It's a bit hard for me to not be a fanboy when I heard I was going to interview Logan Marshall-Green. At this point, I'm such a fan of Ridley Scott's Prometheus that I want to interview everyone who was a part of that film, but it is also extremely cool to see Logan Marshall-Green become a household name in movies. His work in films, such as Spider-Man: Homecoming, Leigh Whanell's Upgrade, and Karyn Kusama's The Invitation, have placed this 43-year old, South Carolina native, on a path to massive success. Today, Marshall-Green is taking his shot at writing & directing, and it is not much of a surprise to me, but he is damn good at it. His directorial debut, Adopt A Highway, is a quietly beautiful film, about taking care of responsibilities, finding redemption in life, and about people changing our lives for the better. I had the chance to interview Logan Marshall-Green for AMovieGuy.com and this is a genuine person, with a kind soul, and a natural when it comes to filmmaking. Logan Marshall-Green is an artist that deserves our attention. Read my interview here:
AMG.COM: I don't know if you remember, I interviewed you at SXSW this year, I showed you my Alien/Prometheus tattoo on my arm at the films premiere.
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: I completely remember you Leo. (Laughs) And I definitely remember that tattoo my man.
AMG.COM: If someone was to take a look at your acting career, making multiple science fiction and genre films, it might be a surprise to see the heart felt themes of Adopt A Highway. Were you looking to make a movie that was against your acting roles and personal to you?
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: Yeah, I did actually. I wrote this film so I could make other films, that cost a lot more money. I was told, “go write something that is more feasible financially.” I was also told, “write something that's feasible, but make it hot, sexy, fun. Don't write anything original Logan.” I went and did the opposite. I wrote it to make other films, but I also knew that I needed to understand myself as a writer. I didn't want to lean on those tropes that I was brought up by, my love of action films, horror, and science fiction. Those are muscles I know I've got. I know I can tap into and I have in other scripts that I've written. What I didn't understand was my own human condition and I wanted to write a film where I'm not gonna lean on negative archetypes. Drugs, sex, or death. I just wanted to write a story about redemption and hope. All I knew, I didn't want to write anything that's untrue to myself, in that point, in my stage of life. I was a father, just like yourself, a new father, and I was lost. Nobody gave me the handbook. I had a little girl, I became a father over night, I fell in love with this little girl, but I had no idea how to help her. All I knew was that I was supposed to keep her alive. Purpose is a big thing for me. Forgiveness and redemption are big things for me. As I wrote that in the credits. The last thing we did, I was in my car, we finished the sound mix, download the file, I ran back in and said “wait, this is the last thing I can do”, and I put that dedication in. It's not an indictment of the penal system, I know a little bit, and I certainly have those men and women on my mind. It is simply a story, with a privileged point of view, about a man who is just trying to find his way, about him having someone give him purpose and he's giving back that purpose.
AMG.COM: Obviously, I am a major fan of the film Prometheus, so I have to bring it up, but would you say working on a massive production like that, big cast, big sets, great director; Does that make the set for Adopt A Highway feel like your going back to your early roots?
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: We didn't have Pinewood studio backstage, (laughter) or similar amounts of money. With that said, the first thing you heard as an actor on Ridley Scott's set each day, by the first scene, was let's allow Ridley, the director, and the actors to have the set. And the first thing you heard from me on my first day of Adopt A Highway, for 1.3 million dollars, was let the director and the actors have the set. Ridley directed Prometheus, as he directs everything, he directs his acting department like he's directing an independent film. He works with the actors as the first thing in the day, and they don't invite the crew in until they get the scene correct. Then they figure out how to shoot the damn thing. He does not put the cart before the horse. I tried to not do that either. My daily reprieve, was just wafting Ethan (Hawke), and contain him within this character. Mostly, getting out of his way. Once I saw he had a full grasp on his character, I was making sure that I was not a part of the problem.
