Whether the third time will be the charm for "Hugo" Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan is yet to be seen.
But for a scribe who was previously nominated for penning "Gladiator" and "The Aviator" -- and worked with such iconic directors as Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Tim Burton and Ridley Scott -- in many ways, you could already say his career has been plated with gold.
"It's been a heck of a run, that's for sure," Logan told me with a laugh in an interview this week. "I pinch myself all the time. I'm a starving theater mouse from Chicago who spent 10 years selling books and writing plays and living on tuna fish. So to have all of this happen has been incredible. The directors I've worked with inspired me before, and still inspire me."
Logan's nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for "Hugo" is one of the film's leading 11 Academy Award nominations, which also includes Best Picture and Best Director for Scorsese. Many of Logan's collaborators on "The Aviator" -- which was also nominated for 11 Oscars (and won five) in 2005 -- are also nominated for "Hugo."
"One of the very special things about 'Hugo' was that it reunited a bunch of us who worked on 'The Aviator' with Marty -- (cinematographer) Bob Richardson, (art director) Dante Ferretti, (visual effects artist) Rob Legato, (editor) Thelma Schoonmaker -- it's like we're the traveling band of Scorsese players," Logan enthused. "It's like seeing old friends, I tell you. It's fantastically fun."
Even though "Hugo" is Logan's third Oscar nomination, the scribe said that getting the getting another nod doesn't make the honor any less exciting. In fact, Logan added, he's more jazzed than ever before.
"It definitely never becomes old hat. The thing that I've always liked about it is that it gives me a chance to meet other people in the industry. I get to meet writers whom I've always admired, directors, actors and producers. It gives you a chance to mix with your colleagues and rub shoulders with them. That never gets old," Logan said. "Having been through it a couple of times before, it makes it a little bit easier. You know how to pace yourself and all your expectations put everything into a nice, little perspective. But it's still thrilling. The important thing to remember is, it's not your day job. My day job is writing, and this is a fun little extra."
Logan penned three films in 2011 total -- "Hugo," the Best Animated Feature nominee "Rango" and an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" (which marked the directorial debut of Ralph Fiennes) -- and it was a year of departure for the writer in that the first two skewed more toward a family audience. While it was completely happenstance he was writing for that genre for the first time, Logan said he's glad for the opportunity to spread his wings a bit.
"I'm drawn to material because there are stories I want to tell or people I want to work with, and 'Hugo' and 'Rango' just happened to be projects that were really exciting," Logan said. "I like doing things that are departures anyway, whether it goes from doing 'The Aviator' to 'Sweeney Todd,' or 'Coriolanus' to 'Rango,' I like doing things that are different. I like being challenged and flex different muscles."
Based on author Brian Selznick's award-winning children's book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," "Hugo" is about an orphaned 12-year-old boy (Asa Butterfield) who lives within the walls of a Paris train station, collecting gears and other assorted bits to finish construction of an automaton that he believes will contain a message from his late father (Jude Law) but instead thrusts Hugo into a series of events that the boy never could have imagined.
Logan said that he and Scorsese were looking for a film to work on together since "The Aviator," and he knew almost instantly that they found the project when the director sent him a copy of Selznick's book.
"I think Brian Selznick wrote a masterpiece. Within 10 pages I knew why Marty wanted to do it as a film and I knew I wanted to do it," Logan said. "It's such a mesmerizing story. How could I not want to go back into that world and get to explore a little Charles Dickens. I always looked at 'Hugo' as being a little Dickensian. It gave me a chance to explore those tropes, characters and themes that have affected me from so many years of reading Dickens."
As a screenwriter who has both written original and adapted material, Logan said he was particularly fascinated with "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" because he simply could not see where the story was going. What he found even more fascinating was, that in addition to the story of the orphan, tucked neatly into the nooks and crannies of the story was an emerging plotline about Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley), whose pioneering work as a filmmaker had all but been forgotten.
"On one level, Brian Selznick's book is a mystery story and you're never sure where it's going, from all the twists and turns that lead you from Hugo and his relationship with his father, to the automaton and the people in the train station," Logan observed. "Then finally, you follow the story to Melies and it ends up with the great irony of good storytelling, being in the place that Hugo needs to go to find his own home. It was very satisfying because the story is so thematically joined, because all the characters in one way or another are very damaged -- and by the end of the story they're made whole again through the efforts of this incredibly brave kid."
Naturally, Logan said he cherished the opportunity to write a script for Scorsese again, and better yet, he spent more time on the "Hugo" set than the norm because he was already in London working on the script for the upcoming James Bond film "Skyfall." Lucky for Logan, it allowed him the opportunity to see a different side of the legendary director that he didn't get to see while working on "The Aviator."
"The difference between Marty on 'The Aviator' and Marty on 'Hugo' was notable. 'Hugo' was an act of benevolence. It was very grateful film that he made," Logan said. "He was so warm and generous on the set. He's always inspiring and thrilling to work with, but there was a little something special about this time. It was like watching a magician in the autumn of his years, really using all his powers to create a magnificent work of magic."