35 Things We Learned from James Mangold's 'Logan' Commentary

"Charles has to pee, Logan takes him to the bathroom, Laura needs another quarter stuck in her kiddie ride."

Commentary Logan James Mangold

21. The idea that X-Men comics exist in this film’s universe came to he and co-writer Scott Frank late in the writing of the script. He acknowledges it’s similar to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (an inspiration here) which features a character chronicling the adventures of various gunfighters. The idea of Logan’s uneasiness with the burden of fame and public awareness fascinated him.

22. The hotel sequence where Xavier loses control and affects everyone in the area was an instance of ingenuity over budgetary limitations. Rather than hand the sequence over to an effects house (that they couldn’t afford anyway) they essentially used a program currently available on smart phones that takes shaky footage and attempts to smooth it out. “What we did is we used that technology, only we shook the camera like mad.”

23. The scene featuring horses loose on the freeway was accomplished with riders “in blue leotards” on each of the horses who controlled the animals to their mark under Xavier’s psychic control.

24. Much of the dinner scene between Logan, Xavier, Laura, and the farming family was improvised by the actors.

25. Regarding the question of why X-24 instead of Sabretooth or some other super-villain, Mangold says he played around with these other ideas before settling on the clone. “With any more elaborate character arriving you required a set of explanations. What is Sabretooth doing there? Why is he helping Transigen? What is his role in capturing Laura? Also these are more verbal characters, so now they’re gonna talk.” It also goes back to his earlier point about finding what scares Wolverine the most. Fighting another bad guy doesn’t do it, but fighting and facing himself? Boom.

26. The shot of a wounded Xavier in the back of the truck was Stewart’s final bit of filming for Logan, “and in all likelihood the very last time he’ll play this character.”

27. He was thrilled to cast James Handy as the country doctor, both because he’s a great actor and because “he’s in a favorite film of mine, Sidney Lumet’s The Verdict.”

28. Some crew members were shocked to hear Keen speak during the scene where she first does so onscreen. “I think no one ever looked at her the same on the crew after this day.”

29. The very first trailer resulted in fans sending Mangold images from the game The Last of Us, and while he wishes he could credit it as even a minor inspiration he had never seen or played it before making his movie. He’s since played it and agrees that “it’s a great game.” And now he’s getting requests from fans to adapt it for the screen. “Well no, I think I kind of did, you guys made that clear to me.”

30. He says an important element for young filmmakers to consider, one barely discussed even in film school, is point of view. It’s typically clear in novels and stories, but he finds that movies often neglect to attach themselves to its characters. “That can cause story problems, but it also makes the movie visually less interesting.”

31. He acknowledges that he may have driven some sound men crazy over the years with “how low and quiet I’ll allow my actors to play. Unlike some sets I absolutely forbid the sound man from sending word that ‘I need a little more level.’ I just won’t let him do I because there are magical moments… that feel like we’ve been invited in on something forbidden.” He thinks that as vocal performances get louder it too often feels like acting.

32. “It’s very basic action,” he says, “it’s very primal.” The goal was to move away from exploding cities and large spectacle and a move towards “a kind of primal, Braveheart, Gladiator, blood and guts level” degree of action. “These are characters with knives in their fists. It would seem logical that the action would essentially be a kind of a street fight.”

33. Frank wrote Logan’s final line of dialogue, “So this is what it feels like.” Mangold believes he’s referring to more than just the feeling of death. “I also think he means love.”

34. The idea of Laura turning the grave marker from a cross into an X was inspired in part by Mangold’s father, a painter who is known for a series of paintings called the Plus series and the X series, “so I have a very ingrained sense of the relationship of the cross and the X.” There’s also a comic book cover from the ’80s showing Logan stuck to an X atop a mountain of skulls.

35. He asks that you watch the entirety of the end credits despite there being no end credits stinger so that you can see the cast and crew’s names. “There’s no one here who didn’t work their ass off making this movie.”

Best in Context-Free Commentary

“Don’t lose patience with me if there’s a little bit of a pause.”

“When you’re casting you’re looking for people who make the most interesting stew possible.”

“No one’s going ‘can Logan have a funny little robot friend? Or a furry little critter?'”

“In many ways, this movie is a three-legged stool.”

“What I love most about westerns is their simplicity. I think movies have gotten really complicated.”

“I’m sure no one wanted to see a meatloaf for a year after shooting these two days.”

“The film almost enters the emotional and style space of a horror film.”

“It’s very important for my actors to confound my sound man.”

Buy Logan on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon.

Final Thoughts

Mangold’s Logan track is every bit as insightful as I had hoped it would be, and the director makes an effort to explain both the practical side of filmmaking and the more ethereal aspects regarding motivation and intent. He offers up anecdotes from the production and details as to how certain shots were achieved, and he shows an awareness regarding the film’s role as a superhero movie slightly askew to the far more traditional ones we know and love. It’s a great listen, and while the film itself is worth multiple re-watches I recommend you turn the commentary on for one of them.

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