AMG.COM: I wanted to ask you about your star Ethan Hawke. His role here is an emotional, bruised, and reborn character. There are a lot of moments of heartfelt drama, but did you need to push Ethan to get there for a role like this? Or do you let him do his thing?
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: From the beginning, I treated Ethan as a professional who knows what he's doing, because...and not because he's Ethan Hawke, but because he has got 30-years of freakin experience and he's Ethan fucking Hawke! So, of course, but once I understood Ethan's take on Russell Earle Millings, it was absolutely time to step back and now waft. You don't need to guide Ethan into a deep emotional understanding of characters. He's got it, been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. The only thing I would suggest at times to Ethan, because he is such an alpha, he had such a monumental task at hand every morning of discarding that alpha, putting on this beta character. Every now and then, at times I would remind him, because there is no push back with this character, he is not looking to win a scene. If anything, it was reminding him, guiding him towards choices that are not argumentative. That aren't alpha. They were far and few between, but every now and then reminding him that he might be leaving the skin of Millings. Only a few times, very low maintenance. I was more awe in watching him, not just enter a character, but do it within hours of selling his own film, (Blaze) which he wrote and directed at Sundance. The ability for him to be so versatile as director and actor, I was there taking notes the whole time and somehow directing my own film.
AMG.COM: Adopt A Highway has some jarring scenes, especially the one where Ethan's character finds baby Ella in a dumpster. Can you talk about how difficult shooting that scene was and setting up the scene with an infant child?
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: Yeah, anytime a baby is on set is tough. There's no director that says, “god I wish I had more time with that baby.” That said, we had an incredible mother of two twins that we used to play Ella. What I wanted to find was a mother of twins, because they needed to fit for our working schedule, but I needed them to be second born. I was auditioning a mom, not twins. In her we found, not just a mom, but someone who is privy to shooting and is one of the crew. She wanted to get it great. She was willing to, allowed us, and of course she did because we treated her kids with the utmost respect. It was essential that we make the most of it. All of those drugs, all of those explosions, the car chases that I didn't put in the script, the CGI budget, all of that goes into putting that baby in the frame. All that time and money, that was what I was most interested in, putting Ethan and this child in a frame together. Letting the story that I wrote become something else. It's theirs now. Their interactivity. We don't shy from it. We show you improvisational skills that Ethan is doing with her. Not just that it's written, you know? It's written that his character has his key fall out of his pocket, and she reaches up and grabs it. We just got lucky, you can't tell a baby to do that. You have to put everything in place, and get an actor who has five kids of his own, and has incredible paternal instinct. He also has even better acting instincts, because he needs to squash those paternal instincts, so we're able to tell the right story of a man who has zero paternal instincts. Oh, and you only have twenty minutes of camera time. There's your answer. I demanded we keep her in frame and we got so lucky with these good babies.
AMG.COM: I am a fairly new father, so Adopt A Highway really spoke to me. This is about redemption, but it is also about responsibility. Do you think you were aiming for a message about fathers taking responsibility for the children that need our love?
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: Absolutely. One-hundred percent. This film is about men getting rid of their toxic masculinity, rolling up their sleeves, and becoming partners. Not being just the dad, but becoming partners who are considering their kids. In this case our character doesn’t have a partner, he only has himself, he doesn’t know anything...
AMG.COM: But he has a lot of learning to do quickly like most parents.
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: One-hundred percent. That's all intended. It's about finding your purpose. We don't just raise our kids, our kids raise us. Right now, in this country, our kids are raising this entire country, we don't even know it yet. That's why this isn't an indictment of the system, because in the end, we can't indict the bigger problem. We can't indict the earth when it turns on us and begins to fall apart. We can be litigious, looking at it online, reading it in the news, we can choose to not forgive the people that have made mistakes, go to our corners, and we can weaponize ourselves, but in the end that earth collects us all. I'm just over all the indictments, the blaming. I'm ready now to focus on the human heart, the earth, and equality today.
AMG.COM: Beautifully said. Congrats again on the film Logan. Really did love it.
LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. Be good my man.