For 17 years, one movie character has stood alone as the seminal outsider. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine burst onto the scene in 2000’s X-Men, the scruffy, scowling tough guy in a world of spandex and square jaws. He’s the gruff loner who would happily tell the entire world where to jump, but his capacity to be drawn to those who need help has made him a classic anti-hero, far more complicated than your average superhero lead.
After nearly two decades with the character, though, it’s time to say goodbye. Logan is being publicised as the final outing for Jackman as the character, and it’s decidedly different to what we’ve seen before. Taking familiar faces and putting them in darker territory, this stripped down Western sees the man formerly known as Wolverine now a recluse. Caring for an ailing Professor X (Sir Patrick Stewart), he sees one last chance at redemption when a young girl, Laura (played by Dafne Keen), arrives on their doorstep.
Director James Mangold is the filmmaker charged with bringing one of cinema’s most celebrated journeys to a close. Famed for Oscar-winning dramas such as Walk The Line and 3:10 To Yuma, as well as the previous Wolverine film (2013’s The Wolverine), he reveals how to build a truly enduring hero.
1. Take what you know, and start again
“[Logan] starts quite a few years after all the other movies have ended, and finds these characters in vastly different circumstances. Charles, Patrick Stewart’s character, has a degenerative brain disorder, and is well into his 90s. Logan is also in frail health, not healing any more, a bit of a self-medicator with alcohol and other things. They’re stumbling through life at the fringes of society. Once we had done that, we had gotten enough separation from who these guys had been in the other films that both of them relished the chance to do something with the same character, but very different. When someone’s done nine movies one way and someone says ‘Let’s change it up’, no-one’s complaining!”
2. Know what you want to create…
“It’s always struck me that the films that ‘live’ – and if you go back 10, 20 years or more it becomes clearer [which movies they are] – the movies that ‘live’ move you. The movies that ‘live’ touch you. Invariably, whatever the special effects are, they are going to get old, they’re going to look dated in 20 years. But if, emotionally, the film is affecting, that never changes. I enter every one of these projects looking for the chance to make something that touches you.”
3. Know what you don’t want to create…
“I think we’ve gotten to the point where these films have become a bit of a cliché. I don’t mean comic book movies, I mean summer movies in general. It’s a confluence of really empty story lines, an assault of soundtracks, and visual effects that have gotten to the point where we’re bored with them. It’s like, ‘Yeah, we can fly through the nostril of a cow, through a screen window, through a faucet – who cares?’ I don’t care anymore. I know you do it all on a computer, so it kind of bores me.”
4. Come back for the right reasons
“I started from zero [with Logan]. There was no agenda for a specific adaptation; there was no agenda at all, in fact. The agenda, if anything, was negative – Hugh and I didn’t want to do another film if it wasn’t startling to us. It’s two years of your life, one way or another. A lot of these movies seem less like movies and more like platforms to sell things, including other movies. The films themselves have becomes vehicles for furthering the branding and distribution of this franchise, whatever that means. Neither of us were interested in taking part in that. So I think we dug very deep in terms of finding something startling to do.”
5. It takes a long time to say goodbye
“I think the emotions of [saying goodbye to the character] are something that Hugh and I are still sorting through now. We only finished shooting in late August, so it’s been a kind of wild ride getting it ready for this date. Ultimately, what we were after here was just telling a really great story, about a really great character.”
Logan is in cinemas worldwide from March 1, 2017