Homepage > Joss Whedon’s Tv Series > Buffy The Vampire Slayer > News > Buffy is Shane Black’s (kiss kiss bang bang writer/director) favorite (...)
« Previous : Michelle Trachtenberg - "Eurotrip" Movie - DVD Featurette Outtakes - Download The Video
     Next : Amy Acker - "Alias" Tv Series - 5x09 "The Horizon" - High Quality Stills Photos 1 »


Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Buffy is Shane Black’s (kiss kiss bang bang writer/director) favorite modern TV show

Steve Head

Monday 14 November 2005, by Webmaster

10 Questions: Shane Black

Writer/Director of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

October 21, 2005 - Having established himself penning actioners such as Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight, screenwriter Shane Black went head-to-head with the bully that is Hollywood. Taking a punch or two, he shepherded his new movie from the director’s chair. The result, he says, is "the biggest accomplishment of my career." Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, starring Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jr., and Michelle Monaghan, opens today.

Earlier today, Shane was game to give our 10 questions a go...

1. What is your favorite piece of music, past or present?

Probably my favorite piece of music, as an album taken as a whole, is Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park. I just think it’s incredibly pure. It’s a sound that sort of broke new ground, and I think it paved the way for a hundred people that sound very similar. In the transition of rock & roll from the early ’60s into the ’70s, it just changed things. It was the sort of sound that just really spoke to me at the time. I played the album until it fell apart.

We were going over so many songs for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. There was so much music that could be used. Among thing things we went with, I’m actually kind of fond of the piece of music at the end credits that [Robert] Downey sings, because it fits so well. It’s kind of an easy listening-type, upbeat piece. You listen to it again and again and it sort of grows on you. It’s called "Broken." Kudos to Downey, because the album The Futurist is actually very listenable.

2. What is your favorite film?

My favorite film is The Exorcist. That always instantly comes to mind. It’s absolutely pure filmmaking that holds-up faultlessly today as it did the second it was released. With The Excorcist, and something sort of like The Sixth Sense nowadays, I really think they’re sort of dramas with ghosts or demons. They’re emotional stories that would hold-up even if you took out everything supernatural. You’re left with this story about devastated people. Those two movies, in particular, haunt me, especially The Exorcist.

There’s that one scene in The Exorcist, where the young priest visits his mother. There’s these three cuts that show him with her in her brownstone in New York; he has to walk up five flights of stairs; he’s taking her leg; and then he’s just sleeping, listening to some Italian radio station. All this, just three quick cuts that establish him in her apartment talking to her, say more about real life and real people, and just ground you in the reality of the story. So, by the time the actual supernatural stuff enters, you’re so assured of its reality that you’re with it 100 percent.

I prefer the original version. Every six months or so I watch this movie again just to remind myself. It’s one of those touchstone pictures.
 Warner Brothers

Director Shane Black (L) with Robert Downey Jr. (R) on the set of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. 3. What is your favorite TV program, past or current?

The most influential TV program to me, although when I look back it was probably not the best, was I Spy. It established a kind of banter, a kind of camaraderie - even, you might say, in a kind of flippant way - between a black and white duo that became sort of a staple. It influenced Lethal Weapon and Last Boy Scout. Just [Bill] Cosby and [Robert] Culp, together, was unlike anything else I’d seen, or that was being done on TV. It wasn’t Iornside. It wasn’t Mannix. It was so much more about a sense of genuine friendship between these two guys. It’s at once stoic, but also heartfelt. They’re funny together, and there’s this real deadpan quality to the humor, where their jokes are all throwaways. They don’t stop for the punch line, they just keep moving on. And that’s exactly the kind of dialogue that I love so much.

More recently, the show that’s got to be my favorite is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (He laughs) Silly as it sounds. It’s just so well-crafted, and they care so much about it. It’s an example of a genre piece that takes itself seriously - the same thing the old Star Trek did - with feeling that the people in the driver’s seat really cared as if they’re doing Shakespeare, but they’re working within a genre that’s not particularly respected.

4. What do you feel has been your most important professional accomplishment to date?

I would say, the most arduous, difficult and profound challenge that I’ve managed to meet - and hopefully it will work-out well, since I did overcome it - was coming back from a few years of silence to a town that wanted to completely dismiss me, and getting my movie made... and directing it. Just getting Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang off the ground. Coming out of nowhere. Writing it. Peddling it. Getting rejected. Finding Joel Silver. Getting rejected by big actors. And finally, desperately, appealing for a version of this film that’s the $15 million version. Making it for a price. Getting actors that no one else wanted to work with, who cut their price, to come and be brilliant in this film. Finding this young girl, Michelle Monaghan. And getting it made through all the various hoops and obstacles we had to overcome. It’s got to be the biggest accomplishment of my career.

