James Mangold, Hugh Jackman & Hutch Parker Discuss The Making Of LOGAN NOIR
[Published at Film Inquiry] For one night only, Logan Noir, the black and white version of Logan, was released theatrically in the US on May 16, followed by the a press conference moderated by MTV’s Josh Horowitz. Taking place at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn and streamed live in Drafthouse theaters in major cities across the country, it marked that last of Logan’s legendary press tour that began on February 12 at the Berlin International Film Festival (The Berlinale). Attending the press junket was Logan writer and director James Mangold, star Hugh Jackman, and producer Hutch Parker.
Having had time to look back on Logan in retrospect, over the 30-minute Q and A, the three shared their final thoughts on the film and its massive success over the course of its theatrical run, including reservations, reception, making Stephen Colbert cry three times, getting emotional with Sir Patrick Stewart at the Berlinale premiere, the paradox of violence depiction in film, Dafne Keen’s powerhouse performance and the very high possibility of future X-23 films, and where Jackman sees his next move in the X-Men universe.
Finally, the three industry powerhouses discussed the labor of love that was the post-production transition to Logan Noir as an ode to fans of Logan’s marketing process who craved to see the whole film in black and white. Eventually, it got the better of Mangold’s curiosity, and Logan Noir does not disappoint for fans of the genre, cinephiles, and casual filmgoers alike. Before the film, Horowitz made sure to remind lucky viewers of the privilege of such a unique experience:
“Brooklyn, you’re really lucky, and theaters around the country, you are also lucky because you get to be part of this very cool event. Are you ready to the part of a very cool elite club as the only people would see Logan Noir on the big screen. Shall we? Okay guys, enjoy the film and [see you] on the other side!”
I won’t speak too much about the magnificence of the crisp black and white masterpiece that ensued, but check out my review of Logan Noir tomorrow!
Horowitz: I want to say hello to the theaters around the country, some 30 theaters that are watching us live. Thank you for joining us. This is gonna be a lot of fun. Without any further ado, let’s get into some conversation about Logan and Logan Noir. Give it up for this amazing panel, producer, Hutch Parker, writer, director, James Mangold, and a man that we all know and love, there would be no Wolverine, no Logan without him, Mr. Hugh Jackman![audience clapping, laughing, and howling]
Jackman: The claws are out! I like it.
Horowitz: Congratulations again, guys.
Jackman: Thanks, Josh.
Mangold: Thank you so much.
Jackman: Thank you guys for coming. We really appreciate it.
Horowitz: So, first up, I do want to ask a little bit about the presentation that this privileged audience got to see in theaters around the country of Logan Noir. How did this idea happen? How did we get here? Was this something you always kind of intended to present in some form?
Mangold: It very much came from fans. Those of you who follow us on Twitter and whatever other social media you might [have], I’ve got a lot of blank and white photos that myself and some other photographers took during production. And early on, I started releasing some of the photos, and they were in black and white, and the fans’ response was huge.
And I thought our lighting, and Hugh, and all the characters look fabulous in black and white. And it just struck us that we should [do it]. It first occurred to us that we should do it on home video and produce a black and white version, and as we were working on it, it looked so good, we said ‘we want to see this on big screen.’ I think people might show up and see it.
Audience: It was great!
Mangold: Thank you! And one of the biggest reasons to do it is because I think there is something changing out there. People are looking for things. There’s a lot of film fans out there and people are looking for things that connect to the past, things that look different, things that are new, but also old again. And I think that for a long time, studios have had an assumption that you guys need bright colors at all times to stay amused, and loud sounds at all times to stay amused. And I would think that’s true.
I think audiences are getting more sophisticated and more interested in seeing creativity, exploring all different sorts of different ways, and even just one night, seeing this movie this way, helps people see that there’s audiences out there for a monochrome movie, for a different kind of movie in any way – that’s great.
