Logan Director: Black & White Version Is An 'Exercise For Film Fans'

Screen Rant interviews Logan director James Mangold about the black and white version, Logan Noir, and whether he'd helm another superhero movie.

Logan (2017) - Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) at the Liberty Motel

Logan director James Mangold discusses the black and white version of the film, Logan Noir, and what his X-23 movie would look like. Earlier this year, the third installment in 20th Century Fox's X-Men spinoff series following Hugh Jackman's Wolverine hit theaters and despite - or perhaps because - of its R-rating, Logan was a resounding success both in terms of critical and fan reception as well as the box office. Logan follows an older Wolverine who is taking care of an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) when they come across a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen) who needs their help.

After the movie's initial domestic run, Mangold revealed a black and white version of Logan would hit theaters this month, with details later arriving that Logan Noir would screen for one night only around the country. The trailer for Logan Noir teased a color-stripped version of Jackman's final Wolverine movie, the screenings for which were followed in theaters by a Q&A with the Jackman, Mangold, and producer Hutch Parker.

Following the screening of Logan Noir, Screen Rant had the chance to interview Mangold about the black and white version of the film, where he hopes to see superhero movies go in the future, and what his potential X-23 movie would be about.

Logan - Caliban

So what was the process like of deciding to release Logan Noir?

Kind more simple and more random than you might think. I took a lot of stills while we were making the movie and released them online in black and white that I would tweet out - character portraits of Logan and Charles and Caliban and Laura - and the response was so huge. But in particular I noticed the response was really strong because the stills were in black and white. Some people kept writing in and going, ‘Is the movie in black and white?’ Which of course, in the modern world, [it’s] impossible to make a $100 million black and white film. But something as we were shooting kept me thinking about it, first how good the sets and the actors looked, the way we were lighting the show - kind of hard sculptural lighting, a lot of night work - would lend itself, speaking as a photographer, to black and white.

I brought up to Fox as we were in post that I really wanted to experiment with producing a black and white version of the movie for home video and we had already done something like that with the footage - we had this early teaser we released, this kind of documentary style thing of Hugh driving. So I did that, and as we were working on the home video, it looked so good that I started talking to people about, ‘Why don’t we put this on a screen for a day or two?’ I didn’t know if Fox would respond or if theater owners would respond and suddenly it was happening. It was really exciting.

What do you think the black and white version adds to the experience of Logan?

Well, I think black and white focuses you on character, in a way, it reduces the amount of eye candy, of color and distraction, but I think what it really is for most of us is a chance to connect the movie with movies of the past. It suddenly feels connected to Westerns and noir films that I wish people would watch more of. I think it’s an exercise for real film fans to just enjoy - no different if I were a musician and I rested the band and played something with solo guitar, just a chance to see and process the same song slightly differently.

The Shane quote that Dafne says at the end really struck me in black and white, why did you choose that specific quote?

Writing is endless problem solving so Scott Frank and I, as we were writing, we had decided that Laura didn’t really speak very good English, that she was Spanish-speaking as her first language - and hardly spoke in the first half of the movie at all. So given that, when it came time to write the ending - and I knew Hugh was dying - I was like, ‘Well what is she going to say? And how could she say it in English, or why would she say it in English?’ And it occurred to me that that speech of Shane’s was kind of the perfect epitaph in a sense - oblique. Not ‘Logan was so great’ or ‘I loved him so much’. We kind of had that scene when he was dying already. You needed something that didn’t hit the nail on the head and almost felt like the way a child’s mind might find this very poetic way of marrying some bit from earlier in the movie to this very difficult moment.

Hugh Jackman Ryan Reynolds Wolverine Logan Deadpool

Logan is very different from other superhero movies, and Deadpool in its own way is also very different, and they’re kind of changing the superhero genre, what else would you like to see change about the genre?

I think the formula I use, and would use if I went back again, is kind of an anti-formula formula which is that: Don’t make a comic book movie. There’s no such thing, that just tells you where it came from, it doesn’t tell you what the movie is like. Make a noir film, make a western, make a comedy, make a road picture, a romantic comedy with superheroes. Make a movie that knows what it is, but with the added ingredient that these characters have these powers. I think that’s why if you look at our most favorite - I won’t speak of my own, but I’ll talk about, you know people love The Dark Knight, well that’s a really great noir heist film posing as a comic book movie as you will. There’s other films where you go, what’s special about these movies is that they are westerns or comedies or that they know what they are besides being just “comic book movie.” I think that’s what I do every time, is to try and figure out what kind of movie, what genre am I telling?

So would you direct another movie based on a comic book?

I would never say never to that. I think that as long as I had the freedom to do something I felt was interesting. It’s two years or more of your life, so when you get stuck doing that and you’re giving so much of yourself and the only real justification you can come up with in your mind is you just want to make a lot of money for yourself and other people, that just doesn’t seem to be good enough. I think you should be doing something that’s different or brings some new element to the conversation.

You’ve talked a little bit about an X-23 movie, about how you’d like to see it, so what would your X-23 movie look like?

I don’t know if it’s time to tell you… A very honest film about young people, is what I’d say - a very honest film about young people growing up.

What was your favorite scene from the black and white version of Logan - or what looks best in black and white?

Well there’s lots of stuff that looks great - sumptuous - in it, but the night stuff I really, really love watching. I love watching the opening sequence of the movie, or I also love the tank scene - with Logan and Charles in the darkened tank with the light coming through. Night work I always think looks amazing in black and white, just rich blacks and sharps light sources piercing the night looks great.

So this is the second movie in a couple years that’s been released in black and white - Logan and Mad Max: Fury Road - why do you think people are so interested in seeing that?

It’s not unlike stereo versus mono or 3D versus regular. People are interested in the medium. There have been many different times when people tune in and tune out of filmmaking, I think this is a tune in moment where a lot of fans are very interested. They make movies with their own phones and cameras and GoPros and they’re very interested in the choices we all make as directors and filmmakers as we make our bigger scale movies. One way to explore those choices and share them with the audience is to show them alternatives or to try different things.

Next: Logan Blu-ray Special Features Revealed

Logan is now available on Digital HD and will be released on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD on May 23.

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