Warner Bros has emerged as the frontrunner for the hot project in town. The studio is in talks for U.S. and Canadian rights for The Nice Guys.  Reps for the sellers say others are not out of the mix yet, but it sounds like this is how it will go down. It could be a big project. Shane Black will direct, and Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are circling the leads. This is a script that Black co-wrote with Anthony Bagarozzi, and Joel Silver is producing. It would reunite the writer and producer with the studio that made Lethal Weapon, one of Warner Bros’ most lucrative franchises. In The Nice Guys, a private eye investigates the apparent suicide of a fading porn star in 1970s Los Angeles and uncovers a conspiracy.

shane blackBlack became Hollywood’s hottest writer back in the 80s after Warner Bros, Silver and Richard Donner turned the Black script Lethal Weapon into the franchise that launched Mel Gibson as an international action star. Black spent the next decade collecting precedent setting spec script paydays for his clever, salty action scripts, culminating in a record $4 million deal from New Line on The Long Kiss Goodnight. He remade himself as a director, debuting on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the Silver-produced Warner Bros film that reignited the career of Robert Downey Jr, who returned the favor by bringing Black into the crowd-pleasing third installment of Iron Man.

Crowe seems tailor-made for a Shane Black movie, which gives him the chance to tap his inner Bud White from L.A. Confidential and  Gladiator Maximus mojo. A two-hander with Crowe and Drive’s Gosling seems like it could be just the ticket. Black and Crowe are repped by WME, Gosling by LBI Entertainment and Anonymous Content. Black and Bagarozzi are both repped by David Greenblatt, who brokered those huge spec deals back in the day with Tom Strickler when they both were at Endeavor. I am dating myself here, but boy was that game exciting to cover when Hollywood was throwing money around.