Screenwriter John Logan Talks HUGO, the New James Bond Film SKYFALL, LINCOLN, and More

     November 27, 2011

John Logan JAMES BOND skyfall interview slice

Opening this week is Martin Scorsese‘s first 3D film, Hugo.  Based on Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret and written by John Logan, the film stars Asa Butterfield as a young boy secretly living in a train station in 1931 Paris.  As he attempts to piece together a puzzle that he’d been working on with his father, the results transform not only Hugo, but everyone he comes in contact with.  The impressive cast also includes Chloe Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sir Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, Emily Mortimer, and Michael Stuhlbarg. You can watch a trailer here.

During my extended interview with Logan we talked about the way he writes, working with Scorsese, how he got involved in Hugo, what it was like to adapt the book, and the level of rewriting done on the set.  In addition, with Logan writing the new James Bond film Skyfall for director and acquaintance Sam Mendes, he discussed how he got involved in that project and writing the action scenes so that the action suits the story.  Finally, he talked about spending years working with Steven Spielberg on Lincoln (they ultimately went with someone else’s script) and what he might have coming up.  Hit the jump to watch.

Finally, if you’re a James Bond fan, here’s the part of the interview just on the next Bond movie with a lot of quotes. And if you plan on seeing Hugo, make sure to see it in 3D.  It’s definitely one of the best live-action 3D movies I’ve ever seen.  Scorsese once again proves he’s a master no matter the dimension.  And if you missed them, here’s my video interviews with Sir Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Emily Mortimer, and Matt’s review of the film.

john_logan_image_01John Logan Time Index

  • His go-to karaoke song is “Could I Leave You?” from the Stephen Sondheim musical follies.  If it’s available.
  • 0:40 – Says he was “born a dramatist,” and his job is to stay true to the characters.  Within that structure, he likes to vary the voice and sensibility in scripts to keep the job fresh.
  • 2:10 – He likes to work very early, “when it’s silent, when it’s dark.”  When he was a pure playwright, Logan was a “nocturnal writer.”
  • 3:10 – He tends to work long hours on the first draft (12-hour days) as part of total immersion in the project.
  • 4:00 – Logan has helped out friends with scripts, but otherwise hasn’t done any uncredited rewriting.
  • 4:20 – Logan and Scorsese were looking for another project to do after The Aviator.  He was at first daunted by the size of the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but was drawn in by the flow of the story.
  • 5:10 – Argues that Hugo doesn’t fit into the traditional four-quadrant Hollywood format that most family films do.  Talks about paring down some things that were great in the book, but didn’t fit with the spine of the movie.
  • 6:40 – There wasn’t a lot of on-set rewriting with Hugo.  Scorsese did encourage improvisation with the actors, though.
  • 7:30 – He had trouble writing one scene where the young stars talk about destiny.  To crack it, he sat down with his 8-year-old niece, to listen to how she talked about her life’s purpose.
  • 9:00 – Compares the character Hugo to Prospero.
  • 10:30 – Logan has known Sam Mendes for over a decade.  Mendes made the offer to write the new James Bond movie, and Logan agreed to do it with no further details.
  • 12:00 – He was very aware of the legacy of James Bond as he wrote Skyfall.
  • 12:45 – Discusses writing action scenes, and making sure the action suits the story.
  • 14:00 – Logan spent years working with Steven Spielberg on Lincoln, but he’s not working on it anymore.  The Aviator required the most research of any project of his career.  Lincoln is second.
  • 15:20 – He keeps his plays private as long as possible.  Movies are a more collaborative process, namely with the director.
  • 16:40 – Logan knows what his next project is, but can’t talk about it at this time.


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