The busy scribe [John Logan] has his name on a trifecta of acclaimed work this year, once again positioning the two-time Oscar nominee (for Gladiator and The Aviator) in the awards race for both original (Rango) and adapted (Hugo, Coriolanus) screenplay prizes. The fall whirlwind complements his work on Skyfall, the new James Bond film on which Logan has been working for the last year.
The thing is that you were a very successful playwright before you ever ventured into screenwriting. How much of those early scripts still amounted to ‘paying dues,’ if at all?
Not a lot, if only because I spent 10 years as a starving playwright in Chicago. That’s where I learned how to do my job, and that’s how I learned what a dramatist does as opposed to a poet or a prose writer or a journalist. So it was the 10 years in Chicago — shelving books, eating tuna fish — that I considered paying my dues, because that was the education that figured into what it meant to be a dramatist. Movies were a different form, obviously — a different internal engine, a different political landscape. But by the time I wrote Any Given Sunday or Bats, I sort of knew what my job was in terms of what a writer of dialogue does.
So obviously it was a long haul to get where you are, and it’s very different. But is that still a route you’d encourage young writers today to explore as well?
Oh my God, absolutely. Young screenwriters are always very frustrated when they talk to me. They say, “How do we get to be a screenwriter?” I say, “You know what you do? I’ll tell you the secret, it’s easy: Read Hamlet. You know? Then read it again, and read it again, and read it until you understand it. Read King Lear, and then read Othello. Then go back and read Aristotle and Sophocles and Euripedes and Chekhov and Kushner. Know where you stand in the continuum of your art form.” The history of screenwriting — of what we do — is more than 100 years old. It’s thousands of years old, going back to Sophocles and Euripedes. I believe the only — the only — separation for being a dramatist is reading drama.
For more of the interview with John Logan, go here.