Shane Black first met Joel Silver when the action producer snapped up his script for the first Lethal Weapon.
The pair’s careers have been intertwined ever since; Silver gave Black a small role in Predator, produced his script Hudson Hawk and oversaw Black’s directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2006.
Now they’re back together with The Nice Guys, a 70s set mystery starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. The film’s a blast from start to finish; a welcome respite from superhero blockbusters and CGI animated Angry Birds. It’s the best buddy movie since Black and Silver re-invented the wheel with Lethal Weapon back in the 80s.
Loaded sat down with the director and producer to talk The Nice Guys, the Lethal Weapon series and how Black is going to revive Predator. We also learned that there may still be life lift in an iconic Silver-produced sci-fi series…
I had a blast with this film – I need to jump right in and ask when we’re going to see The Nice Guys 2?
Black: “It’s a great place to jump, man, but that’s like a jinx up front!”
Silver: “We know the Marvel movies and I’ve been involved with Sherlock. We’ve been involved in serial fiction, but this is a one-off. We have positioned a potential other story if we can but it depends on the audience. If they respond to the movie then of course we want to do another one.”
For people who want more from Healy and March, should they go and track down the novelization?
Black: “It’s actually written by a friend of mine, Charles Ardai, who runs Hard Case Crime. I think it’s the best line of reverent but inventive private eye fiction that’s being published currently. He gets all the old guys and reprints their old stuff, lost works. Then he gets new guys; Stephen King wrote an original for Hard Case Crime that paid nothing. He likes that line of books so much. I went and said yes to Charles in a second, he wrote it himself. I would recommend Hard Case to anybody.”
Silver: “We’d love to have it succeed so we can do a series of these novels. It’d be fun to do that because we had two great characters – it all stems on this working.”
Can you remember the first time you met?
Black: “I don’t remember the first meeting, but I do remember going to Joel’s office and first thing I saw was a Commando poster. I was very excited because the movie hadn’t come out yet – it was Arnold with grenades in his hand. Joel had done 48 Hrs, which to me was the iconic noir buddy-film to come out. Everyone comes to me with Lethal Weapon and says ‘you pioneered this’. I didn’t pioneer crap – it’s Joel and 48 Hrs. It took maybe 10 minutes of talking for me to realise that he was the right one for Lethal Weapon.
Silver: “When I met Shane, he had a singular voice and you could tell in that script for Lethal Weapon. My desire was to see that on screen. It wasn’t an easy sell, there’s no such thing as that. People say, ‘what’s it like being a producer?’ I say, ‘I wake up in the morning and people say no to me.’ That’s what it’s like.”
Black: “I wake up in the morning, tap my girlfriend and she says no to me!”
Shane, what have you learned from Joel?
Black: “Joel has been gracious enough to accommodate the notion – not universally clamoured for, by the way! – of me as a director. He went with that. I remember him coming to me at the end of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and saying, ‘you made a good movie. The Dukes Of Hazzard people made a successful movie.’ Thanks for the praise, I think.”
Joel, how did your YouTube ‘rant’ for The Nice Guys come about?
Silver: “There’s a line that Bruce Willis has in The Last Boy Scout: ‘every lie has 20% truth in it.’ The rant was a funny thing that Ryan had the idea to do, but we’ve been talking about the idea of having to be competitive. The marketplace is competitive, we have to be out there. Ryan loved the scene that I did in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when I came into the cartoon and got angry with Roger – he wanted to meld those together, the social media and Roger Rabbit’s response.”
Black: “It is a very heartfelt rant in this age. On the one hand you have these Oscar dramas and the other side the apocalyptic superhero tentpole. What’s in the middle? It’s becoming harder and harder to get the same response with the same anticipation for something that isn’t recognisable. It feels sometimes that people just seem to do the thing they’ve already done. How do we make people take a vacation into the 70s? I think we can – we get two big stars and the response has been very gratifying so far.”
What led you to cast Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling?
Black: “It never occurred to either one of us to go and get some funny guys. We didn’t go knocking on the SNL treasure chest and look for up-and-coming stars. We went to the people we know best, the real actors of the world. Those kinds of tough guys who are reminiscent of Lee Marvin or John Cassasvetes, they’re still out there you just need to find them. They can be very funny, but first and foremost it’s a story about a friendship that’s organic and oddly heartfelt.”
Is Lethal Weapon over as a film franchise now the TV series is happening?
Black: “I don’t think more movies will happen now because there’s a TV show. I will go on record saying I made a remark associated with the show and I looked at it the other day online and thought I sounded kind of dick-ish and dismissive of the show. I saw the trailer and it actually looks pretty good, it has some darkness to it. I’m going to put on my DVR and I’ll be taping the TV show.”
Silver: “Lethal Weapon kind of ran its course theatrically, the last one we did was 1998. Here we are 18 years later and we have a TV series.”
Black: “There could be others stories to tell. You don’t have to go back to the names Riggs and Murtaugh to make a theatrical franchise. There was a brief attempt at Lethal Weapon 5, it can’t happen now because they’re too old but we thought about it. It would’ve been fun.”
Would you like to work with Mel Gibson again?
Black: “I would. I don’t know when, he’s actually a director now. There’s a movie that people don’t know very well called Get The Gringo – terrible title, by the way – it’s a damn good movie. He didn’t direct that one but he’s in it and it’s great.”
Shane, you’re working on The Predator next – does the series need rehabilitating after the Alien vs Predator films?
Black: “I think there’s a sense that Fox has been putting these films out as fodder – not bad movies but modest budgets with a guaranteed return every few years. There’s not a lot of fanfare or a sense that they’re being event-ised. They’re not a memorable experience you save for the summer. I think that Ridley with Prometheus and his Alien prequel, that’s the kind of event status we need to reinstate for The Predator.”
Joel, you produced The Matrix trilogy and there’s never and talk about-about rebooting or reviving the series. Is that the case in reality or have Warner Bros ever suggested doing more?
Silver: “We haven’t talked about it yet. I hope there’ll be a time we can do that at some point. That was very seriously designed as three stories and that was it, but we’ll see what happens.”