executives, who were interested in having Black rewrite scripts.[9]

Eventually Black wrote an action film script, Lethal Weapon, in about six weeks, which landed him a $250,000 deal with Warner Bros. During the rewrites, Black asked producer Joel Silver for a small acting role in another film Silver was preparing at the time, Predator, a film for which Black also made uncredited contributions to the script. At the same time, Black helped Dekker write The Monster Squad, which along with Lethal Weapon and Predator came out in 1987.[5] Since then, Black has acted in five additional films and in two episodes for the TV series Dark Justice.

Once Warner Bros. requested a Lethal Weapon sequel, Black wrote the first draft of Lethal Weapon 2 with the help of novelist Warren Murphy. Although it was not used, Black said in later interviews that Warner Bros. did not like his original script for Lethal Weapon 2, which was also titled Play Dirty, because of how dark and violent it was and due to his decision to kill off main character Martin Riggs in the ending of the script. Black considers it to be his best work and the best script he has written.[10][11][12]

Feeling burned out and having conflicts with the studio, Black left the project after six months, earning $125,000 out of a $250,000 payment split with Murphy, for his work.[5][9] After two sabbatical years, Black decided to take on an old idea of his that emerged during the production of Lethal Weapon and turn it into a full screenplay. The result, The Last Boy Scout, earned him $1.75 million in 1991.[9] Black earned $1 million for his rewrite of Last Action Hero in 1993.[13] He set a record by receiving $4 million for writing The Long Kiss Goodnight in 1994.[14]


Black made his directorial debut with 2005's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and later directed (and co-wrote with Drew Pearce) 2013's Iron Man 3, which as of 2024 ranks as the twenty-fifth-highest-grossing film of all time worldwide.[15]

Black next directed and co-wrote Edge, a pilot for a potential series for Amazon Studios. The film was released on video on demand but not picked up for a series. He followed this with the action comedy The Nice Guys, starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and produced by Joel Silver.[16] Warner Bros. handled North American rights to the film,[17] which was released on May 20, 2016.[18]

Black next directed the fourth non-Alien-related film in the Predator series, The Predator, which he co-wrote with Fred Dekker.[2][19][3] The film was released on September 14, 2018.[20] Black hired his friend Steven Wilder Striegel for a minor, un-auditioned role in The Predator (as well as, previously, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys). Striegel spent six months in prison in 2010, having pleaded guilty to risk of injury to a child and enticing a minor by computer after he had attempted to lure a 14-year-old girl into a sexual relationship via email. Olivia Munn, an actress in The Predator, insisted on having a scene with Striegel removed after she discovered his history.[21][22] Black initially defended his decision and his friend, but later rescinded them and released a public apology.

Black will next direct the film Play Dirty, an adaptation of Donald E. Westlake's Parker novel series.[23]

Black's unrealized projects included an adaptation of Doc Savage[24][25] and The Destroyer, based on the series of paperback adventure novels that previously inspired the 1985 film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, starring Fred Ward. He was briefly attached by Warner Bros. in 2011 to direct a live-action American adaptation of the Japanese supernatural-thriller manga series Death Note, bringing his collaborators Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry to write the screenplay, replacing Charley and Vlas Parlapanides as the project's previous screenwriters. By 2014, he had left the project, due to reported creative differences and other commitments. Director Adam Wingard was eventually hired to helm the project by 2015.[citation needed]


Black has a recognizable writing style characterized by stories in which two main characters become friends, problematic protagonists who become better human beings at the end of the narrative,[26] and trade witty dialogue, featuring labyrinthine crime plots, often set during Christmas time.[27] The quips he incorporates into his scripts are referred to as "Shane Blackisms", in which jokes about the story situations are included in the scene directions of the script.[28] He also sometimes directs comments at studio executives and script readers. Examples of these include:

From Lethal Weapon:

EXT. POSH BEVERLY HILLS HOME – TWILIGHT The kind of house that I'll buy if this movie is a huge hit. Chrome. Glass. Carved wood. Plus an outdoor solarium: A glass structure, like a greenhouse only there's a big swimming pool inside. This is a really great place to have sex.[29]

From The Last Boy Scout:

Remember Jimmy's friend, Henry, who we met briefly near the opening of the film? Of course you do, you're a highly-paid reader or development person.

