Sometimes you visit a movie set and things seem troubled. You’re watching as the director and actors are trying to figure out a scene and nothing seems to work. Or you can tell based on people’s interactions that certain folks aren’t getting along. Other times, as you observe a scene unfold, you know you’re witnessing something special, a moment that will be magic when projected on a movie screen. Such was the case early last year when I traveled into the hills of Los Angeles with a few other online reporters to watch Shane Black and producer Joel Silver make their new movie The Nice Guys. Like anyone that has seen the masterpiece Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I’d been waiting for Black and Silver to make another movie together and while it took eleven years, it should be worth the wait.
If you’re not familiar with the film (watch the trailers here), the 70s-set noir-tinged crime comedy stars finds Ryan Gosling’s down-on-his-luck private eye teaming up with Russell Crowe’s hired enforcer to solve the case of a missing girl and the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star. The film also stars Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Angourie Rice, and Yaya Dacosta.
During a break on the last night of principal photography I got to participate in a group interview with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. They talked about what it was like to work for Shane Black, when they first realized they’d be great as an on-screen couple, why they wanted to make this film when they both have their pick of projects, if they’re thinking of The Nice Guys as a potential franchise, and a lot more. Check out what they had to say below and look for The Nice Guys in theaters May 20th.
Question: Before we get started, I think I’m going to speak for all of us when we say, well fucking done. So incredibly excited for this movie. They showed us a sizzle reel and it looks fantastic.
RYAN GOSLING: This is the reel where they keep saying,”There’s nothing like it,” and then they cut to Bruce Willis, to Robert Downey. And they say, “It’s one of a kind,” and then you see Mel Gibson. You see Danny Glover.
How quickly did you guys click in terms of realizing that this was going to be fun to play and fun to play opposite?
RUSSELL CROWE: First reading we did, really. It was just like so free and we were just having a ball and to that point, we’re not really aware of how other people are enjoying it, because we’re just focused on our own enjoyment.
Yeah, it seemed like, is it like that between takes? It seems like you guys are just riffing, getting ready and just always having fun with these characters. Is that how it’s been?
RYAN GOSLING: Yeah. I think, you know, Shane gets bored easy. So, he’s always encouraging us to spice it up a little for him. So, sometimes he says dance, monkeys, dance, and we do. We do.
RUSSELL CROWE: He’s an inspirational figure.
We were laughing, when you told him to have a chat with the writer and it sounds like there must be some healthy ball-busting, back and forth.
RUSSELL CROWE: Yeah, it’s continuous, like he comes up at the end of the take and we’ve done our very best and he says, that was a very serviceable…
We were hearing that he originally wrote it as a contemporary film. How much more interesting is it for you to play in a period piece?
RYAN GOSLING: I think, I think the period has added a lot of, well it added a whole kind of political element, somehow, you know.
RUSSELL CROWE: It’s social commentary, that goes on with the story that actually elevates the material, so we’re having a bunch of fun and stuff, but it’s still actually saying something and by putting it into the ‘70s, it gives it a context on that, which is decisions should have been made at that time that weren’t, that puts us in the situation we’re in now, so I think it’s that thing where the audience, the contemporary audience understands what that thing is saying.
Can you talk about kind of just your individual characters and kind of how you got into the mindset in playing the roles?
RYAN GOSLING: Well, okay.
RUSSELL CROWE: If we have to. I didn’t think it was going to be work. He said just go and chat with these guys. Make something up. Come on. Cover for us.
RYAN GOSLING: What did they tell you?
Well, it looks like the relationship starts with basically a leg breaking or an arm breaking. He shows up to collect some money, so it is not a, I assume, a smooth start for the two of you.
RYAN GOSLING: Right, yeah, no. He breaks my arm, and…
RUSSELL CROWE: Compassionately, I’ll just add.
RYAN GOSLING: Never apologizes.