5. Which project do you feel didn’t live up to what you envisioned?

I was disappointed by The Monster Squad. Not that it was ineptly directed or because the acting was bad, or anything like that. It was simply that the budget was such that the powers-that-be took a script that was 120 pages, and reduced it to something like 94. Part of the thinking was that kids can’t sit still for longer than 80 minutes anyhow. But what you end-up with is a movie that lacks 25 pages, nearly half-an-hour of story. Maybe this is just sort of proprietary, but I really feel like that movie is just sort of the bare bones. It’s almost like, if it was fleshed-out and given enough money, I thought that picture could’ve really been my best script, my best work.

6. What is your favorite book?

That would probably have to be... there’s a children’s book, and it’s really schmaltzy, but... it’s a perennial classic called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s brilliant. The message of it, stated in simple words and read, I would say, in under 5 to 10 minutes, is one of the most jarring and beautifully-told stories. It appeals to adults. And it can make children cry, but in a good way, because it begins our appreciation of a sense of sadness. It’s a simple children’s story, but by the end you feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach by the profoundness of its message.

7. If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I would change the fear factor. In this town, everyone’s so afraid. It’s so negative. Everyone’s so afraid of losing their jobs and keeping their prospects. It leads to things like... the minute something goes wrong on a project, you just watch people jumping ship like rats off a sinking boat. Instead of standing by, instead of saying ’Relax, let’s put our heads to the grindstone and we’ll get this right’... no... instead they just abandon it. People who loved something one day will suddenly not recognize it, or be overcome by complete, implausible deniability. It leads to negativity. Like people are prizing, almost cherishing their cynicism as though it’s something we should hold within ourselves as a virtue. It’s like walking out of a movie theater and saying, ’Ugh! That movie’s not going to make a dime! There’s so much smiling!’ And it’s like, really? You’ve said something really negative in Hollywood. Gee, that must have been hard for you? (He laughs) I can’t believe you live in LA and you’re negative, cynical and sarcastic. What an accomplishment! It’s so easy to be that way in Hollywood. It’s a real, kind of, petty or snide or snarky attitude. Some people call it schadenfreude - joy in other people’s misfortune. I think that that negative energy comes from fear. It’s not that they’re mean people, it’s that they’re afraid people. I would make Hollywood much more positive. (He laughs)

You can try and make people happy. I’ll say, what makes me happy about making movies is, every once in a while through movies we find a kind of honesty. There’s an honesty in fiction that’s as effective or even more powerful than the honesty of our lives. We can find something that’s genuinely true, like a chemistry between people or a statement that speaks to an audience. But it’s something that just isn’t bulls***. What makes me happy is when you see a movie and something ignites on screen, and you realize ’Wow! That’s acting, but that really wasn’t acting. What we just saw was real.’ They weren’t really dying or fighting for their lives, but in that moment they were. Because good acting isn’t acting, it’s real.

8. Who - or what - would you say has had the biggest influence on your career?

It’s hard to pick one, but if I had to, I would say my brother Terry. He wrote short stories, and now he writes short stories for fiction magazines. He also has done a couple paperback novels, and things like that. He was my ideal. He was my idol growing up. I worshiped at the shrine of his creativity. When I went to college and started taking creative writing classes, I wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t intimidated because Terry had taken the class. I lived it through him, vicariously. He was my role model and my salvation.

9. What is your next project?

What I have to look forward to after this is perhaps the DVD commentary [for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang]. Then it’s going to be my job to sit down and really start to focus on what comes next. Another directing project, if I can swing it. I think my next project is leaning towards being a take on everything I love in horror films. I have a 30-page treatment for a horror script I’m working on. That’s always where it starts. So, we’ll see where it takes me.

10. What is the one project that you’ve always wanted to do, but have yet to be able to?

I guess the project I’ve been waiting to do is one that speaks to me without resorting to adventure, or thrills per se, but where the suspense comes out of the psychology purely of the character. Like, are they going to have their epiphany? Are they going to get it? Are they going to see the light? It’s to write a script and create a film where the real psychological suspense is there without the conventions of any genre.