Robert Downey Jr., left, and director
Shane Black on the set of "Iron Man 3."
(Zade Rosenthal / Marvel Entertainment)
By Gina McIntyre / LA Times
By mid-April, "Iron Man 3" was beginning to look like the surest of sure things. Three weeks before the film was to arrive in U.S. theaters, early reviews and box-office tracking suggested that the latest installment in the adventures of Robert Downey Jr.'s charming superhero Tony Stark might rival or even surpass the $2-billion success of last summer's hit "The Avengers."
But on a Monday afternoon just days before "Iron Man 3" was set to premiere in London, the film's director and co-writer, Shane Black, wasn't taking anything for granted.
"If the movie's a huge hit, I'll pump my fist in anticipation of the fact that I'm still viable," Black said, sitting on a rolling chair in a dusty, sparsely furnished office at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. "The fact that I have a chance to come in and do a job that other people would sell their left arm for is not something that escapes me."
Coming from another director, the modesty might ring false. But Black, 51, understands the fickle nature of movie fame as well as anyone.
The Pittsburgh native sold his first script for $250,000 at the age of 23. "Lethal Weapon" announced him as a singular talent whose gift for pairing kinetic repartee with eye-popping spectacle reinvented the modern action film.
For the next decade, Black remained one of the mostly highly paid, sought-after writers in Hollywood, commanding top dollar for screenplays including 1991's "The Last Boy Scout" and 1993's "Last Action Hero." His streak ended when 1996's "The Long Kiss Goodnight" bottomed out at the box office.
By then, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Williamson arrived with their own brand of chatty, violent, postmodern genre movies, and Black faded from view.