RUSSELL CROWE: I don’t apologize, but I’m very compassionate when I break it.
RYAN GOSLING: He tells me exactly what’s going to be broken.
RUSSELL CROWE: And what he should say to the doctor when he’s in the hospital, just to save time. And you know, x-rays are expensive.
The girl playing your daughter looks very impressive. Can you tell us a little about working with her.
RYAN GOSLING: She is incredible. She just, I think it’s her second film, and you would think it is her 50th, you know. She just, she has such a strong point of view on her character and what she would and wouldn’t do, and it makes it really fun because, you know, you’re not really, I mean, she’s definitely a kid in all these great ways, like she’s not an annoying kid actor in that way, that she’s like hyper adult, but she’s very, feels very strong about her character in the scenes and so it makes it really fun to play those scenes, you know, because she’s not, you know, she doesn’t suffer fools lightly. She can get in and hit back just as well as anyone else.
He doesn’t write down to kids, it seems like. He doesn’t write down to anybody.
RYAN GOSLING: That’s the headline. There it is. There you go.
I’m very curious, from when you guys first got the script, to what you guys are making, how much is the script what you signed on for? How much has been tweaked and adjusted based maybe on some rehearsals and read throughs?
RUSSELL CROWE: Well, I think we rehearsed, don’t really, did one read-through. It’s kind of like, you know, becomes apparent whether the scene is really sticking and if it’s not really sticking, then Shane just sort of like gets us to loosen up and find how to get the point of what he wanted in the scene, you know, but it’s, you know, we start dancing around and playing with it a little bit and then something funny pops up and that’s what we go with. Sorry to be technical.
No, I’m just curious about the overall arc though, in terms of, it’s pretty much what you guys signed on for, in terms of the arc of the story and characters and tone?
RUSSELL CROWE: We changed one thing, he starts finding pretty much everybody attractive.
RYAN GOSLING: You noticed that?
RUSSELL CROWE: Yeah.
RYAN GOSLING: I thought I was being subtle about it.
One of the things…
RUSSELL CROWE: If you were going for subtle…
The first take we saw, when you discover the body, I mean, it’s the Abbott and Costello moment of the candle moving on the coffin, which is such an immediate reaction you have to that. I know you worked with the Farrelly’s for a little while, or at least talked with them about doing Three Stooges. Is there just a big tradition of comedy you were able to draw from, in terms of staging scenes. Do you have a vocabulary you share on this stuff, things you love both?
RUSSELL CROWE: I think it’s a natural thing, you know. it’s not like we sat down and said what movies have you seen. It’s just like, we have a combined knowledge that, you know, without necessarily going for something that would become apparent.
Do you ever use other movies to, when you’re working on something, I’ll sit down and watch this and remind me of something I loved?
RUSSELL CROWE: I’ve done that before, you know, period things or whatever, you watch whatever you can to educate yourself or give yourself a flavor, but that’s not the case with this.
RYAN GOSLING: Shane gave me some movies to watch.
RUSSELL CROWE: They’re all his ones.
RYAN GOSLING: What does Night Moves have to do with this? All the movies he gave have nothing to do with this. Total waste of time.
He’s just recommending movies. You might enjoy this.
RYAN GOSLING: Yeah, I mean, not to, this is a spoiler alert, but there is a scene with a giant talking bumblebee, cigarette smoking bumble bee in this movie. We have a whole scene with him. That ain’t in Night Moves, and that requires a whole other conversation in tone that we never had, so we’re trying to find that tone, you know.
RUSSELL CROWE: And we’re doing it, and then I think the direction was like, “Can you just make it a little bit more real?”
RYAN GOSLING: Every scene we’re in, we know we’re in a movie where’s there’s a conversation with a giant, cigarette-smoking bumble bee, who is busting our balls. So, what’s the tone of that movie? I don’t know. So, you throw a little Abbot Costello out there and you see, you’re just chumming the waters.
