'Homefront' hero: Minn. author Chuck Logan gets Hollywood treatment

With one of his thrillers getting the Hollywood treatment, Twin Cities author Chuck Logan hopes for revived interest in the rest – and maybe a movie franchise.

 

Chuck Logan is so elated that his novel “Homefront” has been made into a Hollywood movie, he lapses into action-flick lingo when talking about it.

“This movie just came along like a skyhook,” he said, swiveling in a chair in his Stillwater writing studio to look at a huge poster of Jason Statham on the wall. “I feel like I was standing in the dark and suddenly got picked up by a runaway train.”

Based on the sixth and last of Logan’s pop-fiction thrillers featuring Phil Broker, “Homefront” opens nationwide Wednesday. Starring top action hero Statham and all-over-the-place James Franco, directed by Gary Fleder (“Runaway Jury,” “Kiss the Girls”) and written by Sylvester Stallone, who also co-produced, the $70 million film is one of the biggest movies ever made from a Minnesota author’s work.

If it’s a hit, the movie could re-ignite sales of his other books, as well as publisher interest in more Broker plot lines.

Seeing a book make it to the big screen is a long shot under any circumstances. “Out of a million books sold, the number that get optioned is in the thousands, and of those the ones that get made and distributed are in the tens,” said Sloan Harris, Logan’s agent at ICM Partners.

Statham stars as Broker, a retired DEA agent and widower who moves his 10-year-old daughter to a small Southern town where altercations on the playground and later with the local meth kingpin (Franco) lead to deadlier conflicts.

Harris said Stallone took “an instant liking” to “Homefront” when he handed it to him during a meeting.

Stallone’s version veers from Logan’s in a few key ways. For one thing, it was shot in Louisiana — a state that offers filmmakers some of the most tempting financial incentives in the nation — instead of northern Minnesota. And a main character, Broker’s wife, Nina, is dead and barely referenced in the movie.

“I’m a gender traitor, writing women stronger than men,” Logan joked. “But you can’t have a woman upstaging Statham.”

Noting that visitors to the movie website IMDB.com had ranked “Homefront” as the No. 2 film they most wanted to see, Logan is cheerily pragmatic about these deviations.

“At this point I’m a bystander,” he said. “It’s like selling a car. Once it’s gone down the road, it isn’t yours to mess with anymore.”

From brawling to writing

The author’s own background could be a screenplay. His father left home shortly after Logan’s birth in Chicago in 1942. As a young boy, he spent two years at a Georgia military academy. At 11, he flew through the windshield in a traumatic car accident that killed his mother.

He bounced between relatives for the rest of his childhood, then went to college in Detroit, where he was kicked off both the fencing and debate teams for drinking. After working in auto factories while continuing to get into trouble — assaulting a cop, for example — Logan volunteered for the draft in 1967, doing a tour in Vietnam and earning a Bronze Star.

He moved to Minnesota, got sober and in 1975 became an artist at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ten years later, he started writing after being assigned a book review. A couple of literary efforts flopped, and his friend and former co-worker John Camp (a k a John Sandford, author of the bestselling “Prey” series) suggested he try thrillers. He’s now written eight books, plus “Heat Lightning,” co-authored with Sandford.

Hollywood has flirted with him before, but never sealed the deal. Nick Nolte took a look at Logan’s first novel, “Hunter’s Moon” (1996), but wound up making the even bleaker “Affliction” instead. Jennifer Lopez optioned “Absolute Zero, “but then she made ‘Gigli’ and all that development money dried up,” he said.

Then along came Stallone, who has so much clout “it’s one-stop shopping,” Logan said. The actor/director/screenwriter, who also penned the scripts for the Rocky, Rambo and Expendables series, had twice bought options to film Logan’s 2005 book, but each expired after 18 months. He made another offer early last year. A couple of months later, Logan’s wife, Pioneer Press photographer Jean Pieri, saw a report online that the movie was to start shooting that fall.

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