WonderCon Interview with Logan Production Designer Francois Audouy
Thanks to Halcyon Productions and 20th Century Fox Studios, we were able to sit down with Logan’s production designer Francois Audouy at Wondercon 2017. Audouy was born in France and raised in California. He is an Art Director’s Guild-nominated production designer who has worked on everything from Wild Wild West to Men in Black to Minority Report. In this one-on-one interview, Audouy shares just what it took to give Logan’s distinctive look and feel.
First, can you tell us about being a production designer?
A production designer creates the world and designs a look for the film. They’re involved in choosing the locations and the look of the film.
That’s amazing! Can you tell us about the best parts of your job?
I’ve got the best job. They pay me to travel and find all these exotic locations. Wolverine [Jackman’s second stand-alone X-Men film] was so much fun, traveling and going to Japan. [On Logan] he [Director James Mangold] wanted to make a very American film. Jim talked about wanting to make character islands for these characters to land on. He also talked about wanting to make these islands feel very very different from each other.
Logan was a bit scary to embark on so I knew that this would be a good project to work on. I love projects where you learn and get to create things that you’ve never gotten to create before. Hugh Jackman is such a great actor, so hardworking.
How did you prepare for working on Logan?
You end up learning something different on every project and as a designer you get to draw and create different things. I basically dropped out of college and started working when I was 20 and started as a graphic design/concept illustrator working on the Men in Black films and Wild Wild West. I worked on Minority Report as well, for me, it was the ability to work with mentors who I became very close with. My first movie that I worked on as a production designer was Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.
Can you tell us what started Old Man Logan for you and Mr. Mangold?
Old Man Logan the comic was the spark. The title, quite frankly, Old Man Logan, and Hugh wanting to do his final send off as this character. It really came together to create this new book.
I think one of the things that stood out for me was the coloring on Logan. It has the look and feel of a 1970s film, much like Come Back Shane. Can you talk about the color palette you guys used in the film to give it that “retro” look?
You know, the coloring was really a reflection of the environment that they went through. At the beginning of the film, it’s really inspired by the desert colors of Mexico. You get a lot of rust colors and burned tones. I wanted to give it a sort of classic ’70s look – slightly desaturated look.
It was a conscious choice to create the look of one of those old cowboy films. The color palate is like one of those faded films. In prepping for the film Jim Mangold had us watch a lot of those old cowboy movies — The Gauntlet, Come Back Shane — those are Jim’s favorite films and he wanted to bring that to the work of Logan.
The Cowboy influence was very clear. One of the key components of those old cowboy films was the use of foreshadowing. Much like in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly the fates of the characters are hinted at. For instance – Tuco meets his end by hanging and the hangman’s noose follows him throughout the film. Is that something you brought to Logan?
I think that there’s a sort of dread that follows Logan. Logan is really hurting. It’s the first time that we’ve seen him hurt and feel in a very relatable way. Charles is hurting, you get the sense that that’s where this is heading.
The older characters have seen a lot, but for the younger characters, their journey is just beginning. Can you talk about the production design that you brought to the children (the younger mutants) and how you helped bring them to life?
We’re introduced to the kids in two scenes. One is on a telephone playback in this laboratory in Mexico City. Then in the 3rd act, we see these kids in a fire lookout tower. Jim, at the end of the day, wanted these kids to be real characters. That note really helped me create settings that were very grounded and real. They were fully practical spaces that had no CGI whatsoever. TransiGen Labs was completely dressed as you see it in the movie. The kids really felt like they were trapped in this lab. All of the cell doors were real, the security thing was real.
Woah. What else did you guys do to bring that “real” effect to the movie?
Logan was pulled up the side of the cliff, that’s real. It created a very believable experience with the audience for these characters. The camp was very remote in Northern New Mexico. They were camped out at that campfire. There were no Star Wagons [location trailers] for our actors. Jim wanted it to be very real and for these kids to be very authentic. They weren’t Disney-fied or fake. They were very real.
My favorite character (after Logan) was Laura. Can you talk about some of the design choices you made for her?
Laura really came from the costume designer. We really tried to create a character, but it was more the costume department. We created that iconic T-Shirt design and screen printed it. That was our contribution.
Wow. That shirt was amazing. A very iconic piece, much like the film’s vehicles. From the limo to the battle trucks to the blue truck that Laura drives to help get Logan to safety, the film’s cars were a big focal point for me. What can you say about the cars?
That truck actually, all the vehicles in the movie kept changing quite a bit. For awhile we were trying to do just futuristic vehicles. We were trying to build things from the ground up. The limo was just a custom job, we had to build that from the ground up. We had to build those cars from the ground up. That blue truck was a product of my vehicle coordinator, we found two of them down in New Orleans and I really liked it. Hugh actually ended up taking one home as a wrap gift, a beach truck if you will.
Awesome. One last question. For fans that might be looking for films with a similar look to Logan, what sorts of films would you recommend they watch? What sorts of film influenced that particular story?
The Gauntlet with Clint Eastwood, that’s sort of a road trip where Eastwood is trying to take this woman to a court house. Little Miss Sunshine, The Cowboys, that’s a movie where John Wayne dies in the second act and these kids have to become the heroes to finish the movie.
From cowboys to iconic character looks, Audouy and the team at Halcyon Productions crafted a beautiful swan song that paid an homage to a character we’ve known for decades. This was a closing of a book on one of our favorite characters and an opening of a new book with Laura and her team. It’s clear the entire project was a labor of love from everyone who worked on the film.
Stay tuned for our interview with Clint Regan, pre-visualization specialist for Logan and Halcyon Productions. Did this answer your questions about the look of the film? Are you as intrigued as we are about the nature of the film? Planning on checking out The Gauntlet? Share with us in the comments below.
Logan is currently in theaters.