Jackman: I want to give a shout out to two people that are here staying at the back, Chris Aronson and Steve Asbell. Names you may not have heard of. The PR people are here, guys, the people from the studio, high up at the studio. I think a lot of people assume that studios are just very risk averse, but actually, the fostering of this idea really grew from seeds within, as Jim explained, from his photography, but really took route with those two at the studios so, thank you guys!
Mangold: Thank you!
Jackman: We couldn’t have done it without you.
Horowitz: Can you gentlemen let us in on the initial conversations that led to the film we saw here and [the one] we saw back in March in terms of what were the first things that all three of you kind of wanted to see in this film? And were you kind of on the same page from the start? How difficult was it to kind of get on the same page among the three and with the studio?
Jackman: I’ve come to a new formula after 20 years in this business, that it actually takes fewer people who fight harder to make a movie you’re proud of. Hutch and I worked together for 20 years, but I knew I wouldn’t have anything if Jim wasn’t on board. I’m trying to remember, I think I mentioned The Wrestler.
Mangold: We were talking about The Wrestler, we were going through westerns. But the funny thing is, we know what we want and we both know what we didn’t want. That was the first thing we were coming from, We were both coming from a pretty negative place of going, ‘we don’t want to make it another one of those movies.’ Meaning just another one of the assembly line.
Even though there are lots of people that show up for them, we wanted to make something more human, more different. I think, that’s why [Hugh] references The Wrestler or movies like Unforgiven. There were a lot of different movies in our heads, but they all were united by one thing. They were personal films, not corporate. There was some level where we really didn’t want to do that. We really wanted to do a film that somehow was a film first, and happened to feature superheroes, as opposed to being a superhero film. And that difference kind of informed everything we did in every decision we made.
Horowitz: I don’t know, maybe this is something that difference Hutch could illuminate, but I’m curious, I mean, I think for context like, we can think about Deadpool now, this R-rated film that made so much money and was so successful with critics and fans. But you guys were in development, this was going to be R before Deadpool came out. You didn’t know there would be that audience. Was the studio always on board a 110%? Was there a massive fight in any way on any of the story points that we eventually saw that landed on the big screen?
Parker: There really wasn’t. The key catalyst in this, honestly, in my opinion, was Jim. We had conversations in different iterations that, even going back long before The Wolverine about more grounded story-telling within the universe. But, candidly, I don’t think we were equipped yet. We, and I’ll say it on behalf of the studio and even the various people involved, Jim was sort of a catalyst in so many different ways and in galvanizing the studio’s confidence about doing something bold in the conviction that he had about the tone that it required, and the kind of amazing instinct and navigational skill he had about where we needed to go with the story.
He really was in the best sense of what I think of as a filmmaker, the captain of this journey. And that was obviously in conjunction with Hugh, unquestionably, from the beginning. We often says this about actors, and its certainly true of Hugh in this role, but I cannot picture another filmmaker doing anything even close to what was accomplished with this film other than Jim. And I think that’s how significant change occurs in storytelling, in filmmaking, when somebody comes along that has the combination of talent and passion and instinct and conviction and skill. And that’s a rare thing.
Jackman: And [he has] guts, and [he’s] always so excited. It’s my third film with Jim, and we always talked about doing something along the 17 years that we worked together, but to have a blank canvass for Jim – I mean, unfortunately, you had to inherit an actor, but apart from that, it was a blank canvass in terms of script, of what we did with it. Steve Asbell and Emma Watts [of 20th Century Fox] and I had a meeting at a hotel in Los Angeles early on, and I thought that [meeting] would be tough. I said to Jim, ‘I’m just going to have a meeting so that they know that I’m really in and it’s not just you.’ And that was about a three-minute meeting. It was literally like ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m really serious, like this is what we wanna make.’ ‘Yeah, great, let’s go!’
