6:30am PT by Aaron Couch
'Logan' Team on Dreaming Up a 'Laura' Spinoff and Finding the Drama in Wolverine's Goodbye
Hugh Jackman has said goodbye to Wolverine, but the story isn't quite over.
Seven months after the film hit theaters, Jackman and director James Mangold are still processing the level of praise lavished on the film, which exceeded their expectations from when they set out to tell story to end all Wolverine stories. Logan was made for less money than the previous two Wolverine films, but Jackman's R-rated swan song became the most financially successful of the three by far with $616 million worldwide (Mangold's The Wolverine made just over $414 in 2013), and it remains one of the best reviewed movies of 2017.
The film is continuing to defy expectations. While Logan is the rare superhero project that doesn't exist to help set up a shared universe or sequels, a spinoff is brewing ("We're just working on a script," Mangold says of a film that would center on Dafne Keen's Laura). And it has emerged as a possible awards contender.
"I think I have a kind of healthy contempt for this kind of film. Even the genre," Mangold tells The Hollywood Reporter when asked why the film appealed to comic book fans and general audiences alike. "I tried to bring with it a kind of jaundiced eye about formula that we've gotten really in the habit of delivering on, and was trying to deliver a picture that offers some of the same sense of wonder and imagination that these films tend to offer but doing so in a way where it's less about fetishizing costumes and equipment and CG effects and more about character."
Jackman tells THR that after a worldwide tour promoting the film, he is at peace with hanging up the claws after 17 years and nine movies, feeling he delivered his definitive performance this time out.
"I think there was a moment in the first X-Men…probably five or six weeks in…when I felt I was really making Wolverine my own. It took me a little while to get there," says Jackman of his experience with the franchise as whole. "I think it wasn’t until this last one, in terms of watching the movie, where I felt kind of separate from the character, where I could think, ‘Man I love that character.’ I was probably not fully at peace with the work I had done with him until this last one."
Every few years following Heath Ledger's Oscar win for 2008's The Dark Knight, genre films have been popping up more frequently in the awards conversation. Recent years have seen 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road (six Oscar wins in the crafts categories, plus nominations for best picture and best director) and 2016's Deadpool (surprise best picture and best actor Golden Globes noms). This year, Logan and Wonder Woman are two comic book films in the conversation, and 20th Century Fox has fueled the flames by sending screeners to Academy voters and scheduling the Logan team for appearances at awards-focused screenings and Q&As.
X-Men franchise producer Hutch Parker admits awards season recognition would be a nice bonus following the outpouring from fans and critics, though he maintains he's satisfied no matter what happens.
"I'm realistic about the kind of movie this is, and I'm hopeful that various people in those positions will see it and recognize it — even though it is an R-rated movie, and even though it has a legacy as part of a comic book franchise," Parker says. "I'd love for people to be able to assess the craft on the performances and the work on their own merits."
One possibility for that recognition is Patrick Stewart. As soon as Logan hit screens, awards pundits began raising the question of whether Stewart could finally earn an Oscar nomination, thanks to the combination of the actor delivering one of his finest big-screen performances yet, and the notion that a performer of his pedigree is overdue.
"The fact that Patrick has not received those kinds of acknowledgements is astounding to me," says Parker.
While Stewart has yet to earn a nomination for film work, he has received four Emmy nominations, as well as three Golden Globe nominations for television performances: in 1999 for Moby Dick, in 2005 for The Lion in Winter and in 2016 for Blunt Talk.
In Logan, Prof. X suffers from degenerative brain disease and must come to terms with losing his most valuable asset, his intellect. It showed audiences a side to Stewart that departed from the calm, cool and collected roles he'd played in Star Trek movies and previous X-Men films.
"It gave Patrick freedom that he hasn't had, certainly in these kinds of films. Patrick attacked this thing with ferocity. He was fearless about playing Charles' weaknesses as well as his strengths," says Mangold. "He wasn't worried about the vanity of it."
The script from Mangold, Scott Frank and Michael Green also gave Stewart and Jackman a lot of meaty material together, such as the nearly seven-minute, dialogue-heavy scene early in film that takes place in a dilapidated tank.
"The level of depth and the drama in that one scene is probably more than the two of us have had to work with…than all of the other films combined," says Jackman. "So, I think it’s just fun watching a thoroughbred like Patrick Stewart gallop, and…with the great scenes that he got to really show everything he can do."
As Mangold looks to the future and a possible Laura movie, he touches on the success of Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman this summer and what that means for female-fronted films.
"Patty's success with that film only solidifies more for studios that there's less to fear with a female protagonist," says Mangold. "The more that keeps getting hit home, that ends up giving me more space turning around and going, 'Well, here we are with a female protagonist. That's incredible. And what are we going to do with her?' And that's where we are with that [the Laura script] right now, dreaming."
Craig Kyle, who created Laura in 2003 for the animated series X-Men: Evolution, is working with Mangold on the treatment. Kyle also is one of the screenwriters behind next month's Thor: Ragnarok.
As Fox gears up to release three X-Men films next year, the studio has signaled interest in exploring the Marvel mutants through different film genres. April's New Mutants is being positioned as a horror film, for example, and a Laura spinoff could potentially branch out from the western-noir-tinged Logan.
"Yes, there are other facets of that character and some others potentially to explore in their own way," says Parker, who spoke to THR while wrapping production on X-Men: Dark Phoenix earlier this month. "It may not be in the same exact tonality or with the same genre orientations as Logan, but I think part of what has been opened up in this universe to all of us now is, drawing on different genre traditions, there are new pathways to be opened for new characters that populate this universe."
One person who won't be involved in a spinoff is Jackman, who not only has hung up the claws but also rules out staying on as a producer. (He previously produced 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine.)
"No, I won’t be a producer on a Laura sequel," he says. "But I will be lining up on the Thursday night at 10 p.m. to watch it though. She is just phenomenal."
Just as Laura will likely pick up the mantle for Logan, someone else will inevitably play Wolverine (this is Hollywood, after all). Even in a world where Ledger's Joker is no longer the latest big-screen incarnation of the character, this one feels particularly wrong. But Jackman embraces the inevitability.
"I know someone will. I hope it will be recast," he says.
Jackman's gracious attitude makes sense, as he wasn't the first actor cast as Wolverine. Dougray Scott was set to play the character, but when shooting went long on Mission: Impossible 2, the team on 2000's X-Men asked Jackman to step in. Jackman, then a largely unknown stage actor, went on to become one of the biggest stars on the planet. He still recalls meeting Scott after the casting swap that changed his life.
"I met him early on and I said to him, 'Man, I am sorry.' And he said, 'It’s just business, but you have just gotten one of the greatest roles out there, so go crush it,' " Jackman recalls. "I just remember being so impressed by that and his class, and hopefully I am a big enough guy that when someone else takes over, I will do exactly what was done to me…and I feel glad to just be a part of the legacy of that character. I feel great parts — great characters out live the actors that play them. Bond, Superman, Batman…so, there you go."
Oct. 24, 6:23 p.m. Updated to reflect that Craig Kyle is working on the treatment of the Laura movie.