'Logan' Screenwriter on Its Villain Surprise and Crafting a Powerful Ending

Scott Frank says the R-rated Wolverine film was made for different reasons from the average superhero movie: "We didn't have to sell Happy Meals."
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp./Photofest; Neilson Barnard/Getty Images
Hugh Jackman in 'Logan' (Inset: Scott Frank)

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Logan.]

That's a wrap on Hugh Jackman's Wolverine.

The Logan creative team wanted to create a superhero movie with personal stakes and real consequences.

So that's why when audiences said goodbye to Wolverine after 17 years, it hurt so much. The clawed mutant died in the final moments of Logan as his daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) looked on, while earlier in the film, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) also got an emotional sendoff.

For a genre in which deaths are rarely permanent, Logan's ending truly seemed like the final word for these characters, and that was the goal, as screenwriter Scott Frank says.

In a conversation with Heat Vision, Frank reveals how he and director James Mangold crafted those final moments for the heroes and discusses the decision to introduce X-24 — the amoral Wolverine clone that menaces the film's heroes.

X-24 was a surprise. Did you feel Logan needed someone who could best him physically?

It was an interesting thing — for him to be confronted with himself. It reminds him of what he once was. He was not a good guy. But we didn't want to make a meal out of it. You have to be careful that that doesn't become the concept through the whole movie, because then it does exactly the opposite of what we were trying to do.

Professor X already died in X-Men 3, and was sent off in a way fans hated. Were you conscious of that as you crafted his death in this movie?

I don't know if we consciously tried to do that, but I do know in the middle of the movie, we kept feeling this desire to have this respite, where for 30 seconds they can have this life that is never available to them. But they can have it for a couple of hours and it's a cruel, cruel detour. We thought there could be a lot of emotion there. And it could be a way of also ending Professor X's story — with the most normal family in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere.

Many people go into the movie expecting Logan to die. But it was still painful when the moment comes. How did you craft that?

We just kept going back to character and his relationship with his "father" and his relationship with someone who is genetically created, but is still technically his daughter. We kept it personal the whole time. That's really what we were obsessed with. You could feel it as we were writing it — that it was accruing to something powerful at the end.

You weren't 100 percent satisfied with The Wolverine, which you also wrote. What did you get right on Logan that you feel didn't turn out exactly right on the last one?

We didn't have to connect it to any larger "universe." Or, as Jim keeps saying, "We didn't have to sell Happy Meals." And so that was great. Whereas, the last one, my favorite part is where he's in the middle of rural Japan and with this woman and being a human being and feeling what it's like to be a human being. But we're not there very long before we're back to giant robots and stuff. And then it becomes just another superhero movie with a lot of CG stuff. And we were trying to avoid that this time around, and the studio had changed studio heads and they were very much into the idea of trying something new, because otherwise, what's the point? The only way these movies have value is if they become about something else. They can't all be about saving the world.

How did you decide on 1953's Shane and Laura reading that passage at Logan's funeral?

Jim and I both love Westerns. In the last movie [The Wolverine], we talked about Outlaw Josey Wales a lot. In this movie, we talked about Unforgiven a lot. And I just finished making a six-hour Western. So I'm obsessed with the Western genre. The plot doesn't mirror Shane's plot, but Shane is a bit of a superhero. Coming into town and taking care and vanquishing the bad guys and leaving. I always thought that was a really interesting idea, and having her quote the movie and having something she can connect to with Professor X was something Jim very early on started playing with. And it became great in the larger thematic sense.

"There are no more guns in the valley." It's all apropos of what's happening in Logan. We also liked the idea that she didn't know what to say at his funeral, so she's going to quote the movie. Which is interesting, the same way they are using comic books, they are going to a place they think [is] going to keep them safe, because they read it in a comic book. All of that stuff I think is really interesting to play with.

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