RUSSELL CROWE: A bit of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby.
How’s Shane as an audience, like, it seems as a writer, he is so entertaining on the page. Does he let you know when he’s really entertained by something you guys are doing or is he reticent?
RYAN GOSLING: Buster Keaton. I always hear that Shane is laughing by the monitor. People are always saying that and 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.
For both of you, you guys both have your pick of projects, and I’m sure you’re offered a lot. What was it about this project. Was it the script? Was it Shane, was it a combination of the two that said, I have to do this?
RYAN GOSLING: I think these movies exist, and there has to be something between those two characters, since they’re two-handers. If it wasn’t Russell, I don’t think I would have done it. Just, when I read the script, I knew that Shane was on a plane trying to convince Russell to do it, so I read it with Russell in mind. I just never, I just could completely picture him in the role and I never, you know, seen him do anything like that and the movie just immediately became so funny.
RUSSELL CROWE: And I really liked the script, particularly the social commentary aspect of it, and it made me laugh, you know, and there was that thing in mind, maybe I should just do something that I’d have fun with, for once, but then he was flying to see me, and when he was on the plane, I got told he was going to talk to me about this particular actor doing it with me and I started looking at the script again going, oh, fuck, I don’t see that at all. So, I was kind of, working up a way to apologize for him flying all the way to Australia, while I’m walking out of the movie. What’s the reason, it’s like, I’ll say it has something to do with my kids. That always gets him. But then he sat down and he said, you know. I’m been talking to, and I was like, Ryan Gosling and I was like excellent, that makes it completely different, turned the conversation in a different way.
You guys are frequently asked about sequels to some of your bigger movies, but Joel told us this movie has always been pictured as the start of a franchise if it goes well.
RYAN GOSLING: He didn’t say that in negotiation.
RUSSELL CROWE: I’ll tell you what, man. Working with him in fucking classic. It’s got to be, he’s a fucking character from a script. It’s like a Coen brothers movie, working in a Coen brother’s movie or something. He made a speech the other night about how, the responsibility the two of us to be public with the movie and it went on and on in many, many stages, and the last line was, it’s just physics.
RYAN GOSLING: Just physics.
RUSSELL CROWE: It’s pure physics. What?
Well, you’re not just making a Joel Silver movie, you’re making a…this is as characteristic of what we think of as Joel Silver, so it seems like you’re getting the bonus plan. You’ve got Shane Black, you’ve got Joel Silver. This is the model.
RYAN GOSLING: That’s true. True that, man.
RUSSELL CROWE: I’ve never gone into a project…
RYAN GOSLING: We always say crazy stuff like that.
RUSSELL CROWE: …thinking in terms of sequels or stuff like that, and quite frankly, any movie I’ve ever been on where people get so excited about what they’re seeing, they start planning the sequel, it’s never come off, so we’ll see. The thing is, all I’m concerned about is this one little thing that we do actually works and people get a kick out of it, and that’s all I’m concerned with.
Are they, obviously characters that you enjoy playing and enjoy like really stretching with, that you would enjoy doing it longer and longer and longer?
RUSSELL CROWE: I enjoy his company a lot. He makes me laugh. Motherfucker makes me laugh. No other motherfucker makes me laugh like this motherfucker.
RYAN GOSLING: It’s not that hard.
That’s the headline.
RYAN GOSLING: You just have to work in the term German spank club.
No, that’s the headline.
RYAN GOSLING: That’s his achilles heel. German Spank Club.
We did hear that you guys couldn’t hold it together on Sunset Boulevard. Is that true?
RUSSELL CROWE: That was the German spank club.
RYAN GOSLING: And then Joel was just screaming, “Not tonight, not tonight, boys! I can’t afford it. Not tonight! It’s just physics.”
RUSSELL CROWE: And that of course just made us not want to do it, because we wanted to know what the next ratchet was. How much is he going to scream standing on Sunset Blvd while we laugh?