The Nice Guys press conference with Russell Crowe, Shane Black, Matt Bomer and Joel Silver
Promoting the release of The Nice Guys, The Upcoming caught up with the talent of the film as they discussed working together to create the buddy noir comedy that is the essence of the movie, and the challenges of not corpsing on set.
So let’s start with how the film came to being made?
Shane Black: For me the sort of bone-deep kind of DNA of this thing started when I raided my father’s bookshelf when I was a kid. I had a friend, Anthony Bagarozzi my writing partner, and together the two of us decided there weren’t enough private eye movies, not enough old-school, tough guy sorts. So we set out to write this movie, sharing characters – which isn’t how you can write a film – and we came up with something over the years that in various variations managed to fall upward, got the right actors and 13 years later you have The Nice Guys. We are actually quite happy with the result.
Joel, in terms of producing a film, was this an easy ride or was it more complicated than it looks on screen?
Joel Silver: There is no such thing as an easy anything. Shane and I go back a long time, 30 years. He was a 21-year-old college graduate from UCL when he wrote Lethal Weapon in 86. Of course, we went on to do Lethal Weapon 2, then The Last Boy Scout and he took a graded introspection which I wasn’t part of. Then we did Kiss Kiss in 2005. He had written The Nice Guys before that in 2001 and we had tried a few ways to do it, we tried it as a television series, a mini series. But finally, after we made Iron Man 3, it was one of those get out of jail free cards, whatever he wants he can do. He didn’t go to jail but he said “I want to make Nice Guys”. In the magic of the process Russell said “I like it, I think it could work”, Ryan said “I want to work with Russell so I like it”, then we had a movie.
Russell, I guess you can write chemistry in a script but bringing that to life on the screen is different. You and Ryan are wonderful to watch, was it fun to play?
Russel Crowe: Yeah, you know, you can’t manufacture that, you either have it or you don’t. But the key to it is not that complex, it is just about listening. If you are listening to each other and tuned in it doesn’t matter what left step he takes or improv he is going to do, I can go with him as I haven’t anticipated or made any assumptions, and it goes both ways. That is essentially all you are seeing, a couple of guys who are very aware that the other guy can do anything at any given moment, so you best tune in.
Is that really his scream?
RC: It freaks me out, it is the best scream in feature film since Gene Wilder. That is a hell of a scream.
Matt, John Boy is terrifying without saying anything, just in his demeanour. Was that great to bring to life?
Matt Bomer: Oh yeah, I mean it is always fun to paint with different colours and play these kind of roles you aren’t typically thin-sliced as, and to do it with these people. I am essentially a fan boy who is lucky to be along for the ride. Shane and Joel are a huge part of my cinematic upbringing: to watch two of my favourite actors create this incredible symbiotic comedic performance where one doesn’t work without the other and every take is different, it was just an incredible education for me.
RC: I could have made it work without Ryan (laughter).
Russell, the on-screen bromance you have with Ryan is great, did you follow the script strictly or was there a lot of improv?
RC: Well, the cool thing about working with Shane at this point of his life where he has had the ups and downs, is that he understands you have to trust who you hire. We were both very respectful of the script and will do it the way it reads but we also brought ideas everyday and said what if we move it like this or that, and Shane trusted that we would work in the spirit of what he intended. There is a lot of stuff improvised on a daily basis and it isn’t discussed, it is just in the movie and you go with it.
Russell, we have spoken about the chemistry with Ryan but we also get a reunion of you and Kim after LA Confidential. What was it like to hook up with Kim again?
RC: You have to tread carefully in London!
Maybe hook up wasn’t the right word! (Laughter)
RC: It was great seeing Kim again. We were talking and realised we hadn’t been in the same room together for over a decade, but it is a very different cinematic relationship than before. We had so many hours together on LA Confidential that we had a very intimate friendship and that still remains. That is the funny thing about this business, you can go on a cycle and not see each other for years but if you connected you still connect the next time you see each other, so it was great to see her and all that but a very different work experience this time.
Back to Russell and Ryan, was there any problem with corpsing or cracking up between takes?
RC: See, this is great I am in a country where people know what corpsing is, in America they’re like, I have no idea what that is! If you take the 26 years of making lead roles in feature films prior to The Nice Guys, the amount of times I will have corpsed on camera in that whole time, 49, 50 films, whatever, would be less then any given week making Nice Guys. This little b*****d makes me laugh. Sometimes I would suspect he was up all night thinking of a way to make me laugh, he has a natural comedic gift and he is a funny b*****d, so yeah, I laughed my head off all the time. This one scene, we had blocked off the Sunset, very simple shot, we have to come in, do a couple of lines of dialogue then drive away. And Ryan is just not on the script: he is just jamming on some idea that is in his head about German spank films and I am falling apart in the car trying to get my lines out as he goes into the pseudo German he does with such conviction. So he is doing all that and you have Joel Silver standing in the Sunset saying “I have the whole street blocked off to shoot my movie, not tonight guys, not tonight.” So we are sitting in the car and I say to Ryan “so we going to stick to the script” and Ryan says, “no”.
Shane, I know Joel went back through your history of the films you’ve made. A lot of them are set at Christmas, The Nice Guys it is set in October, any reason it isn’t set at Christmas?
