James Mangold Wanted Logan to Bring Maturity to Comic Book Movies

Logan marks actor Hugh Jackman’s last turn as the iconic X-Men character Wolverine, and director James Mangold’s second at bat with the character after 2013’s The Wolverine, and this time around everyone involved went hard to the pavement for an R-rated film.

Wolverine cosplayer Lonstermash spoke with Mangold at the press junket for Logan about the benefits of an R rating beyond just making the movie more violent. Mangold also reflects on his almost twenty year relationship with Jackman, going back to their time working together on Kate & Leopold.

 

Lonstermash: This is obviously not the first time you’ve directed a Hugh Jackman Wolverine movie, and it’s not the first time you’ve directed him in general, you directed him in Kate & Leopold many years ago. Back when you worked with him then, did you ever imagine that you’d be doing X-Men movies with him, or hope to be doing them?

James Mangold: Neither. I had no idea that that’s where I would land. When I did Kate & Leopold, it was right after the first X-Men came out, so first of all I had no idea what would happen to that franchise. I was just thrilled to be working with him on Kate & Leopold, and kind of dazzled with him. You know, having known Hugh almost twenty years now, what is the truth for me about him is just how continually, over and over again, he surprises me with the depth of his acting, his versatility, his ability to keep reinventing himself in movie after movie.

I mean I think he’s—there’s two things: One, I think he’s a real throwback to actors of the golden age. But also I really identify with him, because as a filmmaker I’ve made a lot of different kinds of movies, and his versatility is something that I think in some ways makes it sometimes harder for people to get a handle on him. Like, what is he, is he an action guy, is he a song and dance man?

Lonstermash: You think you’ve got him nailed, and then you don’t really—

James Mangold: Yeah. Well it’s much easier to write, for journalists to write and make commentary, about actors or directors who fit in a certain box. The master of horror, the action man, the king of the western, whatever it is. But when you can kind of move around to different places I think it takes longer for people to put you in a box, it makes it easier to talk about what you do.

Lonstermash: So, this being your second X-Men movie, and specifically each of them being about Wolverine, were you a big fan of the character growing up by any chance?

James Mangold: I loved the X-Men growing up, and I loved Wolverine growing up. And if anything, this movie—because I got a chance to start from scratch—was my attempt to try to find a tone that I felt in comics. A kind of, frankly, adult tone that I found in comics that, when we make the movies from comics, I think we tend to actually make them more childish than the comics. When I was twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old reading X-Men or The Flash or Superman or Spider-Man or World’s Finest, God, Howard the Duck, whatever they were they always seemed racy and ahead. They seemed slightly forbidden and slightly about growup things. The themes, the hurts between the characters, the love affairs, the wounds from the past, the grudges; these all seemed to be really viable, grownup things, that you could explore and live in in these comics that somehow get a little airbrushed in the movies. And I felt like we should really try and go long, and go deep on this one.

Lonstermash: Well you most certainly have done that in the two movies, I’m very impressed. The story for Logan, you were combining elements from the famous Old Man Logan story and of course the very famous X-23 character Laura Kinney. So how did you come up with the brilliant idea to combine these two, and also how’d you come up with the idea of using the Reavers as the bad guys?

James Mangold: Well the easy one to answer is coming up with the idea to combine Laura and Charles. The first thing I did was go, “I wanna make a movie that pushes hard on Logan on the inside”. And then I said, “well, what’s he most frightened of?” And what he’s most frightened of is love. So then I saddled him with a father and a daughter. What could be more threatening? Not a supervillain, but in a sense a family. And decided to make a kind of very domestic film about a character who is loath to open himself up. Forced to, in a sense. And I thought that would yield the results, if this was gonna be our last film, I thought that this would yield the kind of emotional results we’d be looking for.

Lonstermash: So I know a lot of fans felt your previous movie, The Wolverine, would’ve been even better if it were rated R. This time you finally got the R rating, so looking back, what could you have done to The Wolverine if you were allowed to give it an R-rated—

James Mangold: Well I think they key thing that happens with a rated R, beyond the violence—it’s kind of obvious the answer to your question in discussions of obscenity or violence or sexuality, but the key thing I think people don’t think about when you make a film rated R is that it also restricts who’s coming, right? So now there’s not gonna be children there, and the studio has to accept that the movie’s gonna make less money cause there’s less people who are allowed to come. So then the result of all that becomes, well now that you’re making it only for people over sixteen/seventeen years of age, the movie can be more sophisticated in its themes, its dialogue, the way the characters interact, because you suddenly are not having to sell happy meals or keep a nine-year-old or eleven-year-old amused. And that’s a big change, that’s a big change.

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