This approach, which Black summed as "more open to the reader" and aimed at "trying to keep people awake", was described by himself as a combination of William Goldman, his mentor in screenwriting, and Walter Hill, who had a "terse and Spartan, punchy prose".[30] Black gave a list of techniques he uses when writing films in an interview with The Guardian.[31]

Black explains that Christmas, which has been used as a backdrop in Lethal Weapon, Last Action Hero, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys (and in his original script for The Last Boy Scout, although references to the date have been almost entirely eliminated from the film), is a touchstone for him, explaining:[27][32][33]

Christmas represents a little stutter in the march of days, a hush in which we have a chance to assess and retrospect our lives. I tend to think also that it just informs as a backdrop. The first time I noticed it was Three Days of the Condor, the Sydney Pollack film, where Christmas in the background adds this really odd, chilling counterpoint to the espionage plot. I also think that Christmas is just a thing of beauty, especially as it applies to places like Los Angeles, where it's not so obvious, and you have to dig for it, like little nuggets. One night, on Christmas Eve, I walked past a Mexican lunch wagon serving tacos, and I saw this little string, and on it was a little broken plastic figurine, with a light bulb inside it, of the Virgin Mary. And I thought, that's just a little hidden piece of magic. You know, all around the city are little slices, little icons of Christmas, that are as effective and beautiful in and of themselves as any 40-foot Christmas tree on the lawn of the White House. So that, in a lot of words, is the answer.[27]



Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1987 Lethal Weapon No Yes No
The Monster Squad No Yes No
1989 Lethal Weapon 2 No Story No
1991 The Last Boy Scout No Yes Executive
1993 Last Action Hero No Yes No
1996 The Long Kiss Goodnight No Yes Yes
2005 Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Yes Yes No Directorial debut
2006 A.W.O.L. No Yes Executive Short film
2013 Iron Man 3 Yes Yes No
2016 The Nice Guys Yes Yes No
2018 The Predator Yes Yes No
TBA Play Dirty Yes Yes No

Uncredited script doctor



Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2015 Edge Yes Yes Yes Pilot
2016 Lethal Weapon No Story No Episode "Pilot"

Acting credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1986 Night of the Creeps Cop in Police Station Uncredited
1987 Predator Rick Hawkins
1988 Dead Heat Patrolman
1990 The Hunt for Red October USS Reuben James Crewman Uncredited
1991–1993 Dark Justice Caldecott Rush 3 episodes
1993 RoboCop 3 Donnelly
Mike the Detective Mike Short film
1994 Night Realm Unknown
1997 As Good as It Gets Brian, Cafe 24 manager
An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn Himself Cameo
2002 The Boy Scout Henchman #2 Short film
2007 Monkeys Unknown
2013 Agent Carter[36] Disembodied Voice Voice only; short film
2015 Any Day Gino
2016 Swing State Luke
2018 Wild Nothing Phil Short film

Awards and honors[edit]

Black received the Distinguished Screenwriter Award from the Austin Film Festival October 21, 2006. In 2005, he received the Best Original Screenplay award for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang from the San Diego Film Critics Association.


