STILLWATER, Minn. — 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 gets 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.”
Logan, who watched the movie for the first time at a screening a couple of weeks ago, asked young adults in the audience for feedback.
“They called it a more thoughtful action film compared with, say, ‘The Expendables,’” he said. “And I found out some new details, like the intro music was by the Black Keys, which I did not know.”
He praised the film’s tautness, production values and particularly the father-daughter relationship. (For this role, Statham had to exercise the only muscles he never has before onscreen — those that create facial expressions.) “Their chemistry was real, which gives the movie heart,” Logan said, adding that Stallone’s script retained a few real-life-inspired details from his book that are dear to him.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Logan, whose books have been relatively popular but never bestsellers. Logan says his books have gotten lost “in the limbo zone between commercial and literary.” He’s been told he does too much character development for the genre, and that Broker is not tough enough.
“I had a guy get up once at a book signing who got mad because Broker had never shot anybody,” said Logan, whose protagonist also is a Vietnam vet. “I said, people who have violent fantasies should not argue with people who have violent memories.”
Now his publisher is re-releasing “Homefront” with the movie’s stars on the cover, and Logan himself is issuing a new suspense e-book, “Fallen Angel,” about a female war veteran whose memory loss prevents her from knowing why someone wants to kill her.
Mindful of Hollywood’s youth obsession and the fact that in the last book, “Broker is about ready for Medicare,” Logan is working on a pitch for a prequel, a story in which Broker is not yet married.
He’s also always on the lookout for more impossibly tense scenarios in which to embroil his characters.