September 24, 1961
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Screenwriter, Playwright, Producer
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One of Hollywood's most successful screenwriters, John Logan made a name for himself by crafting extensively researched, thoroughly compelling historical epics. After more than 10 years as a respected playwright in Illinois, Logan began his transition to writing for the screen with the Orson Welles biopic "RKO 281" (HBO, 1999) and the Oliver Stone-directed NFL melodrama "Any Given Sunday" (1999). Having attracted the attention of director-producer Ridley Scott, he was brought on to script the Oscar-winning Roman Empire spectacle "Gladiator" (2000), starring Russell Crowe. Logan further cemented his growing reputation with his lauded work on films like Edward Zwick's "The Last Samurai" (2003), Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" (2004) and Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007). After four years without a credit, he returned to pen the hit animated family feature "Rango" (2011) and reunited with Scorsese for the critically-acclaimed family-adventure "Hugo" (2011). Logan's love of history and knack for finding the often ambiguous human story within a larger, epic narrative rightfully made him one of the most sought-after and recognized screenwriters of the new millennium.
Born John David Logan on Sept. 24, 1961 in San Diego, CA, he was the son of a naval architect. After a childhood largely spent shuttling to and from port cities like San Diego, Seattle and various seaside locales in New Jersey, Logan entered Illinois' Northwestern University, where he intended to study acting. The emotionally vulnerable nature of the craft soon had him doubting the choice, however. After taking a play writing course on a whim, Logan experienced an epiphany and changed his major. Intellectually drawn to historical figures and having a penchant for stories of a sweeping, epic nature, even his earliest efforts reflected his interests and natural inclinations. Two years after graduating from Northwestern in 1983, Logan quickly garnered recognition for his first play, "Never the Sinner," an account of the events surrounding the infamous Leopold and Loeb murder case that stunned Chicago and enthralled the nation in the 1920s. From there, the young playwright worked steadily throughout the next decade, further establishing himself with such heavily researched projects as "Hauptmann," an examination of the Lindbergh baby kidnapper, and "Speaking in Tongues," a look at the life, career and untimely death of controversial Italian filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini.
By the 1990s, Logan was determined to break into film and eventually began to pen spec scripts. When "Never the Sinner" was revived to acclaim in Chicago - it was later produced off-Broadway in 1997 - he utilized the attention as a calling card with movie studios. Asked to come up with 10 movie ideas by an agent who had been impressed by his theatrical work, Logan offered the high-concept idea of King Lear in the NFL. Much to his surprise, the idea sparked sufficient interest to merit a deal for a spec script, one that eventually drew the interest of director Oliver Stone, who immediately put the novice screenwriter through a three-year trial by fire of rewrite upon rewrite. In the meantime, Logan made incremental progress on less notable scripts for projects like the made-for-TV disaster knock-off "Tornado!" (Fox, 1996) and the B-movie thriller "Bats" (1999), which he also produced. It was then that things suddenly began taking off for Logan in Hollywood. History buff that he was, Logan lobbied extensively to pen the screen treatment for a fictionalized account of cinema icon Orson Welles' struggle to film his 1941 masterpiece "Citizen Kane," being produced by director Ridley Scott. Following months of exhaustive research, a meeting with Scott resulted in Logan landing the job. The made-for cable biopic "RKO 281" (HBO, 1999), starring Live Schreiber as Welles, garnered critical accolades and multiple Emmy nominations.
Three years after beginning his journey on the project, director Stone at last unleashed his Shakespearian football melodrama "Any Given Sunday" (1999), co-written by Logan. The film, starring Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, James Woods and Jamie Foxx proved to be Stone's most commercially successful effort in years. Suitably impressed by his work on "RKO 281," Ridley Scott recruited Logan for his next venture, the Oscar-winning epic, "Gladiator" (2000). Tapping into his love of history, Logan helped craft an appealing and powerful story - enhanced by Scott's eye-popping visuals - around the Roman soldier-turned-gladiator Maximus (Russell Crowe). A massive hit at theaters, Logan's contributions garnered him a shared Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Buoyed by this success, Logan was given an opportunity to indulge his fondness for classic science-fiction with screen treatments for the remake of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" (2002) and the latest entry into the long-running space adventure franchise, "Star Trek: Nemesis" (2002). Despite his best intentions, neither film performed to expectations at the box office.
Logan rebounded with "The Last Samurai" (2003), an epic adventure about a deeply disillusioned army captain (Tom Cruise) sent to train soldiers in the xenophobic Japan of the mid-19th Century. There, he is captured by, and later adopts the customs of the Samurai, a warrior class edging toward cultural extinction. Though not the massive hit, it did earn a modicum of respect from critics and further established Logan as a go-to crafter of historical sagas. The writer then worked with Martin Scorsese on the director's ambitious biography about maverick tycoon Howard Hughes, "The Aviator" (2004). Broad and sweeping in scope, the film earned many critical kudos and award nominations, including a second Oscar nod for Logan - who received the film's sole writing credit - for Best Original Screenplay. Returning to his theatrical roots, Logan next served as co-producer and screenwriter for director Tim Burton's adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007). Starring Johnny Depp in the title role, the gory Victorian melodrama was one of the year's biggest hits, widely acclaimed, and the recipient of several awards.
Working on several projects for a number of years, Logan returned with another Johnny Depp project, the animated fantasy-adventure, "Rango" (2011). Helmed by blockbuster director Gore Verbinski, the quirky ode to the Western was the second-highest grossing animated feature of the year, beaten only by the avian-themed "Rio" (2011). Later that year, more of Logan's work could be seen onscreen in actor Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut, a modernized adaptation of Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" (2011), which the screenwriter also co-produced. Most notable was Logan's reteaming with Scorsese in the director's first foray into family-friendly material. "Hugo" (2011), based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, was a loving tribute to 1930s-era Paris and the emergence of early cinema, remarkable for its innovative use of 3-D technology. Come awards season, "Hugo" received more Academy Award nominations than any other film that year, including a Best Adapted Screenplay nod for Logan. The following season saw Logan contributing to two of the most highly-anticipated movies of the year - director Steven Spielberg's historical biopic "Lincoln" (2012) and Sam Mendes' entry into the immortal James Bond franchise, "Skyfall" (2012).
By Bryce Coleman