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‘Logan’ Director James Mangold Sings Praises of His Production Team

In Fox blockbuster “Logan,” the title character says, “I’m not whatever you think I am.” The same is true of the movie, an “X-Men” sequel that’s more classic Hollywood film noir/Western than superhero movie. Director and co-writer James Mangold talks about the contributions of his team of artisans in giving the film a different vibe from that of its predecessors.

Cinematographer John Mathieson

The idea was to produce a more natural film, on location, which avoided the fetishizing of superhero gear and vehicles that had become a trope of these movies. There’s a general look of what’s been successful in the last decade with superhero movies, and I definitely didn’t want that. I brought up Westerns like “Shane” and “Unforgiven,” but also “The Wrestler” or Clint Eastwood’s “The Gauntlet,” which felt very naturalistic, where lighting was natural or practical, not glammed up. The whole take of the script was that this superhero world was a false dream, and life was more real for these characters. When the audience discovers Logan and Charles living in isolation, it’s more like “Grey Gardens” than Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Simple, natural lighting, not a lot of filtration or gimmicks. John did amazing work.

Production designer François Audouy 

François and I were working on found locations, not trying to dream up an alternate universe. There were some sets, but not a lot. The interior of the farmhouse was built on a stage, for example, mostly to minimize night work with kids. Most of the film is on location by design. Most tentpoles feel like greenscreen orgies. The ruthless efficiency of putting actors in front of a greenscreen has taken a toll on authenticity and also the performances, with actors acting in a void. We wanted “Logan” to show the breeze in their hair, the sun on their face. I wanted the same process as in “Girl, Interrupted” or “Cop Land.” Plus, we didn’t have a lot of money. Many people describe our movie as a dystopian vision. We just shot America, what the country looks like.

Sound supervisor Don Sylvester, Sound mixers Paul Massey, David Giammarco

Film allows us intimacy with characters, in how close we can be. My note to actors is often “Give me less” — moments can be really fragile. The sound team is forbidden to ask actors to pick up their level. This can be an extreme challenge for the sound team, but I have a miraculous group. Don, Paul and David are geniuses. That was always the hope of this movie: The biggest special effect would be the performances.

Editors Michael McCusker, Dirk Westervelt

Action movies have developed a shorthand of production; every scene is shot by three cameras, with the thinking, “You will find it in the cutting room.” But you just end up with “bits.” A lot of films seem like a never-ending commercial. I try to have a plan for how things will go together, with moments in the scene you want to highlight. The editing room becomes an unpacking of the plans we had for action and quiet scenes. The point was to get audiences in for full ride. You’ve got to make pianissimo moments work, and you have to make the big finish work. One feeds the other. Michael and Dirk are experts at that.

Music Marco Beltrami

We worked hard to make this a personal story. It’s about a family unit and changes that happen to them. We wanted to avoid that bombastic thumping score. I played lots of records — listen to the jazz of David Shire for “The Conversation,” the score for “The Gauntlet,” Quincy Jones, Lalo Schifrin. In the 1960s and ’70s, movie scores had a bluesier, jazzier feel, not trying to blast us. Marco really rose to that challenge. He brought in great musicians, would give them charts or a melodic flow, and they’d lay out pieces and we’d work with those. I wanted a movie that felt like the score was human-made. I think Marco hit it out of the park.

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