Fred Dekker and Shane Black: The Script Writing Dynamic Duo

The Monster Squad!

The Monster Squad!

By Sean Tuohy

Partnerships are not an easy thing (Dammit Dan, I said no ice in my scotch! What am I paying you for?).

It takes hard work, a shared passion, and a willingness to shrink your ego. There are plenty of partners that have never broken up, such as Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, Batman and Robin, and Häagen and Dazs (who I assume are cold, delicious people). On the other hand, sometimes partners stop being partners, for instance Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, The Beatles, and most recently and, perhaps most heartbreakingly, the Jonas Brothers.

One partnership I never truly understood was between screenwriters Fred Dekker and Shane Black. Two friends who shared a passion for movies broke into filmmaking together and even penned some movies as a screenwriting duo. However, their careers went in two very different directions. Black and Dekker (haha, get it?) met at film school and even lived together for a while. They wrote "The Monster Squad" together and then penned the still unproduced "Shadow Company" before they kind of broke up. How do two men who share the same love and same career goals go two different ways in life?

Let's take a look quick at the work that these two did together:

“The Monster Squad”

This movie bleeds 1980s. Just look at the hairstyles, the Walkmans, and the music cues. The movie is “The Goonies” except with monsters such as wolf man, vampires, and the living dead. Also, the kids shoot guns and swear unlike the PG-rated “The Goonies.” Black co-wrote the movie while Dekker directed. The movie sank like a stone. Why? Well, it was a hard movie to sell. It's too complex for a child to understand and too simple for an adult, so it got stuck in this weird middle ground. It would take years for the movie to find the right crowd.

“Shadow Company”

After this the pair wrote “Shadow Company” (Black reused the name for the evil group of drug smuggling commandos in “Lethal Weapon”), which was another 1980s-tastic monster flick. The movie told the tale of Vietnam vets that could not be killed. It was “Night of The Living Dead” meets “The Dirty Dozen.” Although the script was never made into a movie, it is still a ton of fun, and worth reading.

However, after that the two never worked together again. Why? I have no idea. I am going to take a guess and say that by the 1990s Shane Black was heating up in Hollywood while Dekker’s was cooling off. I don’t know. Maybe they stayed friends, but professionally parted ways.

Either way, it’s worth looking at both their separate careers:

Shane Black

Shane Black hit the scene hard before he was 22 years old. His spec script “Lethal Weapon” was turned in to a surprise blockbuster that spawned three sequels. After this his script for "The Last Boy Scout" was bought for an unheard of $1.5 million dollars—a record that was soon broken by his sale of “The Long Kiss Goodnight” for $4 million dollars in 1994. Black went into a sort of “retirement” during which he worked behind the scenes doing uncredited rewrite work. Then, after a nearly 10-year absence, Black sprang back into action with “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” the movie that helped bring Robert Downey Jr.'s career back to life and got him the part of “Iron Man.” The movie was not a smash hit, but it did win the hearts of critics and has a great indie fan base. Black wasn’t done. After helping write the “Iron Man” films, he was asked to direct “Iron Man 3,” which turned out to be the highest grossing movie of 2013. All in all, not bad.

Fred Dekker

Fred Dekker came on to the scene with less of splash. He wrote the script for cult horror hit “House.” With this under his belt, Dekker was able to produce "Night of the Creeps," a much-loved horror film that failed at the box office. After the failure of “The Monster Squad” (his collaboration with Black) and two crashes under his belt, he was given the chance to direct the third installment of the “Robocop” series. Sounds great, right? Not so much. Peter Weller, who played Robocop, was not going to be in the film and the studio gave Dekker a shoe string budget. The movie crashed and burned and essentially killed Dekker's career. Dekker did some writing work here and there, but for the most part was shunned from Hollywood. Looking back, he did a lot with little and had some of the most original ideas in Hollywood. “Robocop 3” is a bad movie, but you can see that they did the best they could with what they had. In the end, Hollywood chewed Fred Dekker and then spat him out.

* * *

I always wonder how these two former partners and friends look at one another. You have Shane Black, Hollywood mega star, on one hand and then you have Fred Dekker, cult movie maker and redheaded stepchild of Hollywood on the other. Do they still talk? I mean, can you maintain a friendship with someone when their success so outweighs your own? Does Dekker look at Black with envy? Does Black look at Dekker with pity? I wish I knew how these two interacted now. Do they still talk like they did in the old days or are they no longer buddies? I may need to write a movie about them to figure it all out.

Maybe they will have a “reunion script” in the future. That would be awesome to see these two friends come together for one final “Hoorah!” Will it happen? Who knows, but I know this it better happen before the Jonas Brothers get back together.

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