Mangold: We kept bracing for people to be opposed to us. And certain things conspired, I think, in our favor. One was that Deadpool eventually came out. It was a massive success, so that defanged our fears about rated R quite as much. Also, we promised to make the movie for less money so that we could be rated R. So that helps. But the last thing that I talked about when the movie came out is, one of the main reasons I wanted it to be R, wasn’t, per se, blue language or violence, while all those things, in some way, particularly violence for this character was a value added for me, it was really because, when you make a movie of this scale, there’s a lot of pressure on the movie in the marketplace. And if the movie is rated R, frankly, it gets graded on the curve. Not everyone can go, it’s just that simple now. Not every 14-year-old or 11-year-old or 6-year-old, god-willing, is gonna be able to buy tickets in this movie. It reduces the box office.
Okay, so that’s a problem for the studio, that’s why we made it cheaper, but it does something else. It suddenly means you’re not making a movie for 6-year-olds and 9-year-olds and 11-year-olds, and the kind of story you can tell and the way you tell it when you’re not concerned with establishing cutesy sidekick characters that become something that they give away or someone makes action figures out of it or whether, or that you’re not worried about the attention span of a 7-year-old and whether they’re going to be looking up from their gummy bears or not.
You’re just telling a story for essentially grown-ups. You know, a huge part of the comic book world, of the world of the graphic novel, is adults who read them, not children, and that at some point, the marketing is skewed, when you make these movies, [they’re] all aimed at carrying really young children along. First of all, producers of movies of, frankly, even a PG-13 is too violent for kids in my opinion. But second of all, it also cheats grown-ups of having some part of their fantasy experience or their comic book experience honored with adult themes and ideas. And I think that by getting a rated R, it gave us a driver’s license to make, and I hope you agree, a more sophisticated movie, or movie that even took its time sometimes with the characters, as opposed to it having [to move] along so fast.
Horowitz: Let’s talk a little bit about the luxury of having a Q & A like this a couple of months after it’s been out, as we’ve all seen it, probably multiple times. So we can talk a little bit about the ending. Hugh, you’ve had a lot of time to kind of think about how you wanted to go out specifically, I think, how the ending would look to you, what your last moments on screen would be as this character. Did you have thoughts that you shared with James and Hutch in terms of what the final moments of Logan should be, what the last words should be? Were there alternates to the last scenes of the film?
Jackman: I’m gonna be honest, I was a pain in the ass for Jim, and I was wrong 95% of the time. But there was a lot of things that I was like ‘Jim, no,’ and fight it, and he would listen to me. And when I saw the movie, it was a literally, ‘yeah, you were right, you were right, you were right, you were right.’ Even before that, we were pretty open about whether it would be [does a symbolic finger slice to the throat] for Logan or not. Because Unforgiven was a huge influence for me, and actually the film was more devastating for me, the fact that he just rides out of town, unforgiven and somehow damned in his heroism, and I thought it was such a beautiful, poetic finish. And I said whatever we finish with, it has to be earned. So, when we went into it, forgive me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think we decided whether he would die or not.
Mangold: It was about, I think, earning the right ending. But I think we wanted it to feel over. Meaning, we wanted, in a sense, a real curtain coming down at the end. I don’t want to speak for you, but I certainly did not want people speculating that we left a hole open from more money making and milking and doing. I wanted it to be like, the curtains come down. We told the story. And it’s just a like a regular movie. We’re not leaving something out there, the story is over.
Jackman: But the highlight for me, and I’m saying this because so many people ask me, ‘who came up with that ending with the cross turning into the X?’, and that was Jim Mangold. So, he wrote it, and when I read it, I thought, that’s beautiful, you know, and seemed very poetic on the page, but when I saw it, I cried. And I sat next to Patrick Stewart, we saw it for the first time, and both of us wept. Stephen Colbert, I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this, but I just saw him the other night, he said ‘I’ve seen it three times in the theater, in the cinema, and I cried every single time at that final image.’ There were something so patient and courageous, as a filmmaker, to allow everything to culminate in at that one moment. And so it’s a privilege to be under the ground while that moment happens.[audience laughing and clapping]
Horowitz: We got some Twitter questions for you guys that everyone is submitting. Here’s the first one, James, how many kids did you have to audition until you found Dafne? And Hugh, can you talk a little bit of what it’s like working with her?
