In the lead-up to this year’s Academy Awards on March 4, EW is taking a closer look at some of the screenplays honored in the original and adapted categories. Each weekday between now and Oscar night, nominated writers will break down a single scene that was essential to the stories they were telling and explain how the pages came together.
The challenge set out before Logan writers James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green was an immense one: Craft a fitting conclusion for the most enduring figure of this era of superhero movies, and say something definitive about the genre.
The movie, which earned an Adapted Screenplay nomination, is an emotionally raw and brutal story about the passing of a generation and the effect of violence on a life. Below, Mangold dissects a key scene in which Logan (Hugh Jackman) explains why he carries an adamantium bullet with him.
JAMES MANGOLD: “What this scene was about, particularly for Scott Frank and I, was finding a way to get a toehold on these characters in this new psychological structure, where Laura [Dafne Keen] is a more dominating and forceful character. One of the seedlings that it came from were notes — I actually framed this scratch pad — just a couplet to build this scene around. Logan is someone who fears love because whomever he loves dies or gets injured. He’s in this horrible catch-22. If he allows himself to feel affection, in a way he curses the person.”
“The couplet I’m talking about and the construction of him having a dream and the set-up of ‘You had a nightmare’ and ‘Do you have nightmares?’ The couplet was ‘People hurt me’ and ‘I hurt people.’ The nightmare was way for Scott and I to examine the contrary way these two heroes view their own fears. Laura grew up incarcerated and treated as an object, so her nightmares are ones of abuse. Logan’s have evolved. He feels haunted by the violence of his 200-year life. The violence he fear is not what anyone does to him, but actually what he does to others. That was the seedling of the scene.”
“As the pages bounced back and forth between Scott and I, it became an opportunity to address a functional plot point — this adamantium bullet. What the scene started to be about was a chance to address this bullet.”
“The tactic as writers we tried to apply to this was that Logan offers an explanation for the bullet that, at first, is a lie — like a child’s lie. It’s just word salad. He catches himself, looking at the purity of his daughter, and tells her the straight truth.”
“In a way, the reason the scene is so important to me is because it’s a huge turning point in which Laura is saving Logan at this point, but then Logan has made himself vulnerable to her. She’s in power. She is given this extremely painful truth from Logan, and we have to see what she does with it. What she does is just about her hearing him and not judging him — and him finding the love in his daughter. Even during an admission this frightening and destabilizing for a child to hear, his daughter is strong enough and tough enough and kind enough to handle it and reflect back to him in a way that furthers their relationship.
“Scott Frank and I were literally trading pages back and forth. I ended the scene on ‘I hurt people too.'”
“Then Scott wrote, ‘You’re going to have to learn to live with that.'”
“And I loved that, but I felt like Laura would say, ‘Well, they were bad people.'”
“Then Scott, literally as the voice of Logan, added, ‘All the same.’ This scene becomes about what the whole movie is about: violence — good or bad — scars the practitioner.”