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Westwood Was Starting Line for 'Logan’s Run'

In summer 1963, the seed for the famed science fiction novel and subsequent film adaptation bloomed inside a UCLA classroom.

In February, Warner Bros. announced that actor Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn, who is helming the actor's upcoming movie Drive, will be collaborating on a remake of 1976's Logan’s Run. What few fans of the film realize is that the novel Logan’s Run, source material for Michael Anderson’s sci-fi classic starring Michael York, was conceived at UCLA in front of a classroom of students.

Authors William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (the writer of many a Twilight Zone episode and the original Oceans 11 story ) based Logan’s Run on an idea Nolan had while paying the Westwood campus a visit.

Nolan explained in his how-to book Let’s Get Creative: Writing Fiction That Sells how the seed for Logan’s Run was planted: “The idea behind the novel originated in the summer of 1963, after I’d been writing full-time for seven years. I was in no hurry to tackle a novel, and didn’t have one in mind back then.

“A friend was teaching a beginner’s class in science-fiction writing at UCLA, and he asked me to talk to his students. My assigned topic was to demonstrate the difference between social fiction and science fiction in basic terms the students could understand. I mulled this over and decided to make use of the old cliché life begins at 40.

“I told the class: ‘If you write about a man who turns 40, leaves his wife, and runs off with a Vegas showgirl, you’re writing social fiction. To create science fiction, reverse this. For instance, you can create an overpopulated future society where your protagonist is not allowed to live past 40. If he resists a state-decreed death and runs, he will be hunted down and terminated by a future cop.’

“I assumed this casually created concept would end there, as a class example, but it stayed with me.”

Nolan jotted notes down for a story he originally titled “Killer Man, Killer Man, Leave My Door,” which he intended to sell to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction for $100. However, he bounced the idea off of Johnson, who suggested they write the story up as a screenplay. Nolan said maybe they should write it as a novel first, then a screenplay. And that’s what they did.

In fall 1965, Nolan explained in Let’s Get Creative!, “We … rented a motel room on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu to use as an office, and sat down to write our novel.”

The pair sold the novel to Dial Press, which published Logan’s Run in 1967. The compulsory death age in their book had been lowered to 21. By the time Logan’s Run hit the silver screen, it was upped to 30.

Logan’s Run inspired two more novels, Logan’s World and Logan’s Search, both written solely by Nolan, as well as the famous 1976 movie and a short-lived Marvel Comics title drawn by George Perez (Teen Titans).

The remake of the movie has been talked about since the mid-1990s, with the latest rumor suggesting a 2012 release for the Gosling-Refn version.

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