Shane Black

Shane Black

Born in Pittsburgh, PA, Black was raised by his father, Paul, a former star linebacker for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers who later owned a printing business, and his mother, Patricia. His family later moved across country to Fullerton, CA, where he attended Sunny Hills High School before moving on to the University of California, Los Angeles. Originally intending to become an actor at UCLA, Black was encouraged to try his hand at scriptwriting by long-time friend, director Fred Dekker. When he was 23, Black wrote his first screenplay in six weeks, which attracted his first agent and led to several meetings at studios, but no sale. Instead, executives wanted to give him assignments. Determined to see his original work produced, Black was paid $250,000 for his next script, "Lethal Weapon" (1987), a buddy cop thriller that focused on Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), an LAPD detective on the verge of retirement, partnered with suicidal loose cannon Detective Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) while tracking down a drug dealer who killed the daughter of Murtaugh's old war buddy (Tom Atkins). The surprisingly fresh take on an old genre became an instant hit, taking in more that $100 million at the box office while turning the buddy cop movie on its head. Meanwhile, Black was fast on his way to becoming one of the highest-paid screenwriters in Hollywood. Though Black wrote the original draft for "Lethal Weapon 2" (1989) in which he had Gibson's character die, Warner Brothers insisted Gibson's character live, so they could make additional sequels, which soon led to the writer's departure from the project. But he still shared screenplay credit, while he remained completely uninvolved in "Lethal Weapon 3" (1992) or "Lethal Weapon 4" (1998). Also around the time of the original "Lethal Weapon," Black made his official acting debut in "Predator" (1987), playing Hawkins, the first victim of the alien hunter. After writing the script to the comedy horror movie, "The Monster Squad" (1987), Black appeared as a patrolman in the cheesy zombie flick, "Dead Heat" (1988). Meanwhile, Black sold his screenplay for "The Last Boy Scout" (1991) for a then-unprecedented $1.75 million. An action thriller about a down-and-out private eye (Bruce Willis) partnered with an NFL star (Damon Wayans) directed by Tony Scott, the movie was released to disappointing box office. Despite the mixed reviews and mediocre financial take, Black's reputation remained intact. He received more than $1 million for his rewrites on "The Last Action Hero" (1993), for which he shared screenplay credit, and followed with a whopping $4 million payday for his spec script, "The Long Kiss Goodnight" (1996). Another action-adventure, "The Long Kiss Goodnight" was a departure for Black because the film's central character was an amnesiac woman (Geena Davis) who learns that she once worked as an assassin, discovering her secret history with the help of a run-down private eye (Samuel L. Jackson). The hugely budgeted project failed to make a major splash at the box office while reviewers were polarized.After a lengthy hiatus, in which he became better known for his high-profile Hollywood Halloween parties than for his screenplay output, Black made a triumphant return with a clever and highly entertaining tribute-cum-spoof of the hard-boiled action genre with "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" (2005), which both tweaked and poked-fun at the mismatched-buddy film tradition which he helped popularize. "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" focused on a none-too-bright petty thief (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is brought to Los Angeles for an unlikely audition and finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation with a gay, but tough-as-nails private eye (Val Kilmer) trying to show him the ropes of detective work. Under Black's assured hand, the film winningly defied and sent up some well-worn genre conventions and clichés, while highlighting the undeniably hysterical comedic chemistry between Downey, Jr. and Kilmer. Despite the star power of the two leads and overwhelmingly positive reviews, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" was a financial flop. Still, the highly satisfying action comedy marked an assured comeback for the first-time director. Meanwhile, he found himself in hot water over his personal life in 2009, when he was sued by former girlfriend, Sonya Popovich, for assault and threatening her with a gun during a 2006 incident when an apparently cocaine-fueled Black violently beat her before aiming a handgun. About a month later, Black countersued, claiming that he was the victim of violence and that Popovich had inflicted her own injuries.