The big surprise at Austin Film Festival last year was the popularity of script readings -- especially since in 2010, some pretty big-name actors were among those participating, like Jessica Alba and Bill Hader.
For 2011, AFF pulled out all the stops with a script reading of The Nice Guys, a script by writer/director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and Anthony Bagarozzi. Black narrated the screenplay during the event, reading all the "HOLLY walks over to the car" lines that make up the non-dialogue portion of a screenplay. Actors Thomas Jane and Peter Weller read the title roles.
Weller, whose character Jackson Healy was introduced early in the script, read his lines beautifully in a traditional way -- sitting in his chair, leaning into the mike. But Thomas Jane broke the mold as Holland March. I've never seen someone get so very physical during a script reading, and the other actors and actresses onstage gradually were encouraged to follow his lead.
The Nice Guys is set in the late 1970s, and is about an aging muscle-for-hire guy (Weller) who ends up partnering with a half-assed private detective (Jane) to find a missing young woman. It was very much in the mindset of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, to the point where Jane's lines sounded at times like something I could also hear Robert Downey Jr. saying. But Jane was so much fun it was difficult to think of other actors in the role.
At one point, Jane's character is discovered sitting on a toilet with a gun in one hand, and Jane flipped over one of the chairs to simulate a toilet ... and dropped trou, revealing to the audience that he's a boxers kind of guy. Other actors lay prone on the stage to simulate a group "die-in" protest; and actress Jennifer Ortega quite realistically simulated slipping on spilled cold coffee. I'm surprised no one needed first aid after the reading ended.
Of the supporting cast, I was especially impressed by Hannah Pepper, who played March's teenage daughter, and the versatile Madi Goff, who voiced everything from a ditzy teenage girl to a giant hallucinated bee.
The reading ran late, leaving no time for a post-reading Q&A, and therefore giving us no word about Shane Black's plans for the script. Since he's currently busy directing Iron Man 3, it's doubtful we'll see The Nice Guys in production soon.