Warning: Massive spoilers for Logan are discussed below. If you have not seen Logan I strongly suggest stopping now.
I absolutely loved director James Mangold’s Logan. While I had high hopes going in, I’ll admit the finished film was even better than I imagined. Unlike the previous X-Men and Wolverine films that have come before, what’s unique about Logan is it doesn’t have to set up the next installment or worry about holding back because of the rating. Because Mangold and Hugh Jackman had complete freedom to tell this story, they were able to make the movie they wanted to make and bring fans the version of Wolverine we’ve always wanted to see. I really can’t give everyone involved enough praise for such a job well done and to Fox for letting them make this movie. And I haven’t even gotten into how awesome Patrick Stewart was as Charles Xavier or the rest of the supporting cast including Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, and Elizabeth Rodriguez. For more on the film, read Matt Goldberg’s review.
With the film now in theaters and kicking ass at the box office, it’s time to share something cool: an exclusive spoiler-filled conversation with director James Mangold. During my 20-minute interview he talked about the process of writing Logan, if Professor X and Logan were always going to die, making Logan without a massive superhero sized budget, filming the death of Logan, the great dinner scene, where the line “so this is what it feels like” came from, deleted scenes, if he wants to continue telling the X-23 storyline, and a lot more. Check out what he had to say below.
COLLIDER: What’s been the reaction after working so hard to bring this film to life, to see the reviews the way they are? Because they’re pretty stunning, even on Rotten Tomatoes it’s like 96% with 71 reviews.
JAMES MANGOLD: My reaction has been one of immense relief. I mean, Hugh [Jackman] and I and all my collaborators on the movie got a chance to make the movie we wanted to make, that we talked about making, with the tone we wanted. Literally I turned to my editors on the last day of mix—by the way, this was only 12 days ago, in Los Angeles right before I left for all this press—and I said, “I can’t believe we got away with this,” that’s what I said to Mike McCusker, one of my editors. What I mean by that is just that we had absolutely no interference in putting something—It’s not just about the violence, it’s about the ideas, that the movie for us was a fairly adult examination of his character and the world we live in.
We were just surprised, and I have to say I’m incredibly gratified. The first feeling you have with the reviews coming in is just relief that they get it, meaning you just have this moment when you realize you put on this costume and you’re going out for Halloween and is anyone gonna get it? Or are they just gonna be, “What the fuck mess did you make?” And the fact that people in mass are getting it, including really subtle stuff, not just the overt ambitions of the movie. One of the most important things to me is that even though the movie is extremely violent, the movie also takes a very sober position in relation to violence; the movie itself exists I think unlike even many movies rated softer than R. We hit you hard, we let you see, but we also hit you hard with the ramifications of what you see, and that violence begets death not stuntmen popping up for another round. That to me and my partner on the script, Scott Frank, was really critical.
Since this is gonna run after release we can talk about spoilers. I definitely wanna ask if it always the plan when you guys were writing the script that Professor X and Logan were gonna die?
So, when you guys first sat down to work on the screenplay, how much resembles what…
MANGOLD: My first effort on the script was just months after finishing The Wolverine, fueled in a lot of ways by my own ambition to tell an original story about these characters, not encumbered by any comic saga or anything else, but just to kind of make a movie like I had made Walk the Line or 3:10 to Yuma or Girl, Interrupted or Cop Land out of these characters. Hugh had talked to me about wanting to make a powerful exit and I played with a lot of different ideas. I essentially told Hugh and the studio that I was working on an idea that was essentially an extremely bloody Little Miss Sunshine or something more like Little Miss Sunshine meets Scarface or something.
The essential idea at that point was that Logan was living in a Kentucky bourbon mill with Patrick [Stewart] suffering from a degenerative brain disease living inside one of these bourbon tanks. I at first was cross-cutting it with Laura’s escape from the laboratory, and the intention always, even when this was me alone writing, was just to kind of construct a road picture built around these three going on the road and then leaving out all other concerns except their survival. And then Charles getting hit mid-picture. But’s it’s not a random, “I’m gonna kill him” it was with a reason which is that my concept was that Logan is gonna resist paternity, and more than paternity, feelings for Laura; and as a dramatist you certainly go, “Well, what would be the most interesting thing? Take Charles away from him” meaning you have this trio on the road and then suddenly Charles is gone, and Charles is largely the reason this girl has been brought along with them, and if Charles is removed that puts the big question mark on Logan’s forehead, what is he gonna do? Is he gonna dump her, or is he gonna own it? And I think that to me became the essential dramatic flow for the movie.