Shane Black is easily one of my favorite screenwriters working today. You could just pop in a copy of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang to understand why, or you could read the below excerpt from his 2003 draft of The Nice Guys (written with Anthony Bagarozzi):
Love… Grand isn’t it..?
Me? I was in love once. June Miller.
FLASH CUT TO: A NICE RESTAURANT
HEALY sits across a table from a knockout BLONDE. They stare into each other’s eyes. A beat. Healy starts to say something. The blonde cuts him off:
Jack… I slept with your father.
The guy at the next table does a spit take.
Sublime. And then, a few lines down, we get this pearl of wisdom from Healy: “Marriage is buying a house for someone you hate.” Joe Hallenbeck couldn’t have said it any better himself. God, I love this guy.
And you’re definitely going to love The Nice Guys, which, according to Joel Silver (who knuckled under the fierce questioning of Frosty at Collider), is set to be Black’s writing/directing follow-up to the magnificent Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. I’m not surprised. Black isn’t one to let a good piece of material go to waste; he works too hard orchestrating the endless, Chandler-ian plot twists to give up on any of his scripts for good (Shadow Company excepted). And now that he’s finally directing under the protection of Joel Silver (who owes a good chunk of his career to Black’s imagination), these outlandishly entertaining screenplays are no longer subject to the bad idea factory. The only person who can fuck up Black’s words now is Black himself.
I read The Nice Guys years ago while I was preparing to interview Black for Creative Screenwriting. Though considered the “lesser” of the writer’s two comeback scripts (the other being L.A.P.I., which was rewritten into You’ll Never Die in This Town Again and rechristened Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang), I thought it was vintage Black. It’s another Odd Couple two-hander: Jackson Healy (muscle-for-hire, recovering alcoholic) and Holland March (sleazy private eye, practicing alcoholic) are improbably brought together when the daughter of a presidential candidate seemingly commits suicide. Problem is, the deceased girl’s aunt is convinced she saw her niece alive and well after the highly publicized incident. Though March is convinced the woman is a flake (she’s got coke bottle eyeglasses, so who knows what she saw?), he takes the case because he needs the money.
Of course, there really is a dopplegänger, and, after a little digging, it begins to look like the presidential candidate might’ve done some shady shit with one of these girls. I won’t spoil the inner workings of the plot, but it’s a fast-paced head-spinner on the level of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; as with that film, the narrative threatens to spin out of control with each nutty contrivance, but, somehow, it all shakes out in the end.
In case you’re wondering, there will be no Crop Report on The Nice Guys until I get my hands on a new draft of the script. That said, I think the 2003 pass was more than ready for production, which makes me wonder if they’re scaling back the action (newsflash: Black goes riotously overboard with the set pieces).