His influences as a screenwriter were Walter Hill, William Goldman and Raymond Chandler.
Here are a few Shane Black quotes:
- Dialogue can be fun but most people don't study it.
- The feeling of finishing the script, the first draft, was the high. Everything that followed—though of interest, and sometimes slightly exhilarating— could never match the idea of having just taken your story and racked your brain, finally having it on paper in a version you're willing to tolerate and ready to try to sell. I remember Joe Eszterhas calling me and saying, "Woo hoo! I just sold another one!" You know, there were fun times, but I didn't get into that whole money thing with Joe or the competition. It just seemed a little phony to me. Because ultimately, I like making money, but it's not exclusively what I'm trying to do. It won't make my life fulfilled. Directing comes closer than anything I've found yet to providing me with a good reason to get up in the morning that goes beyond just getting some money. Because all the money does is buy the bed. Getting out of it is the problem.
- Books were my hiding place. The library was more comforting many times than going home after school. I would just go to the library instead. It's amazing to me that to this day, how many screenwriters or aspiring screenwriters you talk to and you say, "What do you like to read?" and they say, "Well I don't really read that much." I say, "You don't read, but you want to be a writer!?" They say, "I like movies, I just want to write movies." They don't read books. I think that's virtually an impossibility. Mostly it was being trapped in a library for any number of years finding tremendous comfort in books.
- Unforgiven (1992) is seminal in so many ways. Whenever I write something, I'm always saying, "Oh, that's from Unforgiven. Or The Exorcist (1973). The other one that I find myself referencing—hopefully not copying, but certainly referencing—is All That Jazz (1979), which isn't even an action movie but it has such a power to it, such a melancholy. It's such a wild combination, a musical comedy about death.
- I loved detective stories, and I devoured them. I've literally read hundreds of them. I wasn't allowed to read them when I was a kid because they were racy, so I would sneak them. I'd save my lunch money—I wouldn't eat for three days so I could buy the new Mike Shayne book, or the new Shell Scott, or Chester Drum. The racy scenes were great but I loved the mystery. There was a real kind of masculine, rough-hewn rhythm to those caper novels, and I acquired an even deeper sense of them that was emotional and powerful. If I hadn't read those stories, I wouldn't be writing movies.
- The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) sold for just a sinful amount of money. People were angry that I took the money. People offer you $4 million for a script - what are you going to say? "No, I'd rather sell it for $100,000? But it engendered so much anger, I lost friends over it. And no one talked about the creative content of anything I did any more. They all just assumed I was this guy with a formula, a hack formula. So the spotlight was on me. I pretended it wasn't, but it was, and for every wrong reason. It was all about money, it was all about my supposed competition with Joe Eszterhas over who'd be the highest paid screenwriter. I didn't care. I just wanted to to write stories, try to become a better writer, improve my style, change genres, even try new things. I didn't like action so much any more. But I wanted out of the spotlight, so I subtracted myself for a few years. I tried to do a couple producing projects. Of course, the problem is, in getting out of the spotlight to feel safe and invisible again, I overcompensated and went too far into the darkness. And now I come back and go, "Wait, I didn't mean to go that invisible. Hey, come on, I'm here, I want my voice to be heard.
In the video which follows, Shane Black talks about the relationship between private-eye movies and westerns, catharsis, torturing yourself, making choices, and some of his personal philosophy.
First posted: 21 October 2012