Director of Logan Talks Film

Logan Director James Mangold recently spoke with IGN promoting the Blu-Ray release of Logan. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

On how the dinner scene in the film was crafted: “Well, it’s an interesting question. As fans, as the Blu-ray comes out, one of the things fans can see is kind of an alternate or some additional material we shot for that dinner scene, where Charles talks about Jean Grey, and Hugh and him have kind of a… the dinner takes actually a darker turn. A lot of what we did on those days, fairly early in the shoot, was I just played with the actors. The scene as written in the script was quite a bit shorter, and literally was someone asking about whether Hugh had a wife, and Hugh just saying we should move on, and ending it. But there, once we had everyone at the table, there seemed to be opportunities to me. And what’s so wonderful about having actors that have been, in the case of Patrick [Stewart] and Hugh, who’ve been in these roles for so long, is to give them a chance to just improvise. And, you know, we’d improvise something, and I’d scribble down what I liked and then kind of turn that into script, and we actually came back a second day. So that whole beat about the school actually came out of improvisation. Where, for those who are watching and don’t know, it’s the moment when Hugh … Quincy Fouse, who plays the boy of the household who is talking about not wanting to go to school anymore, and Hugh Jackman warns him, you’d better be careful, you know, Charles here used to run a school. That was Hugh improvising. And then Patrick’s response was a different moment, also improvised. So it was very much playing with different techniques. I think one of the reasons scenes like this don’t happen so much in the kinds of movies you’re talking about is that we’ve gotten to a place where these movies are so planned and boarded and pre-vized that there’s very little room for play. Kind of, you know, on-set play.”

On if the film’s lower budget allowed for more scenes like that: “Time. Time gives you more room. But also, it’s your mental attitude. If the movie’s about action and about planning and about kind of having planned out the shots in advance, you close the door as a director, mentally, on things surprising you. I do plan — obviously you can’t make movies like this without planning — but I try to always be aware that one of my jobs is to not only come with what I thought was gonna happen, and have planned for it, but have my eyes open for what is happening. Just like you in an interview. It’s like, that’s more interesting than the question [before] this. I didn’t think this question was interesting, I thought I was gonna get my good answer on [that]. … But you lean into wherever it’s good.”

On the parallels between the film and Westerns like Unforgiven: “Well, they are quite intentional. Obviously [Unforgiven] itself was really inspiring. Other Eastwood movies too — Outlaw Josey Wales — many. And also Shane, obviously, though not an Eastwood movie. But there’s another interesting parallel, which was another inspiration for us, was Old Man Logan. And Old Man Logan clearly derived a lot of inspiration from Unforgiven! So there’s this kind of nexus of mutual inspiration going on.

On any moments where he thought they had something special or things seemed crazy to him: “Those are both emotions I could have before lunch on a given day! But, yeah, you go — look. The experience when you’re waking up at a god-forbidden hour and working 18 hours and going to bed and far from home, you’d better have moments once in a while where you feel like something good is happening. I had them very often on this. But there were also moments where I would despair or feel like I’ve let the scene down. Part of doing your best is demanding a lot from yourself and the people around you, and part of doing that is also never being satisfied or going … like, the most dangerous time, I think, as a director on a set, is when everyone knows they did good work. Like even you haven’t finished shooting the scene, but you’ve got some of the shots and everyone knows the scene is cooking. You get cocky. Everyone gets like it’s done already. And, it’s like, how many times have we seen in sports where a team gets a big lead and then they blow it? And there’s this weird euphoria that you actually have to get immune to, because you can kind of suddenly — suddenly you go back and you go, wow, we did nail that scene, but the scene we shot after that in the afternoon, we completely screwed up because we all felt relieved and zoned out and thought about other things. So it’s crazy, making movies. It’s this kind of crazy mind journey.”