Mangold: There were thousands of kids – looked at around the world. I mean, we were very specific in the screenplay about what we needed, which was a Spanish-speaking young woman between 10 and 12. I didn’t want her to be too old. I didn’t want it to be kind of, CW kind of post-pubescent young. I wanted a kid. I wanted it to be a kid. And, Dafne, to be honest – I got this iPhone video of her from Madrid that her dad, who’s a wonderful actor and her mom, who’s a wonderful actor, recorded with her doing these scenes.
And, on the Blu-Ray, you might see these scenes that have been on the internet now for auditioning, this was before that. It’s something very raw, but also, like that, very magnificent. I just knew it was her. I mean, I remember pulling Hugh in and Hutch in and Patrick and everyone I could find and say, this is the kid. She is amazing, and she had never been in a movie before. I think you’ll agree with me, she is an amazing kid [audience clapping]. What was it like working with her, Hugh?
Jackman: She’s astonishing. I mean, I have an 11-year-old daughter, so I was watching the two of them play on set. Literally, sometimes, looking like 7 or 8-year-olds, very sort of innocent and sweet and then literally just whacking on the claws and slicing humans in half. She’s so very normal and extraordinary at the same time. Incredibly intense, loved the set, hated being dragged from set, wanted to work longer, really wanted to watch and would listen. But she wouldn’t just say yes to anything, right? She really had a kind of conviction within herself.
Mangold: She’s a real actress. She didn’t want to be told ‘Look here. Smile here. Blink here.’ She wanted to know. She wanted me to describe what the scene is about or what would be the vibe in the scene and she’d actually get disconcerted if I started to kind of give her what I call ‘results notes.’ Like just, ‘do this, feel this.’ She is a real actress.
Jackman: Super cool. Very relaxed. Although when we were at the MTV Awards last Sunday, she came up to me and she seemed very sort of, all of a sudden quite shy and a little starstruck. I said ‘You okay?’, she goes ‘I really want a photo with Emma Watson. Can I get a photo with Emma Watson?’ and all of a sudden she turned into an 11-year-old. It was very sweet.
Horowitz: Is that the last we’ve seen X-23? Have you talked to the studios? Is there potentially more for her?
Mangold: Anything’s possible, but I’ve certainly talked to them about it. I even talked to them before we made the movie. I thought she is a great character. But with what Dafne did, I think certainly that’s possible.
Horowitz: Tantalizing, okay. Next question from our audience, Hugh, has there been anything you’ve been able to learn about yourself through growing with and playing the character of Logan over the years?
Jackman: Yeah, this was my first film in America so, 17, 18 years ago. I’ve learned so much and continue to learn, but in the end, I was left with this incredible feeling of confidence. I suppose that if you are lucky enough to surround yourself with the right people, you can bring the best out in yourself. And one of the reasons I wanted Jim to direct me, first off, very selfishly, is he gets the best performances out of anybody. So when it comes to The Wolverine, I was like ‘It’s already my 8th or 7th movie or something’ and I was like ‘I’ve got to dig deeper,’ and Jim was one of those people.
And he was a writer and developer as well, [and] we knew each other. Hutch is the same. When you have people around you that are honest, that are not afraid to push you, but that, underneath all that, believe in you, then as an actor, you feel free. Because I used to find it, particularly when I began, a quite daunting thing. Really, I was more at home on a stage than a sound stage. A sound stage at all, I feel very disjointed.
When I first began, I realized that I do love the feeling of theater, the feeling of family where it’s not perfect. People will argue, people will yell but underneath, there is a belief in each other that you will get the job done. And that you will be honest with each other when you are letting each other down and that’s what I wanted. It is the most important thing to have, that faith in the people around you, and I have been very, very lucky to have that.
