Wednesday night, director James Mangold popped his claws and took his own stab at the #QuarantineWatchParty phenomenon that’s become a weekly event during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the watch party hosted by Comicbook.com, Mangold covered the ins and outs of Logan (2017), giving the inside scoop on Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) bloody last ride and sharing behind-the-scenes photos and stories from the production on his Twitter account.
An Early Start
Before he launched into the watch party, Mangold shared some photos of the cast he took during prep, which present a clear picture for the look and tone the filmmaker entered production with.
He’d Kill Us if He Got the Chance
Marco Beltrami‘s score is one of the highlights of the film. Mangold shared that the opening theme music was inspired by David Shire‘s score for Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Conversation (1974).
Mangold shared early concept art of Logan’s hideout with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant). He also revealed that the original plan was for their hideout to be in an abandoned distillery in Kentucky and Xavier was going to be kept in a giant tank. This was changed to Mexico in order to serve Logan’s trek north. The abandoned water tower where Xavier is kept was built for the film, while the surrounding buildings were redressed during production.
Logan dispatches with a lot of preconceived notions about the X-Men and their place in the world. Mangold said he never thought he’d get away with Xavier having accidentally killed the X-Men, but felt that a “profound tragedy” was important to the characters’ past. He also said that making these comic book films was, for him, a tightrope of honoring the characters, but also delivering something new and disorienting the audiences a bit so that the films don’t exist as a cash grab.
Mangold revealed that the decision to handle the exposition of Laura’s (Dafne Keen) backstory through iPhone footage was co-writer Scott Frank‘s. The footage on that phone, set at Alkali-Transigen, was a separate production shot with high8 cameras and iPhones. Mangold also commended young Keen for carrying so much of the film on her shoulders.
When it comes to storyboarding, not just for Logan, but his films in general, Mangold said that he needs an artist who understands, “I am interested in the shots themselves telling a story beyond the words.”
(Editor’s note: Mangold later corrected that these storyboards were actually drawn by Marc Vena.)
It’s common knowledge that films are very rarely shot in sequential order of the script. True to this, Mangold revealed that the first scene shot for the movie was Logan, Xavier and Laura in the elevator in the casino.
Mangold shared a previz video of Xavier’s psionic seizure in the casino, providing a cool glimpse at how the sequence came together. The VFX was achieved with a limited budget by shaking the camera and then using a shake-reduction app to create the smeared look of the image.
The dinner scene where Xavier talks about being a teacher and Logan as a poor student was improvised by Jackman and Stewart. In terms of improvisation in his films, Mangold said, “It’s my job to be open to new ideas at all times. The viz & the script is a map, a draft. The shooting is another draft. My greatest asset is my great actors. If they cannot play, I only get half what they offer.” The improvisation also provided a nice moment of levity before the following gruesome scenes and the introduction of X-24 (Hugh Jackman).
Ice Cream for Bedwetters or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Comics
Mangold said that the day he and Frank solved the story of the movie was the day they came up with the idea to have X-Men comics exist in the world of the movie as exaggerated stories that Logan hated. He said, “In a way, this idea encapsulates my love/hate relationship with ‘super hero’ films. I love the mythic values of them. They’re morality tales of a modern age. But I hate they often reaffirm an idea that God will save us. That we as mortals bear no responsibility for our lives.”
Mangold went on to drop the truth bomb about the rationale behind Logan, “I tried to make a film that put us in the shoes of gods. Frail gods. So we could feel their disappointment in us. And also their exhaustion. The movie is, for me, undeniably political. About an age when we hide in consumerism, distracted in fantasy, as our real world burns.”
In a deleted scene at the end of The Wolverine (2013), Mangold revealed a comics-accurate, brown and yellow Wolverine outfit. When asked if he’d ever considered using the costume in Logan and if Jackman had ever done fittings for it, the director responded, “He never put it on. We never even made a version of the outfit. Everything about his character, as I understand it, would keep him from donning a self-promoting ‘uniform.’ I’m sure the next incarnation of the Wolverine will go there.”
Mangold addressed the decision to have Laura kill X-24 rather than having Logan have a rematch against his clone in a lengthy battle. “I wanted the Logan that felt love to be essentially weaker than the version who did not feel anything. Also, I wanted his daughter to have the final word as the world was hers now. Logan was essentially trying to kill his own past in the end, the dark legacy of Weapon X and all the pain he had caused when he was a killing machine. I felt it had to be the best of himself that crushed this demon. And the best of himself was in the form of his daughter.”
Mangold followed that by saying, “In the end, I felt that the greatest tribute we could offer this great character created by this great actor (@RealHughJackman) was to allow him to leave this world after 200-plus years of pain in a moment of love and tenderness.” The next morning, Jackman responded in kind, writing, “The final line of Logan’s — ‘So this is what it feels like’ —was one of the master strokes of the script. The right words to ending a nine-movie character arc.”