Hollywood certainly loves its disclaimers. From statements at the end of movies promising that characters aren’t based on individuals living or dead; to warnings before Blu-ray commentaries that filmmakers’ opinions don’t reflect those of the studio, disclaimers are a kind of safety blanket that shields companies from lawsuits. There are certainly plenty examples of examples where this makes sense, but even writer/director Shane Black feels it’s pretty ridiculous that his new movie The Nice Guys has to blatantly state that the film doesn’t promote teaching children to smoke.
The subject weirdly came up by accident when I recently spoke with Shane Black over the phone recently, as there was a stray detail in The Nice Guys that caught my eye: a large red "R" on the pack of cigarettes carried by Ryan Gosling’s Holland March. Not recognizing the brand, I was curious if this was an in-joke about characters smoking in modern movies – and while the writer/director noted that it wasn’t, he took the opportunity to make note of the strange legal tagline that had to be included in the end credits. Said Black,
It is a reference to the ‘70s, but you know, it’s weird, because at the end of the movie, there’s a credit, which is mandatory, which says, ‘Even though people smoke in this movie, we wish to say as a studio that this in no way reflects a desire on our part to teach children to smoke.’ Like who the fuck would approve of teaching children to smoke? Do we need to say that?
It’s pretty hard to deny that he has a point. And even if audiences do watch all of The Nice Guys and walk away with the impression that the film wants children to smoke, would anyone actually be convinced otherwise by seeing some scrolling white print on a black background? It seems incredibly pointless from a logical perspective, but at the same time we all know exactly why it’s there.
There’s been a lot of conversation in recent years about the portrayal of smoking in movies – from the MPAA declaring in 2007 that it would be taken into consideration for ratings, and Disney prohibiting it from being included in the studio’s films. One very real explanation for the disclaimer in The Nice Guys, however, is a recent lawsuit that was filed against all of the major studios, the MPAA and the National Association of Theater Owners. It’s worth mentioning that the lawsuit is specifically about movies with G, PG, and PG-13 ratings, but it’s not as though adding an extra disclaimer to a film’s end credits raises its budget.
The Nice Guys - which does not promote the idea of teaching kids to smoke – arrives in theaters this Friday, May 20th, and be sure to stay tuned for more from my interview with Shane Black!