Shane Black has seven* writing credits: Lethal Weapon, The Monster Squad, Lethal Weapon 2 (story credit only), The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero (which he re-wrote), The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It is a trim legacy, but between 1987, when he burst onto the scene, and 1996, when he went all Salinger, Black seemed unstoppable. Only Joe Eszterhas was rivaling Black for paycheck weight, and unlike Eszterhas, who rapidly became something of a joke, Black retained a sizable following of non-ironic fans. In many ways, his legendary status was only elevated by his complete disappearance. Then Kiss Kiss Bang Bang happened. The film was not a box office hit, but it was a smash within the industry and gained even further clout when it was seen as the launching point of Robert Downey, Jr.’s comeback. Black was back!
Then he wasn’t.
KKBB was five years ago. News on Black fell silent again for a while, until it was reported that he was doing a Doc Savage film. Then news fell silent on that, which was getting me a little worried. But fear not Black fans! Deadline is reporting that not only is the Doc Savage movie still happening at Sony, but that Warner Bros has tapped his ass to do a live action adaptation of the Japanese manga series Death Note.
For those unfamiliar, Death Note tells the story of a teen who comes into possession of a special ledger, dropped to Earth by a huge freaky looking death god named Ryuk. The ledger gives the kid the power to kill anyone of his choosing, as long as he knows their name. In his attempt to purify the world of evil, the kid becomes a real twisted sociopath, which pits him against the world’s greatest detective, known only a L (since the kid doesn’t know L’s real name, he can’t put him in the ledger). The manga was adapted into a solid anime series, as well as a fairly lousy live action film series in Japan.
Not the most natural project for Black, but the fact that he’s interested in it indicates that he has a take on the material. And at this rate – as I’m sure all Black fans will agree – it is just nice to see him doing something.
One of the many sexy perks of being a writer is that for the most part I can do my job anywhere. This allowed me to take a very extended trip back home for the holidays. The only small blot of negativity on what was otherwise an fabulous vacation, was that I missed the Black Christmas Party at The Cinefamily here in Los Angeles – which was a double feature of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Long Kiss Goodnight, with Shane Black in person to talk about the films. I’ve been dying to see Black in person again, ever since the amazing passive-aggressive confrontation he and Fred Dekker had at the New Beverly’s screening of Monster Squad a few years ago.
* There is also 2006’s A.W.O.L. which he wrote under an assumed name.