PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With John Logan, the "Hugo" Screenwriter and Red Playwright

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24 Dec 2011

John Logan
John Logan
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

It's been a very good year for Tony Award winner John Logan. His London and Broadway hit, Red, is now one of the most-produced plays in regional theatre, and films of his screenplays for "Rango," "Hugo" and "Coriolanus" were released in 2011.


Screenplays by the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "Gladiator," "Sweeney Todd" and "The Aviator" are also in production: "Lincoln," directed by Steven Spielberg, and the new James Bond film, "Skyfall," directed by Sam Mendes. He's also juggling new play and musical ideas.

"Hugo," the 3-D fantasy directed by Martin Scorsese, was recently nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture-Drama, and "Rango" is up for Best Animated Feature. It seemed like a good time to catch up with the writer whose roots (Hauptmann, Never the Sinner) and passion are still with the theatre.

Does the 2011 release of "Rango," "Coriolanus" and "Hugo" mean that you wrote those screenplays concurrently, or is that just how the production schedule played out?
John Logan: It's the kismet of the production schedule. It has nothing to do with my intentions or when I wrote anything. I've been working on "Hugo" for five years. In the midst of working on that, I wrote "Rango" and "Coriolanus." You never know when things are actually going to get made and when they're going to go into production. Around this time of year [critics and pundits say], "There are all these films about 'x.' Why do you think that is? What is it about the zeitgeist?" The honest answer is that there's nothing. You never know when films are going to come together. It makes for a pretty busy season [promoting them], but it's exciting. I'm proud of the work and proud of the variety, and happy to get behind the movies.

Are you the kind of writer who can keep a lot of plates spinning or do you have to focus on one draft, finish it, and then go to another project? Can you shift?
JL: Oh, yeah. I can shift easily. The only thing I can't shift is writing a first draft. When I'm writing a first draft, I can only do that. For me, it's total immersion. For example, I'm writing a new play now, so until that's done — until I have a first draft out of my system — I couldn't possibly write anything else. But, going between a rewrite on this, some production work on that, set work on this, a third draft of something else — yeah, I can jump between those. Indeed, I find that sort of intellectually and artistically satisfying.


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