Shane Black, director of “Iron Man 3”, directed this police drama and action-comedy set in Los Angeles during the 1970s. The protagonists are two detectives who stumble into a sprawling conspiracy while investigating the alleged suicide of a once-prominent female porn star.
Starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, “The Nice Guys” is sure to be one of the funniest thrill ride at Cannes Film Festival 2016.
The director said that there was never a concrete idea for the script other than a love for a couple of old school detectives, unsung heroes from the ’70s: “My friend Anthony Bagarozzi and I concocted the script in 2001 that was set in the present day and it went nowhere. We tried it again as a TV show for CBS in 2006 and that went nowhere as well. Finally, in 2014 we put it out one last time and after thirteen years it just popped into place in three days”.
At opposite of “Iron Man 3”, an high budget movie, “The Nice Guys” was more old school: with the exception of digital cameras and sometimes green screen, this, for the director, was like a movie that could have been really made in the ’70s.
On the genre and tone of the movie he said: “It’s a tricky balancing act, because I did not want to make a film that is sentimental. Whatever film I’m making, no matter how harsh or edgy it is, there has to be a core underneath the ebb and flow of it that is heartfelt. In this one, there is a nobility to these knights in tarnished armor that is represented by the conscience of these two guys. I think it’s very important to have a mixture of tone. The problem I see in a lot of films these days is the assumption you can only have one tone in a movie. “The Nice Guys” has darkness in it and parts that are kind of odd, but there are also parts where it’s heartfelt and soulful. You can switch back and forth”.
This ability to switch back and forth is something you can easily find in movies from the ‘70s: “There was certainly a playfulness to ’70s films where nothing was out of bounds. They were free to be out there. I think in big-budget movies where everything seems so poured over and restricted and the studio wants to examine every frame to make sure it’s vetted properly, you lose a little bit of playfulness”.
Ryan Gosling told to journalists that the same day he read the play, he got it: “I grew up on Shane Black movies, and I grew up on Joel Silver movies. My first exposure to what Hollywood was like, behind the scenes, was when Joel Silver started screaming at Roger Rabbit, at the beginning of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. So, for me, it was a no-brainer. And then, to know that Russell was playing the other role, it was just something I had to do”.
The chemistry with Russell Crowe was pretty immediate, they bounded right away: “Russell was really great. One of our first scenes together was that bathroom stall scene. I went early to work out the door gag, and I smelled smoke. I looked and Russell was there smoking, and he was very seriously telling me how he thought the door could bounce better. We were very seriously having a conversation, while I had my pants around my ankles in a bathroom stall, and I knew it was going to work and that we were going to have fun“.
For Ryan, working with Russel was easy and a big inspiration for his character: “Russell is whatever he says he is, in any role. If Russell Crowe says that he’s Noah, he’s Noah. You never doubt it. If he says that he’s the Gladiator, he’s the Gladiator. He’s every character that he says he is. I’ve never doubted anything that he’s done. So, I knew he would be Jackson Healy. It’s a bonus that we had fun together”.
But, the story about Russel accepting the role for “The Nice Guys” is quite funny and the actor calls it “kind of an embarrassing“. He read the script and he thought immediately it was really really good: “I liked it. I was really surprised. The narrative is really dense. There’s a lot going on.”
But, when the studio sent him the list of people that they want to be in the movie with him he said to his agent: “Listen, obviously this is not the project I thought it was. It’s something else. I must have really wanted it to be something because I read too much into it. Just don’t bother expressing interest.”
But it was too late: Shane Black (the director) already got on the plane five hours before: “I was like, “Seriously?! Okay.” I had a plan, where I would invite him over to my house, offer him a drink and cook him a steak, and then half-way through, I’d say, “You know, I really thought it was something else. I’m sorry I wasted your time.”
“So, he arrived and I said, “Hey, man, would you like a drink?” He said, “I don’t drink.” He had to be drinking, in order to hear what I had to say. I was like, “What do you mean, you don’t drink?” He said, “I’m allergic to alcohol.”
“That was most of my plan”.
So Russel said: “Look, we’ve got a bit of a problem. I’ve gotta tell you something.” But the director immediately stopped Russel and said: “Can I go first?” And he only said, “Ryan Gosling.”
At that point Russel answered: “How do you want your steak?”.
And then, the evening got back on track.
Credits: IGN, Collider.
Credits Images: Getty Images, Tom and Lorenzo.