Was it scary for Shane Black, writer of Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, to make his directorial debut with Tinseltown bad boys Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in the lead parts? ''Not if you've ever sat with my family at dinner,'' deadpans Hollywood's former First Scribe, who says he was ''prepared for the worst'' when he cast two of the town's most colorful personalities in his sui generis buddy-action-noir satire about a thief-turned-accidental movie star (Downey) and the gay private investigator (Kilmer) who prepares him for a role in a detective flick. ''There were no fires to put out, thankfully.'' Seems the pair's respective eccentricities may have canceled each other out, as a becalmed mutual admiration set in. Says Downey: ''I think Val and I are just weird enough and just different enough that we are fairly infatuated with each other at this point.''
Casting gambits aside, Black saved his real risk-taking for the bonkers storytelling. ''A guy gets shot with a penis. A guy gets his balls electrically shocked, and it wakes up this latent masculinity in him. [Detective] stories are all about the masculine ideal. And I think it's important to fill [the movie] with images that don't conform to [that] ideal...'' Black trails off. ''You know what? F--- all that. It's just a fun private-eye story.''