As its title implies, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a splashy neo-noir buddy thriller with plenty of laughs and plot twists. Screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) returns to movies after a long hiatus to make a dazzling directorial debut that’s injected with full-bloom performances by Val Kilmer, newcomer Michelle Monaghan, and Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart, a petty thief/wannabe actor on the run in L.A. Harry teams up with gay private detective Gay Perry (Kilmer) to pose as a private eye-in-training. But bodies start piling up and the girl of his dreams proves much more than he bargained for. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a royal cinematic treat.
I recently sat down with Robert Downey Jr. to talk about the movie and his career.
Maui Time Weekly: What is the satisfaction of making movies like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang?
Robert Downey, Jr.: You don’t have to go in with blinders on. I remember when I saw Lethal Weapon and thinking it was really entertaining and filled with action, but rooted in a story that worked well with its characters. It was so much about the interplay between the two main characters.
The best thing about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is that the movie’s sick damn good.
The movie has a very loose feel to it. Were there any moments you guys improvised on?
Shane wrote such a good script that there wasn’t much improvement on it. But there were some things that were occurring right in the moment. When we were in the parking lot outside of the clinic and the guy is going to bring us back in and torture us, and he hits me with the gun, I said, “Why’d you do that?” So when I took the gun from him, I thought, “I’ve gotta hit him back with it.” So that’s why that happened. That was an improvised piece of business.
How was it working with Val Kilmer for the first time?
I didn’t really know Val before and I think he was back from Alexander and every fortnight there was a party at Val’s place, and I just thought he was even more eccentric in person than he was reputed to be.
As soon as we were on set the first day, we did the scene where he tells me that I’m not going to get the part and then I take a swing at him, and then he says I’m not a nice guy, and then I go for him. It was already everything that was on the page and something else—two complete weirdos making a movie together that, I think, is as entertaining as we were expecting it to be. It kind of worked out.
How did you feel about Michelle Monaghan in her part before shooting began?
When we read Michelle it was obvious by the time she left the office that there was no one else that was going to get this part but her, and there were some great actresses up for it.
How did Shane establish and maintain the strong tempo of the movie when you were shooting?
Shane is really methodical and painstaking in his writing. He’s a very exacting and mechanically efficient writer. We shot the movie in 35 nights. We were doing really important scenes back to back, one right after another. I was almost afraid to look at the call sheet. There was no time to be ponderous about it.
My preparation was doing what I had to do to stay out of my own way so I could do the work, which means having a loose sense of what I have to say and where I have to be. MTW