With James Bond adventure “Skyfall” taking in more than $1 billion, scribe John Logan could be sitting on his laurels, especially since inking the deal to write the next two Bonds and having already written all eight hours of “Penny Dreadful,” his Victorian horror drama series with Neal Street Prods. for Showtime.
Instead, he’s pulling off the unprecedented feat of opening two new plays within a month of each other, one in the West End (Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw starrer “Peter and Alice”) and one on Broadway (Bette Midler topliner “I’ll Eat You Last”). And, he told Variety, he and helmer Joe Mantello (“Wicked”) are readying a two-week workshop in April of Sting’s forthcoming tuner “The Last Ship.”
Clearly, screen success won’t deter Logan from the theater.
“The Last Ship,” which the playwright boarded nine months ago after Brian Yorkey (“Next to Normal”) ankled the project, is Broadway-bound for 2014. Midler, meanwhile, began rehearsals this week in Gotham for “I’ll Eat You Last,” a solo show about legendary tenpercenter Sue Mengers.
Logan met her by chance at a dinner party in 2007. “Every person around the table was a thousand times more famous than me, but I was only interested in her,” he says. “She existed in that ’70s and ’80s period between old and new Hollywood, and proved to be everything you’d want her to be: flamboyant, colorful, swearing, funny, wicked, sexy even, but underneath all that was something much more interesting — the sense that she’d outlived her time.”
Writing his first solo show was a challenge Logan particularly welcomed. Another personal hurdle was his imaginative take on the gap between fact and fiction in “Peter and Alice,” now previewing in London.
Helmed by Michael Grandage, the drama reunites the “Skyfall” team of Dench and Whishaw as Alice Liddell Hargreaves and Peter Llewellyn Davies, the real-life inspirations behind “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan.” The stories of Hargreaves’ and Davies’ lives as muses have been fictionalized before — she in Gavin Millar’s 1985 movie “Dreamchild,” he in Marc Forster’s “Finding Neverland” — but no one had alighted on the fact that the two actually met at an exhibit in 1932.
Logan had the subject in his head for some 20 years after reading two sentences in a biography, but wasn’t ready to write about it. “It’s an examination of the uses they made of the fictive counterparts in their lives, but now, as a 51-year-old man, I think it’s about what growing up is,” he says. “That made it hard to write.”
To hear Logan tell it, he only finished the play thanks to the encouragement of Grandage, who directed “Red,” the Logan play that won six Tonys. That play followed London and Broadway success with more than 80 productions in the U.S. as well as in 30 foreign countries.
As Logan continues his steady theater output, he’s particularly determined to continue to preem his work in London.
“London has a keener, more sensitive eye for drama,” he says. “Audiences have a real affection for language and there’s more of a tradition of (audiences) going to straight plays than on Broadway.”