You’ve seen Logan (if not, consider this your spoiler warning). You want to know more about how it was made. So did I (my review). Here are 8 things I dug up:
1. It was only after a conversation with Jerry Seinfeld that Hugh Jackman decided to make Logan his final Wolverine movie
Sometime after the release of The Wolverine in 2013, Seinfeld and Jackman, who are apparently friends, met for dinner. The former sitcom giant who left mountains of money on the table by walking away from his show at the height of its ratings power told Jackman the secret is to leave a little in the tank. As Jackman told EW, “The moment he said it, I was like, ‘This is it!’ I’m quite indecisive, but when I get the gut feeling it’s kind of a relief to me. When I met my wife, I knew. With the kids, I kid. When I was talking to Jerry that day, I was like, Oh, yeah.”
2. They didn’t just go with an R rating just because Deadpool made that cool again
It’s very tempting to cynically assume Logan is only an R-Rated movie because Deadpool made that the trendy thing to do. However, it’s more that Deadpool’s success allowed them the get what they had already been asking for. Jackman wanted an R because after 17 years fans finally deserved to see the ultra-violent, R-Rated version of Wolverine they knew from the comics; director-writer James Mangold wanted the R not so much for the violence but for the emotional complexity you could more easily work in that environment. As he told THR:
As much as this movie kind of dived into the violence of having a lead character and a daughter with claws, I think it’s also about feeling the weight and the loss that the aftermath of violence results in. And that is what I was most interested in, in making an adult-themed film, a more sophisticated film. For me, getting the studio to agree to rated R is also when the movie stops being about the four boxes. The movie stops being a vehicle for moving merchandise. No one’s watching the film through the prism of a 9-year-old or a 12-year-old and hoping to be able to sit through this six-minute scene between Charles Xavier and Hugh Jackman.
3. There was less pushback from the studio than you’d expect
Mangold told EW, “There was some hesitation [on Fox’s part about the rating], but we sweetened the pot in several ways. I said that I’d make the movie for less money than these movies cost, which we did- significantly less [final budget=$100m]. Hugh said that he’d take less of a paycheck than he usually gets.”
After all of that, Mangold had little to no conflict with the studio while making the movie. There were no worried visits to the set from executives nor where there outraged reactions to the dailies. He was left alone to make his movie.
That doesn’t mean the people at the studio weren’t freaking out though. Last month, Fox co-chairman Stacy Snider admitted “Inside, there was real consternation about the intensity of the tone of the film. It’s more of an elegy about life and death. The paradigm for it was a Western, and my colleagues were up in arms. It’s not a wise-cracking cigar-chomping mutton-sporting Wolverine, and the debate internally became, isn’t that freakin’ boring? Isn’t it exciting to imagine Wolverine as a real guy and he’s world-weary and he doesn’t want to fight anymore until a little girl needs him?”
4. The biggest fight they had was actually over the title
As I stood in the ticket line at my local movie theater Friday night, I heard not one but two teenage girls ask, “Logan? What’s that?” They then bought tickets to Before I Fall.
Perhaps those specific girls were never going to and will never see Logan, but that kneejerk response of “Logan? What’s that?” is exactly what Fox executives were terrified would happen if they didn’t put the name Wolverine in the title. In fact, the title worried Fox even more than the script, R rating, decision to kill off Wolverine at the end, etc. As Mangold explained in a Variety podcast interview:
That [Logan title] was the biggest negotiation of the entire picture. The title was something I had to push very hard, and ultimately Stacy [Snider] made the call and backed me on the idea of separating us, however counterintuitive it was to actually divorce yourself from known brand, Wolverine or X-Men. Certainly, the first Wolverine movie couldn’t let go of either brand. I hate those kinds of titles, and, frankly, we were in a bit of a quandary because what do you call this? There was a movie called Wolverine Origins X-Men whatever, and then there was The Wolverine, which was the last one I made. Will this one then be The Wolverine 2? Or Wolverine 3? Or Wolverine 3: The Happening? Or Wolverine 3: The Great Ride?
How/why did they settle on Logan?
What was most important and what won the day with Stacy when she was deciding what to do was to get the public ready for a different movie. If we called it the same thing or just added a new digit after The Wolverine I had a great fear that we would not be signaling with a sense of continuity and unanimity that we were doing something different in tone and in who we were aiming at for the audience.