SB: The idea is, I had various reasons for setting things at Christmas but the one thing I didn’t want to do is keep doing it once people noticed, because it was my little delicious secret and had meaning for me. Then questions like this one… (Laughter).
RC: You’ve ruined it for everybody.
What was it like to work with the younger cast?
JS: I mean, we are blessed with incredibly talented performances from everybody, my young friend Russell here was great (laughter). Angorie was 13 years old when we made the movie and she is incredible. Jack, Val Kilmer’s son, as Chet was brilliant. We were able to fill the stage with talented people. It didn’t hurt we had Russell and Ryan who had done this a few times.
RC: We had a sort of joke of Angorie being the most mature person on set. It was kind of a joke but it was kind of real too. She was always prepared, she came ready to give everything. She had very limited experience but a fine intellect and a real enthusiasm for the craft, so it was great. The thing is to get her to that place of comfort, apart from the work Shane did with her, Ryan put a lot of effort into that. A few days ago we were having a chat and I said “I just knew you were going to be a great dad when I saw you do that”. She started to flower because she felt comfortable and could own the space.
SB: We can’t say enough about this little girl, I confess I have read a few reviews and they mention her. I went to her and said “are you aware of the press you are getting, you stole the movie”, and she said “I haven’t really read…really?” She doesn’t even know she is good, she is just this wonderful, guileless little girl and God bless us we found her when we did.
How did you find the cast?
JS: Ryan has a history of working with Mickey Mouse club, he was a child actor himself. He took the time to get to know all the kids who auditioned. Then this kid came in from Melbourne, this little Australian actress and we thought she could be great. She was the last one in and it just worked.
RC: That is an example of Ryan’s work ethic, in the audition process he researched each little girl who came in and he had a question specific to each relating to the previous experience they’ve done. It is another indicator of what he did to make people comfortable in those situations.
Shane there are some brilliant surreal moments within the film, specifically the bees. How do you have that first sketch meeting and introduce such a surreal, brilliant concept?
SB: Here is the good news where that is concerned. The pitch consists of a man, Joel Silver, if I can convince him (laughter). He would look at me sometimes and be like, what? But he gets on board and we have a similar sensibility that goes back 30 years. Even after I had done a very successful film, Iron Man 3, afforded an opportunity to do something with it I went back to Joel. Joel who I have enjoyed my best financial, no that’s not true (laughter)…
You have alluded to the fact that if this film is as fantastically successful as we know it should and will be, you have some quite specific ideas for where you might like to take the characters forward?
SB: All I can say, as I have a bit of canoodling to do on that actually, I love this idea of a sort of time-locked franchise, which means it will never catch up to us. So the sequel will be something in the 80s on an issue of that era, so we can throw these guys up against that wall and see what sticks. I think a fun idea is a timeless private eye who proceeds through a series of historical incidents but will never get to the present day.
Russell, if you do get an opportunity to revisit these characters are there things you would like to see in that?
RC: Interesting thing about sequels, it seems every movie I do someone asks in a press conference if there will be a sequel and then it never happens (laughter). I mean, certainly there is a lot we can do with these characters so it could be fun. For some reason Ryan and I think the title “The Nice Guys Mexican Detectives” is hilarious and I don’t know why.
We have been talking about the actors, what was it like, Matt, to throw a 13 year old girl through a window?
MB: Angorie is such a consummate professional that, you know, it was the first thing I filmed and I had to throw a young girl through a window and I immediately felt the need to ingratiate myself to these young girls, and that I was a parent and it was just pretend and they just stared at me blankly and were like, so? Throw me through the window, what you got? That’s it? I want another take! So yeah, they took me to school.
Russell why does your character live above a crazy club?
RC: We thought it was a brilliant idea. We shot a little piece that is not in the movie where he just sits in his apartment deep in thought and you can hear the laughter from the live shows going on downstairs, and over time you see the laughter seep in to him and he then smiles. I don’t know what it meant but it was really cool to shoot.
SB: Can we put that back? (Laughter).
RC: You know he has no friends, no life and you can see his history in that apartment and how it looks.
SB: His life has a laugh track.
Russell, you mentioned earlier you did one scene improvised unintentionally, did that make shooting longer?
RC: When did I say one scene intentionally? Everyday, every scene, can I make it clearer.
SB: It didn’t make it longer, that is what it is all about. You stand there and something happens and people like it or don’t. I just tried to preside over what is the best environment for these guys to do what they do better then anyone else in the world. My biggest problem was just not to crack up.
RC: Ryan would say I thought my character was called schmuck because that is what I heard the most from Joel looking at the monitors.
Is there anything completely crazy or brilliant that didn’t make it into the film?
SB: There is going to be a gag reel.
JS: The reality of this movie is there is a clear beginning, middle and end: Shane sets them up and finishes them and the script is what we see.
SB: It is not like I opened a cage, smoked a cigarette and came back, there was a script.
RC: Yeah, when I say imrov we aren’t just manufacturing things out of thin air, it is from the script. How you get there emotionally, Shane was very trusting with us. It was a very cool environment to work in.
The Nice Guys is released nationwide on 19th May 2016, read our review here.