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April 30, 2013 6:39 PM   Subscribe

A few words on why Shane Black, writer of Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, record holder for the largest spec script sale ever, and now writer-director of Iron Man 3, is the most badass action screenwriter around. (via Vulture)
posted by skammer (34 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Forgot to include the links for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon. Both essential reads for screenwriters young and old.
posted by skammer at 6:44 PM on April 30, 2013


Long Kiss Goodnight: "When you make an assumption, you make an ass out of you and umption."
posted by leotrotsky at 6:48 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I neither read nor write scripts, but I bet this guy's success (and huge balls) have caused a lot of heartache for writers who are trying to pull this off now instead of the 80s, and headaches for the poor assistants who have to dig through a bunch of self-aware jerking off to find a plot.

That said, imagine god is playing dice in Monte Carlo, length of the table, all night long, but instead of dice imagine CUTE WIDDLE KITTIES!!!! Wheeeee. Give me 4 million dollars.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:54 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thing is, you don't just need "fun" in the script to make that money. You need to have an actual *story*.
posted by graftole at 6:58 PM on April 30, 2013


It doesn't seem like these scripts would make very good movies, but the OP is right, you can see why they'd be more fun to read than the 150th rendition of the exact same thing, so good for him.
posted by escabeche at 6:59 PM on April 30, 2013


Anyone who wrote/directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has a goddamn lifetime pass in my book. Seriously, seriously great for people that don't take movies too seriously.
posted by Shepherd at 7:00 PM on April 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


Reading this has given me the kick I needed to write my Master of Disguise reboot.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:02 PM on April 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not to mention his (unused) script doctoring on PREDATOR, plus John McTiernan hired him to play the chopper pilot just to have a writer around. Acting aside, his contributions to that movie are two pussy jokes.
posted by now i'm piste at 7:02 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't seem like these scripts would make very good movies

Guess what?
posted by The World Famous at 7:02 PM on April 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


oh, I came here for the sex :c(
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:06 PM on April 30, 2013


I love this guy and want to write stuff like this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:16 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was indeed a very fun and witty film, though a bit uneven. I think it flopped at the box office at the time, probably due to crappy marketing. It would be great if Val Kilmer came back to planet Earth to do a sequel.
posted by zardoz at 7:22 PM on April 30, 2013


>...most badass action screenwriter...

*worstass
posted by The Tensor at 7:22 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm reminded of Steve Bissette's story of how he'd get scripts from Alan Moore, laden with poetic description, and use a marker to cross out everything but the most relevant parts.

I imagine after the coke head execs have gotten their strokes from these the same thing happens to these when they get to anyone who actually has to work from them.
posted by Artw at 7:27 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Now imagine the dice are BURNING CARS" got a laugh from me. I can imagine a really tweaked-out little kid writing that.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:38 PM on April 30, 2013


The linked article, which he did for the Guardian a few years ago, stands as ample demonstration of Black's aptitude as a fun storyteller moreso than his goofy script directions. I admire his simple principle that all action scenes should be integrated with the rest of the story - something 9 out of 10 movies fail at...

...a lot of movies these days that have a bunch of scenes that concern the plot and a bunch of separate scenes that feature the action. But you could lift all the action scenes out wholesale and it would make no difference to the meaning of the film. The action should always go hand in hand with the story so it's all invisibly interconnected. Take the original Star Wars movies: every action sequence is perfectly timed and is designed not just to excite the audience on a visceral level but also to reveal crucial elements of the plot and characters.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 7:43 PM on April 30, 2013 [15 favorites]


Yes!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:44 PM on April 30, 2013


Shepherd : Anyone who wrote/directed Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has a goddamn lifetime pass in my book.

No arguments; KKBB is nearly perfect. Though for me Long Kiss Goodnight is still my favorite of his stuff.

It remains one of my all time favorite action movies, particularly for the brilliant dialog. Hell, if they remade it today, I'd suggest using the exact same cast and script, and expect it would still be a damn near flawless movie.
posted by quin at 7:46 PM on April 30, 2013


The Long Kiss Goodnight was a badass movie, but when I last watched it two years ago all I could think was that I wished Black had sat on it for a decade or so, so he could have sold it as a television series after DVD reopened the market for serials. There's just so many facets of that story that feel underexplored or underutilized even in the full two-hour movie running time.
posted by The Confessor at 7:53 PM on April 30, 2013


"So, I said to my girlfriend, 'You've got a really big pussy! You've got a really big pussy!' And she said, 'You didn't have to say it twice.' And I said, 'I didn't.'" Ah, the 80s.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


DON'T HIT THE CARS!!

Iron Man 3 is really, really good by the way. Possibly a hair below the Avengers, which I loved nearly as much as elizardbits did (i.e. with the fire of a thousand thousand burning exploding suns).

See this fantastic sweded trailer to quell any remaining doubts that you should see it AT ONCE.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:12 PM on April 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's all much better if you imagine it being read by Nicolas Cage.
posted by The World Famous at 8:25 PM on April 30, 2013


The Jim Steinman of screenwriters?
posted by sourwookie at 8:26 PM on April 30, 2013


a lot of movies these days that have a bunch of scenes that concern the plot and a bunch of separate scenes that feature the action. But you could lift all the action scenes out wholesale and it would make no difference to the meaning of the film.

