Cheat Sheet: Shane Black
What you probably already know:
Action screenwriting’s laughing boy, Shane Black has made millions from his wise-cracking explosion and dialogue heavy action scripts. He was even once the world’s highest paid screenwriter. Jokey, wordy with sly little digs at Hollywood, he writes big and clever. He first came to attention as the writer who started off the Lethal Weapon franchise, back when Mel Gibson was only known for being a good looking Aussie with 80s rockband hair. Like all good writers, Black has a signature style, with almost all of his films involving at least one kidnapping, and for some inexplicable reason, Christmas. He also likes to mix it up, following violent 18 rated Bruce Willis vehicle The Last Boy Scout with unintentionally funny Arnie caper Last Action Hero before moving on to Geena Davis led stomper The Long Kiss Goodnight, which he also produced.
Then in 2005, mirroring a plot from his films, something snapped and he went rogue with the self-penned, directed and produced Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. Starring Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer, the film tells the story of an actor who inadvertently becomes mixed up in a murder investigation, satirising both Hollywood and Black’s own previous work. Notably it highlighted that a character’s sexuality should have no bearing upon their ability to whoop ass. He occasionally acts, but is more likely to be found giving masterclasses in screenwriting, where his tips for a brilliant script include ‘must have sudden impact, throwaway gags and quality of edge’.
What you might not know:
Not seemingly the shy and retiring type, Mr Black has a penchant for pseudonyms and classic 1940’s cinema, having been known to go by the pen-names Harry Lime and Holly Martins (both from cinematic classic The Third Man). But Black was always earmarked for success, given as his dad was an all American college football star. Black was an actor before he picked up his pen, and his first role was as Hawkins in Predator (who has the dubious honour of being the first screen character to meet a grizzly death by means of a disgusting Predator slashathon), but he prefers being behind the camera. He has recently replaced Jon Favreau (who left to concentrate on Cowboys and Aliens) as director of Iron Man 3, which is slated for release in 2013. Black’s style is perfectly suited to the expansive action-heavy Marvel franchise, and he already has history for getting the best out of Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 is rumoured to feature The Mandarin (a character with ten magical rings, who may or may not be played by Keanu Reeves) and it will bring back Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow. It has been suggested that with his obvious talents, Black may also have a crack at the script, but as he is best known for less family friendly fodder, he is likely to be tempered by his co-writers. Finally, Black won’t thank us for revealing that he was once sued by an ex girlfriend for attempting to shoot her (amongst other misdemeanours). But it does allow the making of a Blackesque ‘Less kiss, kiss, more bang, bang’ joke at his expense, so sorry Shane.
Shane Black quote:
“’Will and Grace‘ and ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding‘ have softened us up with regards to the funny gay character. ?’Well, all right, he’s gay, but they’re so funny, those gays.’ And I thought, that doesn’t really cut it. We still haven’t seen the heroic gay character that, when the chips are down, kicks down the door, shoots everybody and saves your butt.”
What to say at a dinner party:
“His empowerment of disenfranchised members of society by arming them with hardcore weaponry and killer lines has helped to temper anti-mysoginist and homophobic characterisation in modern cinema.”
What not to say at a dinner party:
“Wasn’t he Donnelly in Robocop 3?”
Black may be seen as a big bucks action man, but the money from those huge brash blockbusters has enabled his talent for writing pacey and witty dialogue to be brought to the fore. Although not a seasoned director, his previous work has been critically approved, and he seems like a great bet for the future. In a world of explosions over plot, his ability to retain a sense of story marks him above his peers, and having him at the helm of a major studio picture will inject some much needed fun into the Iron Man brand. We’ll look forward to the Tony Stark Christmas kidnapping plot with glee.