THE NICE GUYS
He’s a nice guy, that Shane Black. Real nice.
THE MISTY MOUNTAINS COLD
__ The movie opens with a boy (Ty simpkins) ogling a porn centrefold, then the same model (Murielle Telio’s Misty Mountains) crashes through his house in a car, and dies in the same position as she’s in in the photo. “It stems from the idea of the expectation of Los Angeles versus the disappointing outcome,” says Black. “In reality, things are very different than when you’re sequestered in your fantasy.”
PORN POSTER PARADISE
__ As we meet Ryan Gosling’s Holland March, note a series of posters for fake porn films attributed to producer Sid Shattuck. “My favourite got cut from the movie,” says Black. “It was called Follow The Yellow Dick
Road.” At one point, a sex cinema can be seen with Bang Bang Kiss Kiss on the marquee. “That was put in by the production designer,” laughs Black, director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
HOLLAND AND COSTELLO
__ When a drunk Holland stumbles upon Shattuck’s corpse, his hilarious, wheezing reaction recalls a true comedy great. “It’s a reference to an Abbott and Costello movie called Hold That Ghost, which Ryan had seen a couple of nights before,” admits Black. “He said, ‘I kinda like the Costello guy and the way he reacts.’ We tried it once and threw out everything else to do five takes of that.”
BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL
__ With the bad guys rounded up and justice mostly served, Kim Basinger’s corrupt Justice Department official, Judith Kuttner, talks about how nothing will change, while effectively looking straight at the camera. “We wanted to make sure she stated her manifesto, that the villain was looking out to the audience saying, ‘There’s always going to be a little guy, and the little guy is always going to lose.’”
THE COMEDY APARTMENT
__ Russell Crowe’s Jackson Healy lives in a flat above LA’S iconic Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. “There are rooms up there,” says Black. “We cut a scene where Healy is sitting depressed in his apartment and the soundtrack to his life is this burble of laughter through the floor. The idea was to give Healy a laugh track to his life.” Notice the way Tim Allen rises up the bill as the film progresses.
THE DEATH OF AMELIA
__ “It was important that we remind the audience in as forceful a way as possible that there’s not a win to be had here,” says Black of the crucial moment when Amelia (Margaret Qualley), the girl March and Healy have been trying to save, is shot dead by Matt Bomer’s John Boy. “And also to remind them they’re not just watching a comedy. We needed something heavy like that at the end of act two.”
A VERY SHANE BLACK CHRISTMAS The movie ends by skipping ahead a few weeks to a familiar season for Black fans: Christmas (most of his movies are set then). “It’s a bittersweet time,” he explains. But this could be the last jingle bell rock for the director. “I don’t want to make it seem like this is something on my list of demands. It’s something we did, which we don’t have to do anymore.”
__ During their investigation of the film’s convoluted mystery, Holland and March head to a lurid pool party at Sid Shattuck’s house. Highlights include mermaids behind the bar and contortionists acting as drinks trays. “These are wildly overblown versions of what I may or may not have flirted with back in the day,” laughs Black, once a notorious partier. “This party is much raunchier than anything I could have put together.”
IN YOUR DREAMS
__ This elaborate set-up sees March scramble for Healy’s ankle holster, only to find he’d dreamt it earlier. “The gag was that you’d have a dream sequence,” laughs Black, “and it would lead to a payoff in a later scene.” Said dream sequence involves a giant talking bee. “It didn’t matter what the dream sequence was — but it became a compendium of everything March is afraid of. Killer bees, smog, the world ending.”
__ Healy, a recovering alcoholic who avoids taking a tipple through the movie, is roaring drunk during the final scene; a neat reversal of the usual action-hero arc. “The bittersweet victory at the end is that March doesn’t quit smoking, and that Healy doesn’t quit drinking,” says Black.