It's exactly the same for a lot of videogames, really, except the other way around -- you can pull out the story wholesale, and it wouldn't make any difference to the quality of the game.
posted by empath at 8:30 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


For some reason I have a special place in my heart for the short "Life is Pain" monologue in Long Kiss Goodnight where Geena Davis' character chews out her daughter. Although, I think the Director changed it a bit from the original script.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:42 PM on April 30, 2013



NATHAN
Alice, please...?

Alice stares at him. Uncomprehending.

NATHAN
Your dog, Alice. It and my appetite
are mutually exclusive.

ALICE
What's wrong with the dog?

NATHAN
It's simple. He's been licking his
asshole for three straight hours. I
submit to you that there's nothing
there worth more than an hour's
attention, and I should think whatever
he's attempting to dislodge is either
gone for good or there to stay.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:50 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Now imagine the dice are BURNING CARS" got a laugh from me. I can imagine a really tweaked-out little kid writing that.

That was my favorite line too. It's usually a good thing (when you're writing for money) to know your audience.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:33 PM on April 30, 2013


That posh Beverly Hills home? You can fucking see it.

And that swimming pool in the greenhouse? You can see fucking in it.
posted by chavenet at 1:34 AM on May 1, 2013


I was a tiny wee bit disappointed that there wasn't any actual joke about guns hidden in the crotch area in IM3. Of all the Black-isms, that's been the one that stood out to me.
posted by cendawanita at 5:31 AM on May 1, 2013


This article about the spec script market in the 90's has been linked in the blue before, and it explains what Black is doing in these scripts. He is playing a game -- a game that no longer exists, and never will again -- but it's a really interesting game and one that he actually won, to the tune of $4,000,000.00. It's really not about writing good movies. It's about writing the maximum-payoff spec script at a particular moment, and he was incredible at it. I happen to have loved his movies. They were my kind of trash. But what's interesting about them now (to me) is how perfectly he gamed that system.
posted by The Bellman at 9:18 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


From Film Crit Hulk's "non-review" of Iron Man 3:
MOST SUMMER MOVIES WORK VISCERALLY. IT'S ABOUT THRILLS. DRAMA. CHASES. LAUGHS. ALL THAT GREAT STUFF THAT MAKES POPCORN MOVIES SO FUN AND UNIVERSAL (AND TO MAKE THEM WELL ACTUALLY REQUIRES A REMARKABLE SENSE OF CRAFT AND UNDERSTANDING OF TRADITIONAL STORYTELLING). POPCORN MOVIES FUNCTION BEST WITH WHAT WE CALL A, B, C TRANSITIONAL FILMMAKING. A IS HAPPENING. THEREFORE B HAPPENS. BUT C HAPPENS, THEREFORE D HAPPENS. AND SHARP TRANSITIONS THAT MAKE ALL OF THOSE EVENTS FLOW INTO EACH OTHER. THAT KIND OF THING. THERE IS VERY LITTLE FEELING OF "AND THEN THIS HAPPENS!" THIS KIND OF STORYTELLING IS HIGHLY EFFECTIVE BECAUSE IT KEEPS THE AUDIENCE INTERESTED IN WHAT IS GOING ON IN THAT EXACT MOMENT. THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT EVERYONE WANTS. THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT EACH CHARACTER NEEDS IN THAT SCENE. THEY UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY ARE GOING AND WHY. THIS UNDERSTANDING THE POINTS OF THE ACTION, THE PURPOSE AND THE DRAMA. IT MAKES A MOVIE FEEL PROPULSIVE. AND THAT IS INVALUABLE.

SHANE BLACK DOES NOT DO THIS.

AND HE NEVER HAS. BLACK CONSTRUCTS HIS MOVIES WITH A SERIES OF TANGENTS, AND THE REASON THEY STILL WORK SO WELL IS THOSE TANGENTS ZING, ZANG AND ZOOM ABOUT THE MOVIE AT BREAKNECK SPEED. IT OFTEN MOVES TOO QUICK TO REALIZE WHAT YOU'RE IN FOR. HE DOESN'T TELEGRAPH IT. HE MAKES IT HARD TO SEE THE SEAMS. WATCH HIS MASTERPIECE KISS KISS BANG BANG AND KEEP TRACK OF HOW THE PLOT EVOLVES AS A CONSTANT SURPRISE AND RE-USE OF PAST INFORMATION. IT'S A WHOLE DIFFERENT KIND OF FILMMAKING AND IT'S JUST AS VALID IF YOU CAN PULL IT OFF.
posted by brundlefly at 12:05 PM on May 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sequential Stark: Wired Reviews Iron Man 3 — In Comic Book Format
posted by Artw at 11:01 AM on May 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Liked Iron Man 3 quite a bit. Great dialog and acting and while there were a ton of the usual action movie plot holes, they worked in context. I loved how they handled the Mandarin, I'd been worried about that but Kingsley really pulls it off. I'd give the first 2/3s of the movie an A- and the last third a B. The third act is the normal super-hero boss level with explosions which is always boring but you can't make a superhero movie without that, I guess.
posted by octothorpe at 10:23 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ben Kingsley on The Colbert Report: The "Iron Man 3" star talks about playing Gandhi, trembling at his knighting ceremony and portraying a villain.
posted by homunculus at 2:59 PM on May 7, 2013


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