  1. ^ a b "Shane Black Biography (1961-)". FilmReference.com. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Chitwood, Adam (June 25, 2014). "Exclusive: Shane Black Says His PREDATOR Film Is a Sequel, Not a Reboot". Collider. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Kit, Borys (June 23, 2014). "Fox Rebooting 'Predator' With Shane Black (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Vancheri, Barbara (June 8, 2012). "Film Notes: A local connection to 'Iron Man 3'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on April 12, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e Greenberg, James. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Millionaire. Los Angeles Times
  6. ^ Winters, Laura. "Shane Black, Coming Back With a 'Bang': 'Lethal Weapon' Writer Rearms With Sendup", Washington Post, November 6, 2005, retrieved June 29, 2007.
  7. ^ "2017 newsletter". UCLA School of TFT. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  8. ^ "His Wishes Upon A Set Come True". LA Times. September 24, 1987.
  9. ^ a b c Million Dollar Babies, New York Magazine
  10. ^ ""I Like Violence" - Shane Black". creativescreenwriting.com.
  11. ^ "Close Call for Mel". January 1, 1989 – via LA Times.
  12. ^ Saroyan, Strawberry (May 1, 2005). "The end of a fade for Black". Archived from the original on May 6, 2016 – via LA Times.
  13. ^ "Taylor, Thom". The Big Deal: Hollywood's Million-Dollar Spec Script Market. Harper Perennial. 1999.
  14. ^ "HOLLYWOOD HABITS : Following the Script of a High-Stakes Movie Bidding War : New Line Cinema buys Shane Black's latest screenplay for a record $4 million. Here's how the deal was done". Los Angeles Times. July 27, 1994.
  15. ^ "All Time Worldwide Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  16. ^ "Ryan Gosling & Russell Crowe May Be 'Nice Guys' for Shane Black". firstshowing.net. June 12, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
  17. ^ "Warner Bros In 'Nice Guys' Talks With Shane Black, Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling". deadline.com.
  18. ^ "Russell Crowe-Ryan Gosling Pic 'The Nice Guys' Gets Summer 2016 Release Date". deadline.com.
  19. ^ Miska, Brad (June 23, 2014). "Fred Dekker's 'Predator' Script Completed!". BD. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  20. ^ "'The Predator,' 'Alita Battle Angel,' and 'Death on the Nile' Get New Release Dates". Slashfilm. February 13, 2018.
  21. ^ Kaufman, Amy (September 6, 2018). "Twentieth Century Fox pulls scene from 'The Predator' after director Shane Black casts his friend, a registered sex offender". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  22. ^ Deerwester, Jayme (September 11, 2018). "'Predator's Olivia Munn tells Ellen, 'I don't want this career' if it means staying quiet". USA Today. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  23. ^ Murphy, J. Kim (March 3, 2022). "Robert Downey Jr., Shane Black Reunite for Adaptation of Donald E. Westlake's 'Parker' Series at Amazon". Variety. Retrieved May 4, 2024.
  24. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (February 22, 2010). "Columbia revives Doc Savage". Variety. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  25. ^ "'Iron Man 3' Director Shane Black to Direct 'Doc Savage' for Sony". Archived from the original on April 7, 2014.
  26. ^ Hellerman, Jason (March 12, 2020). "Why Does Shane Black Layer Wit, Action, and Christmas in All His Scripts?". No Film School.
  27. ^ a b c Collis, Clark (May 25, 2016). "The Nice Guys director Shane Black explains his obsession with Christmas: 'It's just a thing of beauty'". Entertainment Weekly.
  28. ^ "WordPlay: Column 23". Terry Rossio, 1997. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  29. ^ "Lethal Weapon, script". The Daily Script. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  30. ^ "Psycho Pension: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon". Lethal Weapon Collection (Documentary). Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. 2012. disk 5.
  31. ^ Delaney, Sam (May 22, 2009). "Crash, bang, wallop what a picture". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 23, 2009.
  32. ^ Paige, Rachel (December 19, 2019). "'Iron Man 3' Is A Christmas Movie — Here's Why". Marvel.
  33. ^ Guerra, Felipe M. (December 27, 2020). "‘Jingle Bang!’: The Christmas Action Films Directed and/or Written by Shane Black". Medium.
  34. ^ Billington, Alex (September 23, 2008). "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's Shane Black Directing Cold Warrior". FirstShowing.net.
  35. ^ Every, Max (January 12, 2018). "Shane Black Writing a Pilot Based on The Avengers TV Show". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved March 14, 2024.
  36. ^ Fletcher, Rosie (July 19, 2013). "Marvel's Agent Carter reaction: Comic-Con 2013". TotalFilm. Retrieved July 21, 2013.

External links[edit]