‘Logan’ Director James Mangold Was Once Concerned With Disney Having the Rights to the ‘X-Men’

As many know, Disney gained full access to the X-Men rights after purchasing Fox studios in a historic deal. But not everyone celebrated the idea of Disney’s Marvel having full control of the X-Men characters again. Logan director James Mangold was one of the few who voiced his objections.

James Mangold felt ‘Logan’ needed to be rated R

James Mangold smirking while wearing a suit and glasses.
James Mangold | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Before Logan, James Mangold was no stranger to the X-Men movies. The filmmaker, who’s directed such films as Cop Land, 3:10 to Yuma, and Knight and Day, tackled the X-Men mythology by directing The Wolverine. But his original vision of the film was different than what ended up in theaters.

Speaking to Den of Geek, the Indiana Jones director revealed that he wrote The Wolverine as a Japanese noir film. But at the time, Fox studios wanted to compete with other PG-13 superhero films.

“…what was really weird was that the studio was really concerned that we have big, CG action to stay afloat against the other films we were up against,” Mangold said. “But by the time we got to market, the very thing people were most tired of was the thing the studio wanted to make sure we had enough of. The thing the studio was most worried about – which was this kind of Hong Kong crime movie, this kind of Japanese noir I was making, was almost our best asset.”

His experiences with The Wolverine were why he was so passionate about making Logan rated R.

“I knew that if Hugh [Jackman] and I could get an R, then we’ll have the freedom to make an adult film,” Mangold said. “Because the second the marketing arm of a studio realizes it cannot market to children, five or six creative things happen. The scenes can go deeper, and can be written for adults. Not just language, not just [violence], as you’re saying, but the themes can be more interesting, the words you’re using can be more complicated. The ideas can be more complicated.”

James Mangold was worried about the X-Men’s future with Disney

Shortly before Disney acquired Fox, Fox was beginning to experiment a bit more with its Marvel-based properties. Films like Logan and Deadpool in particular showed there might be a market for mainstream rated-R superhero films after all. But with the X-Men now in Disney’s hands, Mangold was concerned that the acquisition would limit this kind of creativity.

“If they’re actually changing their mandate, if what they’re supposed to do alters, that would be sad to me because it just means less movies,” Mangold once said according to Deadline.

Ultimately, Mangold was concerned that storytelling would be compromised for the sake of selling merchandise.

“We’ve now so co-opted this idea that these movies are not really stories, but are merchandise entities,” Mangold said. “You can’t kill the characters because they’re worth so much effing money.”’

James Mangold once criticized large blockbuster superhero films

Mangold was also once critical of the superhero genre in general. Speaking to The Business podcast (via Business Insider), the filmmaker spoke his candid opinion about the genre.

“Tentpole movies in general, they are not movies, generally — they are bloated exercises in two-hour trailers for another movie they are going to sell you in two years,” Mangold said. “There are so many characters that each character gets an arch of about 6 1/2 minutes at best, and I’m not exaggerating. You take 120 minutes, you take 45 of it for action, what are you left with, divide it by six characters, you have the character arc of Elmer Fudd in a Warner Brothers cartoon. That formula is empty for me.”

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