Screenwriter Profile: Shane Black

Every screenwriter should read scripts, watch movies, write, write, rewrite, and write.

But there’s an often overlooked task that up-and-coming screenwriters should add to that to-do list: Learn about other screenwriters. Knowing who the players are, who the legends are, who wrote your favorite films, who has had the most commercial success — it’s all valuable information that will help us writers move forward in our own careers.

So let’s start this series off with one of the fathers of the action genre, Shane Black.

The Writer:

Shane Black is known for his sparse writing style and his prowess in the action/adventure genre. He sold the script for Lethal Weapon in 1987 at the age of 22. Black holds the record for the largest sum paid for a spec script — $4 million for The Long Kiss Goodnight.

Credits:

Iron Man 3 (screenplay) (pre-production) – 2006

A.W.O.L (short) (as Holly Martins) – 2005

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (screen story / screenplay) – 1998

Lethal Weapon 4 (characters) – 1996

The Long Kiss Goodnight (written by) – 1993

Last Action Hero (screenplay) – 1992

Lethal Weapon 3 (characters) – 1991

The Last Boy Scout (screenplay / story) – 1989

Lethal Weapon 2 (characters / story) – 1987

The Monster Squad (written by) – 1987

Lethal Weapon (written by) – 1987

Quote:

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.”

7 Responses to “Screenwriter Profile: Shane Black”

  1. Really interesting quote. I always find it interesting when people in ShowBiz lose friends over being successful when their peers don’t think they deserve it. I see it in stand-up comedy frequently as well.

    Once I watch the following 2.5 movies, I’ll be a Shane Black completest!
    The Monster Squad
    The Long Kiss Goodnight
    A.W.O.L

  2. Worked on high school newspaper “The Accolade” with Shane. Wishing him all the best from an old classmate.

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