Shane Black

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Shane Black
Shane Black by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Black at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con
Born (1961-12-16) December 16, 1961 (age 59)
NationalityAmerican
Alma materUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BA)
Occupation
  • Film director
  • film producer
  • screenwriter
  • actor
Years active1986–present
Notable work
Parent(s)
  • Paul Black
  • Patricia Ann Black
RelativesTerry Black (brother)

Shane Black (born December 16, 1961)[1] is an American film director, producer, screenwriter and actor who has written such films as Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2, The Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight. 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]

As of 2020, his film Iron Man 3 ranks as the twentieth-highest-grossing film worldwide.[4]

Early life[edit]

Black was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,[5] the son of Paul and Patricia Ann Black. His father was in the printing business,[1] and helped Black get an interest in hardboiled fiction, such as the works of Mickey Spillane and the Matt Helm series.[6]

After living in the suburbs of Lower Burrell and Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, his family moved to Fullerton, California, during his sophomore year of high school.[5] There he attended Sunny Hills High School[7] and later UCLA where he majored in film and theater and graduated in 1983.[8] While Black had a long history writing comic strips, short stories, and journalism, only during his senior year did he decide to make a living from it once his classmate Fred Dekker showed him a science fiction script he did for an assignment.[6] 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 has a cameo.[9]

Career[edit]

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.[6] With Dekker's help, the script landed him an agent and several lunch meetings with mid-level studio executives. This attracted 20th Century Fox executives, who were interested in having Black rewrite scripts.[10] 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.[6] 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. Nevertheless, other people thought that his script was brilliant, and he himself considers it to be his best work and the best script he has ever written.[11][12][13] Although many fans have tried to find a copy of it, Black's version of the script was never released.

Feeling burned out and having conflicts with the studio, Black left the project after six months, earning only $125,000 (out of a $250,000 payment split with Murphy) for his work.[6][10] 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.[10] Black would also earn $1 million for his rewrite of Last Action Hero in 1993.[14] He would set a record by receiving $4 million for writing The Long Kiss Goodnight in 1994.[15]

Directing[edit]

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 ranks as the fifteenth-highest-grossing film of all time worldwide.[4]

Black next directed and co-wrote Edge, a pilot for a potential series for Amazon Studios. The film was released on VOD 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's next projects included an adaptation of Doc Savage,[21][22] 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 also briefly attached by Warner Bros. in 2011, to direct a live-action American adaptation of the popular Japanese supernatural-thriller manga series Death Note, bringing his close collaborators Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry to write the screenplay, replacing Charley and Vlas Parlapanides as the project's previous screenwriters. However, by 2014, he had quietly left the project, due to reported creative differences and other commitments. The studio had intended to omit "Shinigamis" (Japanese gods of death), who were originally present in the manga series, from the film's storyline, and revamp the main character: Light Yagami, into a more benevolent and sympathetic protagonist and change the story's moral theme of justice into one of vengeance, which Black had opposed, who intended to create a more faithful adaptation of the original manga. Adding to that, he decided to focus more on his Doc Savage and Predator projects, which resulted in his absence from the project's later developments and horror director Adam Wingard being eventually hired to helm the project by 2015. He left Doc Savage in 2020.

Style[edit]

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,[23] and trade witty dialogue, featuring labyrinthine crime plots, often set during Christmas time.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

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".[27] Black gave a list of techniques he uses when writing films in an interview with The Guardian.[28]

He has used kidnapping as a plot device in several films: Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys.

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:[24][29][30]

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.[24]

The Predator casting controversy[edit]

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. Black defended this decision and his friend, but would later rescind these comments. Olivia Munn, an actress in The Predator, insisted on having a scene with Striegel removed.[31][32] Black has released a public apology.

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.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

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

Uncredited script doctor

Television[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
2015 Edge Yes Yes Yes TV movie
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 Marvel One-Shot: Agent Carter [33] Disembodied Voice Voice only; short film
2015 Any Day Gino
2016 Swing State Luke
2018 Wild Nothing Phil Short film

References[edit]

  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. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "All Time Worldwide Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Vancheri, Barbara (June 8, 2012). "Film Notes: A local connection to 'Iron Man 3'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on November 17, 2012. Retrieved November 16, 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e Greenberg, James. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Millionaire. Los Angeles Times
  7. ^ Winters, Laura. "Shane Black, Coming Back With a 'Bang': 'Lethal Weapon' Writer Rearms With Sendup", Washington Post, November 6, 2005, retrieved June 29, 2007.
  8. ^ "2017 newsletter". UCLA School of TFT. Retrieved April 30, 2019.
  9. ^ "His Wishes Upon A Set Come True". LA Times. September 24, 1987.
  10. ^ a b c Million Dollar Babies, New York Magazine
  11. ^ ""I Like Violence" - Shane Black". creativescreenwriting.com.
  12. ^ "Close Call for Mel". January 1, 1989 – via LA Times.
  13. ^ Saroyan, Strawberry (May 1, 2005). "The end of a fade for Black" – via LA Times.
  14. ^ "Taylor, Thom". The Big Deal: Hollywood's Million-Dollar Spec Script Market. Harper Perennial. 1999.
  15. ^ "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". latimes. July 27, 1994.
  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. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (February 22, 2010). "Columbia revives Doc Savage". Variety. Retrieved February 27, 2010.
  22. ^ "'Iron Man 3' Director Shane Black to Direct 'Doc Savage' for Sony". Archived from the original on April 7, 2014.
  23. ^ Hellerman, Jason (March 12, 2020). "Why Does Shane Black Layer Wit, Action, and Christmas in All His Scripts?". No Film School.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "WordPlay: Column 23". Terry Rossio, 1997. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  26. ^ "Lethal Weapon, script". The Daily Script. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  27. ^ Psycho Pension: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon (Documentary) |format= requires |url= (help). Lethal Weapon Collection, disk 5: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. 2012.CS1 maint: location (link)
  28. ^ Delaney, Sam (May 22, 2009). "Crash, bang, wallop what a picture". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 23, 2009.
  29. ^ Paige, Rachel (December 19, 2019). "'Iron Man 3' Is A Christmas Movie — Here's Why". Marvel.
  30. ^ Guerra, Felipe M. (December 27, 2020). "‘Jingle Bang!’: The Christmas Action Films Directed and/or Written by Shane Black". Medium.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Fletcher, Rosie (July 19, 2013). "Marvel's Agent Carter reaction: Comic-Con 2013". TotalFilm. Retrieved July 21, 2013.

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