The Nice Guys: From the Set of Shane Black’s ’70s LA Noir Caper

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The Nice Guys are coming to the big screen!

Let Nice Guys Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling lead you on a 1970s Hollywood caper

“He breaks my arm,” says Ryan Gosling, pointing to his Nice Guys co-star.

“Compassionately, I’ll just add,” Russell Crowe shoots back.

It’s February 2015 and it’s an unusually chilly night in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. It’s also the very last night of production on Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, filming under the secret title Misty (which also happens to be the name of a porn star character in the film, Murielle Telio’s Misty Mountains). ComingSoon.net had the privilege of joining a small group of journalists to watch The Nice Guys‘ final few hours of production and to chat with the incredible assembly of creative talent. What’s more, Crowe has encouraged everyone to drink his favorite Australian coffee, a Flat White. The scene instantly feels less like an interview and more like a friendly campfire conversation.

“He never apologies,” Gosling continues.

“I don’t apologize,” Crowe explains, “But I’m very compassionate when I break it.”

“He tells me exactly what’s going to be broken,” Gosling admits.

“And what he should say to the doctor when he’s in the hospital,” adds Crowe. “Just to save time. And, you know, x-rays are expensive.”

Although Crowe and Gosling may be the faces of Warner Bros. Pictures‘ new ’70s crime noir caper The Nice Guys, there’s another talented pair behind the camera that is sure to have a lot of movie fans very excited. The May 20 release reteams writer and director Shane Black with legendary producer Joel Silver. Although The Nice Guys is only Black’s third film as a director, his credits as a screenwriter include Lethal Weapon, Monster Squad, The Long Kiss Goodnight and many more. Black made his directorial debut with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Despite very positive reviews, that film faced a lukewarm reception at the box office. That definitely wasn’t the case for Black’s directorial follow-up, 2013’s Iron Man 3, which brought in more than $1.2 billion worldwide.

“I think that what Shane did after the success of ‘Iron Man 3’ was decide that he was going to write two characters that were going to get onto the screen in the form he wanted them when he first put them on the page,” Crowe explains. “There wasn’t going to be any softening down or watering down because he was the director. He’s got a producer that he’s worked with who knows him and trusts him and who understands the brief. I think these are going to be far more extreme Shane Black characters than people have seen before. They’re completely rooted in reality, but they’re living in an absurd world.”

Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are The Nice Guys.

In fact, the world of The Nice Guys isn’t quite as absurd as it may seem.

“When I was a kid, there used to be sirens that would go off in LA when the smog got too bad,” Black recalls. “They would say, ‘Please don’t exercise until 6pm’ or ‘Don’t let your children play outside today.’ That sounds ridiculous, but that was actually the truth. Similarly, if you took a stroll down Hollywood Blvd in 1976, it was just prostitution, pornography and endless XXX. You really had this smog crusted city, which was literally laboring under a crust of brown smog that you could pierce with a plane as you came in. You actually had to go through it. That felt like this eternal blanket of just depression, under which pornography thrived. No one would clean it up and, in fact, they were suing each other over this failed attempt to clean it up. It was the modern Sodom.”

As such, setting The Nice Guys in Los Angeles allowed Black to tell a uniquely American story.

“There are two genres which are endemic,” Black continues. “They’re completely native to America. They existed nowhere else. They were invented here. Those are the cowboy and the private eye and it’s no coincidence that the guys in the ‘30s who wrote a private eye, would write a western next and then they’d write a private eye and then they’d write a western. They are the same stories. The idea of the urban western has always been there for me. It’s never really changed.”

Despite the heavy comedy tone of the film’s marketing, Black stresses that The Nice Guys is a story that also gets to play a more serious side. 

“There are moments in the movie that are very brutal,” say Black. “That are sort of very sad. There are others that are just flat out schtick. The tone shifts are what were important to me, and the actors that have the ability to pull off that kind of spectrum and bring to bear those kinds of multiple skills as opposed to just, comedy guys or action guys.”

“Ryan is amazing at that stuff,” says Crowe. “He’s amazing at taking you to the edge comedy wise while you never stop believing in that person as a true human. I had a great deal of respect for Ryan as a dramatic actor but, when I got onto set, I realized that he was going to bring his absolute A game. He was asking questions every day. He was trying to get that crack in the rock to bring forth a flower… He makes me laugh. Motherf–r makes me laugh. No other motherf–r makes me laugh like this motherf–r.”

“It’s not that hard,” Gosling grins.

The Nice Guys is written and directed by Shane Black.

Getting any laughs out of Black, however, appears to be a very different story.

“[He’s] Buster Keaton,” Gosling laments with a smile. “I always hear that Shane is laughing by the monitor. People are always saying that. Then I go back and he’s like, ‘It’s a serviceable take.’ You’re not ever in danger of getting high-fived to death.”

Crowe and Gosling meanwhile have a very different relationship with Joel Silver. 

“Working with him is f–ing classic,” Crowe laughs. “It’s got to be, he’s a f–ing character from a script. It’s like a Coen brothers movie.”

From Silver’s perspective, the only drawback to working with Crowe and Goslings is their tendency to make one another crack up. Earlier in the week, The Nice Guys was filming in Hollywood and Silver wound up having to delivering a producer speech of which both actors were very fond.

“I was screaming, ‘Not tonight guys. Not tonight!'” Silver laughs. “We were on Sunset Boulevard. Traffic was hell. We’re shooting and they come up with a line and they just can’t get a straight face. I mean, but they like to do that.”

“It went on and on in many, many stages,” Crowe laughs, “and the last line was, ‘It’s just physics!'”

“And then Joel was just screaming, ‘Not tonight, not tonight, boys!'” Gosling chuckles. “‘I can’t afford it! Not tonight! It’s just physics!'”

“And that of course just made us not want to do it,” Crowe continues, “because we wanted to know what the next ratchet was. How much is he going to scream standing on Sunset Blvd while we laugh?”

Ultimately, though, The Nice Guys has at its heart the collective creative might of a lot of great Hollywood talent and the promises of something wholly original. 

“In this film, you’ve got four very passionate filmmakers going to work on a daily basis,” says Crowe, “absolutely guaranteeing one another, ‘We will walk away from this set knowing we’ve done something fun that day.”

The Nice Guys hits the big screen Friday, May 20. Click here to watch the final trailer

Also, if you’re in the Los Angeles area, Crowe recommends Longshot Coffee for great Flat Whites. “Don’t get a Starbucks Flat White,” he smiles. “That’s some bulls–t right there.”