"I shot him with a revolver I keep near my balls." If, in the 1970s or early 80s, Jack Nicholson had played a tough, dapper, openly gay Los Angeles detective, the one very well-played by Val Kilmer in KISS KISS BANG BANG would've been a juicy role for Jack to bite into on the big screen. You read that correctly -- an openly gay L.A. detective. Kilmer's private eye character is the guy who kept a revolver near his privates.
Shane Black gave us the blockbuster hit, Lethal Weapon, back in the 1980s. He wrote that screenplay. The late and brilliant casting director Marion Dougherty kicked it up a big notch when she urged director Richard Donner to see Danny Glover as a candidate to play the older cop role. As Donner has admitted on camera, he wanted to kick himself for automatically imagining only white actors in the cop duo lead roles. Dougherty's appreciated vision opened the door for more racial diversity in cop buddy movies. Also, Glover was perfect in the Lethal Weapon role. (Donner was set to cast Brian Dennehy opposite Mel Gibson). In writing and directing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black took his cop duo format and kicked it up an ever bigger notch in the diversity department.
There are classic films, crime stories, in which the gay male character is quite important to the action. You may not have known the characters were gay but they were. There's The Maltese Falcon (1941) with Humphrey Bogart up against a trio of gay bad guys played by Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook, Jr. There's Johnny Eager (1941) with Van Heflin as the gay alcoholic best friend to Johnny Eager, a bigtime hood who has a chance to change his ways. Heflin won an Oscar for his performance. There's big, brawny Glenn Anders as the queeny legal partner with Rita Hayworth as The Lady from Shanghai (1947). Those five actors were in supporting roles. Val Kilmer, a good guy like Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, took the lead. He and Downey made a fabulous couple. Excellent chemistry. The murder mystery is a thriller, the pace is brisk, the acting is good and the comedy works. And we got a look at a new kind of friendship for the cop buddy movie. This was fine entertainment that went unappreciated in 2005.
The fact that Kiss Kiss Bang Bang got little attention at the box office is a crime in itself.