Director James Mangold and Dafne Keen on ‘Logan’, Casting X-23, and More

     March 10, 2017

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I saw Logan weeks ago, but I’m still in awe of Dafne Keen’s performance. While the film is a fitting swan song for star Hugh Jackman and the culmination of his work on the character for the past 17 years, it also functions as a passing of the torch with Keen’s Laura/X-23 poised to pick up the hero mantle and find her own way in the world. To not only follow Jackman’s performance but to channel it would be a tall order for any actor, let alone one as young as Keen, but she handled it brilliantly.

Last week, I spoke with Keen and director James Mangold about Logan. We discussed the casting process, if the studio ever wanted X-23 to be a teenager rather than a child, what Mangold learned from making The Wolverine, how Keen prepared to play X-23, how they approached the stunt work, working with Jackman, and more. Check out the interview below, and click here for Steve Weintraub’s spoiler-filled interview with Mangold. Logan is now in theaters.

logan-posterHow did the audition process go when it came to casting X-23?

JAMES MANGOLD: Well, Dafne, do you want to answer this one?

DAFNE KEEN: I sent in a tape.

MANGOLD: I actually wish I could do interviews with this much brevity as Dafne has, but yeah, they made a tape of her climbing around their house, doing somersaults, and acting in some scenes from the film. All of it was amazing, especially the scaling of the 12-foot bookshelves, and I immediately felt when I saw this tape, and obviously there was a worldwide search going on for this role, for someone 10 to 12 years old, physically skilled, Hispanic, bilingual, physically capable, tremendous actress, and all of these things combined. Obviously, this cuts down on the number of people you’re going to get responding, but from Dafne’s tape, I knew this was the kid. It was that kind of clarifying moment. You just know the answer.

One of the things I love about this film is that X-23 is a kid and not a teenager. Did the studio ever push to make the role a teenager so they could get an actress that could work longer hours?

MANGOLD: There was some talk from the studio, some people did wonder whether—it wasn’t really about working longer hours—I think some people had trouble understanding how an 11-year-old could be deadly. Being a father of a 9 and 12-year-old, I have no problem understanding how an 11-year-old can be deadly. I felt that if we got into the teenage years of X-23, it would feel like a CW show. And the X-Men movies have done a lot of young characters with adults playing these parts. I wanted to confront Logan with what he was most frightened of, which was the idea of being a dad. A real dad, not to an unruly teenager, but to a child.

I think it works wonderfully, especially with you, Dafne, in how you channel that Wolverine persona. What was it like trying to get into the mindset of being Wolverine’s daughter?

KEEN: It was…fun? And we went to the zoo and I looked at animals to inspire the character, and I saw this bear and I thought about it.

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