Horowitz: Another question actually about the Logan Noir version we just saw for you, James. Is black and white now your preferred version? If so, we kind of addressed this a little bit, [but] was it ever discussed for the initial release?
Mangold: I have to be honest and say no, I made the movie as a color film. So, I would be kind of lying if I said that. I wanted to see the film as a black and white film, but if I were making a black and white film and saying it’s the preferred version, we’d be planning from the ground up in the very beginning, which in this world right now is highly unlikely because it’s very hard to get anybody to watch a production, particularly a mega-budget black and white film that’s never going to be in color.
I have friends who even made black and white films, and they still have to produce a colored version just for some territories that absolutely refuse to distribute the black and white. So, just the world marketplace of film hasn’t involved to that place yet. I love this version of the movie but it would be like picking among my children, and my production side over there would literally faint if I said all the work we went to with color, and my DP, and all of the work that went to with the costume designer and the work we went to was out the window because I suddenly prefer this one. Let’s say I love all my children.[audience laughing]
Horowitz: You finally got to do your black and white western. It happened. Another question from the fans out there: Hugh, how emotional were you on your last day of shooting?
Jackman: It took me a bit by surprise. I think I remember the last day. It was sort of a bits and piece-y kind of day. As often happens, you know. I have a friend who always says, ‘not with a bang but a whip,’ often films finish like that, you know. The end scenes were not the last scenes we shot, and I was so involved with these guys, even when we shot I knew we still have a long way to go. We finished last August, right? So, we still had seven or eight months.
Honestly, I don’t think it sunk in until I sat in Berlin with Patrick Stewart and that cross turned into an X and that’s when I feel I really let it go. I think I was a pain in the ass because it meant so much to me. 17 years, and I’d felt – Hutch and I, we talked about this 11 years ago, a version of this film. I really believe in them, and I’m so grateful to the studio that they backed Jim’s vision and that we worked together and it meant so much to me. I couldn’t really relax until I saw it. And, when I did, I was just so grateful. I remember saying to Jim, I will never, ever, in a million years be able to tell you how grateful I am because delivered something way beyond what I could have.
Mangold: It was not possible without these people. Honestly, they have been very kind to me. It’s really nice to have an idea, and to want to pursue that idea, but it’s hard to get somewhere without a lot of people behind you and on the sides of you and helping, and it’s very kind. But also, he’s a phenomenal actor, Hugh Jackman, and yeah [audience clapping]. It is a point of pride for me that I think that I got to co-write and direct him in this movie because I think he is fucking fabulous in this movie, and unlike many on their final trip around the bases, reached deeper and hit it further than he ever had, and I think that’s really amazing.
Horowitz: As I let you gentlemen go, we talked many times the last couple of years leading into this. The retirement door is still firmly shutting? You’ve had a couple of months to think about it. Perhaps you went out in the way you wanted, as you just said. You couldn’t have ended this any better.
Jackman: I see this movie, and I think, ‘people want a musical?’ [laughter] That’s what I’m thinking!
Horowitz: There’s hope![laughter]
Jackman: Maybe something like a circusy-kind of feel. I don’t know.
Mangold: With claws.[laughter]
Jackman: Yeah, with claws!
Horowitz: This is one of your last interviews, probably, about this franchise, about these characters, so it’s been a privilege to talk to you about it, and thank you so much for your time today. Congratulations on the film, guys. Thank you for being here today.
Jackman: Thank you!
Parker: Thank you!
Mangold: Thank you for coming out tonight. Really appreciate it!
Jackman: And all audiences around the country, thank you!
Did you enjoy Logan in theaters? Are you excited to see Logan Noir? Will you be purchasing the Blu-Ray next week for all of the behind-the-scenes extras? Which version is better, Logan or Logan Noir?
Logan is available for purchase on Blu-Ray on May 23, which will include the Logan Noir version!