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Iron Man 3 Director Hails From Pittsburgh

on Tue, 04/30/2013 - 00:00

Despite the box office success of The Avengers, writer/director Shane Black wanted to make the third installment of Iron Man—the superhero franchise that firmly established the Marvel Cinematic Universe—to be less larger-than-life and more about the trials and tribulations of one man, Tony Stark. “To Marvel’s credit, they said, ‘We’ve done The Avengers,’” Black explained to Collider in July 2013. “‘We made a lot of money. But let’s not do that again right now. Let’s do something different.’ And they allowed for a different, stand-alone film, where we got to be more character-centric and go back-to-basics with what Tony Stark would do next and what was left to tell of his story.”

Shane Black initially established himself as a Hollywood screenwriter with his first script, Lethal Weapon, which in effect created the “buddy cop” genre, replete with witty banter and lots of guns a-blazing. The success of the film launched Black’s career into the stratosphere, earning him $1.75 million for The Last Boy Scout, $1 million for Last Action Hero, and a staggering $4 million for The Long Kiss Goodnight. Before becoming Hollywood’s highest-paid screenwriter, however, Shane Black was born in Pittsburgh to what the Los Angeles Times refers to as “a coal miner’s daughter and a former University of Pittsburgh football star.”

Although the Steel City is often referred to as the “Hollywood of the East,” Shane Black grew up during a time period in the region’s history when the film industry was not an obvious career choice for its residents. “I wrote all the time, but the idea of doing it professionally seemed like pie in the sky,” he told the A.V. Club in 2005. “Who gets paid to write? I grew up in Pittsburgh, so it wasn’t really a notion that a lot of people pursue.” It was also the reason why Black eventually relocated to Los Angeles. “People say, ‘Oh, I’m gonna do it from Pittsburgh,’” he continued. “‘I’m just gonna deliver scripts or fly out, like, once, then fly back.’ You have to make a full commitment. You have to actually get on a plane, come to L.A., rent a place, and live there. And that’s how you forge your career. Not just sort of haphazardly. Once you’ve got a few hits under your belt, assuming you do, then go back and move away and correspond with the studio.”

Shane Black “disappeared” from the Hollywood scene shortly after The Long Kiss Goodnight was released in 1996, but reemerged in 2005 as both screenwriter and director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. The film starred Robert Downey Jr. and played a key role in resurrecting the beleaguered actor’s career after drug addiction had led to his incarceration. Iron Man 3 reunited the two, with Black both writing the script and directing the unofficial star of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Although being the third installment of a successful film franchise, as well as a big screen adaptation of a classic comic book superhero, Iron Man 3 still contains numerous elements of Shane Black’s signature style nonetheless. The film opens, for instance, with a voiceover by Robert Downey Jr. in much the same way as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and while Tony Stark continues to deliver witty one-liners as he has in the past, the narrative likewise includes its own comedic twists-and-turns. Downey and fellow actor Don Cheadle, meanwhile, evolve into the comic book equivalents of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon, and the action scenes are both intense and nonstop.

Despite making a name for himself with action films in the 80s and 90s starring the likes of Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, meanwhile, the current Shane Black seems intent on following his comic book epic with additional forays into geek culture, including potential big-screen adaptations of the Japanese manga series Death Note and pulp novel hero Doc Savage. When you’re as successful as Shane Black has been through the years, after all, the possibilities are endless.

Not bad for a kid from Mount Lebanon.

Anthony Letizia

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