The Nice Guys Set Visit: Ryan Gosling And Russell Crowe Hilariously Discover A Dead Body

"No motherf***er makes me laugh like this motherf***er," says Russell Crowe about Ryan Gosling. Usually, these two guys are some of the best dramatic actors in the world but on a brisk February Los Angeles night, they're hamming up a storm: acting drunk, fake vomiting and screaming profanities as they discover a dead corpse in the woods of Griffith Park.

We're on the set of The Nice Guys, writer/director Shane Black's first film after directing the mega-hit Iron Man 3, and latest collaboration with Joel Silver, whom Black worked with on the Lethal Weapon franchise, which made him a star. The Nice Guys is classic Black and Silver – a big, action comedy with brains and wit. Set in 1978 Los Angeles, it's about a goofy detective named March (Gosling) who teams up with a gentle bonebreaker named Healy (Crowe) to figure out a mystery about smog and pornography. It's kind of Chinatown meets Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with the action of Lethal Weapon. Or at least that's whatever everyone hopes on February 6, 2015, the final night of shooting The Nice Guys.

Talking to Black, who wrote the script to The Nice Guys over a decade ago, he really wanted to make a film in the vein of detective stories of old. He cites Chinatown, the work of Ross McDonald as well as Raymond Chandler and dozens of others. The mysteries in detective films are gone, he believes, as is some social context.

Black explained that in 1978, a smog-crusted Los Angeles was under an "eternal blanket of oppression under which pornography thrive. It was the modern Sodom," he says of his setting. "LA 1978, that was when it almost got mythic. That was the biblical downfall of literally western civilization, when people said we hope California falls in the ocean." But on day 52 of shooting, that wasn't the frightening tone we got.

Instead we got Ryan Gosling, in a very Seventies, dirty white suit complete with open chest exposure, bumbling around on a hillside. It's the hillside of a party that was shot in Atlanta a few weeks earlier (most of the film was shot in Atlanta, with two weeks in LA), but this scene was specifically saved for this last night. Silver says it's pivotal and when the characters finally come together.

Stumbling around in the grass, March finds his silver revolver. "March March, he's our man, if he can't do it no one can," he mumbles. He sits down and leans against a tree, content in his work for the moment, and lights a cigarette. For the next few takes, the production will work on a wonderful effect where the strike of the lighter reveals a dead body propped up right besides March, which he doesn't see.

Then he sees it. Spit sounds. Snort sounds. Muted muttering. Gosling does his best Abbott and Costello meets the Three Stooges impression to convey his fear at finding the body. "HEALY!!!!!" He screams, and they cut. It takes about four takes to get the lighting right and, in that time, Gosling plays around with the drunken idiocy. "I got it!" he screams when he finds the gun. Other times, he takes out the cheer.

Black explains the characters and tone is inspired by the "wacked sensibility that came so naturally to writers of detective stories in the '50s and '60s." He also loved "swinging dick detectives, who are groovy and like their multi-color, garish outfits a little too much."

Later, Black shoots the next piece of the scene. First, it's March screaming from the bottom of the hill to the top of the hill where Healey is. "Stop yelling," someone screams back. "I'm not yelling!" March yells. Gosling and the off screen voice go back and forth for about two minutes with various quips, some of which involve the presence of March's daughter, Holly, played by newcomer Australian actress Angourie Rice. She's the third part of the team, according to Silver, but wasn't on set for this.

Shane Black directing The Nice Guys

After a few minutes of Gosling yelling the phrase "I'm not yelling" at an off screen annoyance, he turns off camera and says "Shane, can I stop doing this scene now." It gets a huge laugh.

Eventually Healy makes it down, and this is when we finally get to really see the tone, humor and chemistry of this film. It's dark, yet goofy. Smart posing as stupid. In other words, it's a Shane Black movie. For this next take, he shoots two cameras simultaneously, one on Gosling and one on Crowe. Crowe is in a three-quarter-length aqua blue suit and matching jeans. He's a dork.

Healy makes his way down the hill and spots the dead body. He immediately stars gagging. Spitting. He's disgusted by the smell. A little plot is dropped when Healy realizes something about his would-be partner. "I thought you couldn't smell," he says to March. "But I can taste, and that's what smell is, particles that go into your nose. And while we're talking about the five senses I can see the f***ing hole in his head." They banter back and forth a bit more before Healy reveals his plan. "Let's throw up, then let's get rid of the body," and both of them start yakking.

Both Gosling and Crowe said the casting of the each other is what got them to do the movie. Neither have done a movie like this before, which was part of the appeal, as was Shane Black, but they really do have a laugh together. "No motherf***er makes me laugh like this motherf***er," says Crowe of his co-star. Gosling returns, "It's not that hard. You just have to work in the term 'German spank club.' That's his Achilles heel, 'German Spank Club.'" We all laugh, unaware of the inside joke but knowing it sounds ridiculous. You've never seen each actor so loose or so funny.

Between takes they crack each other up too. "I like the cursing," Crowe says to Gosling. "Go with that." On the next take of the body discovery, as Healy is trying to figure out what's going on, March just keeps screaming "Bag of dicks!" It takes all my willpower not to laugh uncontrollably and ruin Black's take.

The director explains that the movie hinges on these two guys. Not just their characters, but the actors themselves. "They have such gravitas," he said. "Our idea was getting guys who are funny but underneath have this set of chops that allows them to change tone within the movie. The tone shifts were important to me because it doesn't feel like it's an action movie. It feel like it's a movie about these two characters." It's totally true. Having Crowe and Gosling automatically gives a scene legitimacy and makes it impossible to take your eyes off them. The fact they're having so much fun will almost certainly translate to the final product.

You can't give the actors all the credit though. On set, Black is a very smart director. First of all, he shoots fast. In the four hours we were on set, he did at least six or seven setups with multiple shots in each. He also has a very unique way of dealing with his actors. "He comes up at the end of a take, we've done our best and he says 'That was a very serviceable take,'" Crowe explains. Black says he does that because he loves busting chops but he's also intimated. "To see [acting] on this level, at this level of stardom, that craft still existing is really gratifying. It's a vicarious thrill to be part of a caliber of acting that advanced."

That mutual respect and understand is something producer Joel Silver hopes carries over. He says that a Nice Guys franchise "was always the plan." "[Black] kind of has a story that would take place in the '80s and one in the '90s and you know, we would just work with it," he said. "When we made Lethal Weapon, we didn't plan on it being a franchise." When we asked Crowe and Gosling about it, Gosling jumped out of his seat. "He didn't say that in negotiations!" he joked. Whether or not he's serious or not, Crowe admits he loves working with Gosling and would do it again. "We're not really aware of how other people are enjoying it, because we're just focused on our own enjoyment," he said.

With the shoot winding down, we ask Joel Silver how he feels about The Nice Guys. "We got it," he says. "At this point of a movie, I've seen so much of the movie and it's working. I mean, these guys, it's alchemy. They have it," If anyone would know, it would be the team who all but invented the modern buddy cop action comedy. With The Nice Guys, they're taking it to the next level by adding a period setting, a bit more mystery, and two Oscar-caliber actors. There will be action, there will be excitement and there will definitely be lots of vomit.


The Nice Guys is in theaters May 20.