5. Liev Schreiber was almost in it
If you are among the fortunate few to have gone this long without seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine you should feel no need to change that anytime soon. Keep on living your life unburdened by the writers strike-hobble embarassment that is Origins: Wolverine. However, if you have seen the movie you might have at some point wondered if Logan would ever reunite with his brother Sabretooth (played in Origins by Liev Schreiber). That’s obviously never going to happen now, but out of respect to that dangling story thread the original script for Logan did actually include a cameo for Schreiber’s character (and Schreiber had been on the record as being open to returning). Logan’s co-screenwriter Scott Frank spilled the vaguely recalled details to CinemaBlend:
There was a moment when we were thinking about, as I recall, Jim [Mangold] had an idea where when they were on the run, and they go to the gambling town, there may have been at that point they were going to see (Sabertooth) for help. He was going to be there for help. Now that you mention it! I wouldn’t swear to it, but we thought that would have been an interesting thing to do. And then for whatever reason we didn’t do it.
6. The original script had a flashback depicting the Westchester incident
Logan is surprisingly reserved with one of its more startling revelations, specifically that Charles Xavier might have inadvertently killed the X-Men while suffering one of his debilitating, “everyone around me freezes and stops breathing” seizures. It’s a brilliant twist on the Old Man Logan graphic novel which inspired the movie since in Old Man Logan it is Wolverine who has killed the X-Men (and Avengers and just about all the good guys in the Marvel universe), not Xavier. However, Logan‘s oft-referenced “Westchester incident” is never explained to us beyond a two-line, over-the-radio summation which is cut off before it can even finish saying “X-Men.”. What actually happened? Is Xavier right to go to his death bed thinking himself guilty of killing the X-Men? Where was Wolverine during all of that?
All would have been made clear if they’d gone with the original script, as according to co-screenwriter Michael Green told THR, “Of course there are versions we wrote that were never filmed with the actual flashback of what happened, but I’ve found the experience of watching it is far more poignant to just know that it was something really regrettable and it was bad and most likely, friends were lost. Or maybe it was people we didn’t know.”
Mangold more succinctly weighed in, “I wanted to make a movie less about information and more about character,” a sentiment he has backed up on Twitter this weekend, using the hashtag #NoSpoonFeeding while directly answering fan questions about this particularly plot point.
Green likes that fans can now debate their own interpretations. “Nothing will be better than going online and reading fan theories about what happened at the end because I want to hear that version. I know what I think happened, I even know what did happen, but it doesn’t matter, because what’s canonized here is the emotional effect of things. I would love one day to read a beautifully drawn comic where someone actually writes out something.”
7. Those comics were made specifically for the movie
When one of the Logan trailers revealed there’d be a scene of Wolverine reading one of the comics and dismissing them as inaccurate trash it struck some (myself included) as a potential misstep, an oddly meta moment for a franchise which should leave that kind of commentary to Deadpool. However, in the context of the actual movie the in-universe X-Men comics make a certain kind of sense as the Jesse James dime-store pulp novels to Logan’s graying western hero. More than that, though, the comics, or at least one specific splash page from one book, proves essential to the plot.
As such, perhaps it comes as little surprise that they didn’t just happen upon those comics in the Marvel archive. They were made specifically for the movie. According to io9, Dan Panosian—who’s provided art for a variety of real Marvel comics, from X-Men to Captain America, to Web of Spider-Man, to the recent Daredevil ongoing—drew 12 covers for the film, as well as providing the interior story work on the comic that Logan flicks through while mocking its inaccuracy to the “real” events of the X-Men’s adventures.
Mangold told RollingStone he’s still stunned no one at Fox told him he couldn’t put the comics in the movie. He’s glad he got away with it, “The meta-idea that [co-writer] Scott Frank and I came up with, where the X-Men comic books existed in the film, was justified in our mind by the way in Unforgiven, you know, Richard Harris is kind of writing about the legends. The relationship of superheroes and their own celebrity is really something that doesn’t get explored that much, and if the hero is in twilight, there’s a slight Sunset Boulevard reality to these characters. That seemed really exciting.”
8. Hugh Jackman’s final scene of the movie was also his final scene of the shoot
When asked about Jackman’s last day on set Mangold told THR:
“It was a scramble against daylight before it went away, to be honest. We were doing his final scene in the film …The truth is that both Hugh and I felt the weight of these things as we were making the film but my goal, to whatever degree the director is also coach, is actually to not feel them. That is a feeling that is best explored when we’re not actually making the movie.
But the second the sun had gone behind the mountain and we all realized we had just finished his last picture, there was of course a huge feeling of finality. But as Hugh says, this character will always be a huge part of him so I don’t think he really feels like he’s saying goodbye as much as he’s just trying to end things on a high note.”
As Jackman referenced in his Twitter video, there were re-shoots. So, he actually had two “wrap” days, and on at least one of those days he filmed his death scene. I like to think that someone then yelled out, “Okay, everyone that’s a wrap on Mr. Hugh Jackman,” but everyone was crying too hard to clap. Maybe they’ll be clapping for him (and Patrick Stewart) come awards season next year.