“When MGM asked me about making a Western, I got excited about the possibility of it, because I grew up with Westerns,” says Antoine Fuqua, who re-teams with Denzel Washington in the story of seven outlaws, gunslingers, gamblers and bounty hunters who band together to save a town under the thumb of corruption in “The Magnificent Seven.”
“So I asked myself, ‘Why make a Western now? Why would it be important?’ And the answer was, the idea of tyranny, happening in our world today – that’s what made it timely. You’d need a special group of people to come together to fight tyranny.”
“An older generation might know this title, but today’s generation doesn’t, and that made it ripe for a retelling,” says producer Todd Black. “Antoine’s visceral, intense filmmaking brings a very contemporary and stylish feel to a classic story about a band of brothers. At its heart, it’s a simple story of men doing what’s right – that’s something I try to find in every movie that I do.”
Fuqua’s retelling of “The Magnificent Seven” would be a retelling for our time, and the filmmaker approached that in several ways – most notably, with the lead actors. “I needed something that you haven’t seen yet, a perspective that has not been on the screen with the Western,” Fuqua recalls. “So I said, ‘What about Denzel Washington?’ And the room went completely silent – until there was an eruption. ‘That would be amazing. You think he would do it?’”
Fuqua and Washington have a very strong relationship. “Antoine and I have obviously had great success,” says Washington. “We won our Academy Award® with `Training Day’ and had great financial success with `The Equalizer.’ He’s a master filmmaker – he knows what he’s doing and he allows me to do what it is I know how to do. We’re a good fit.”
Naturally, Washington was also drawn by the chance to play Chisolm, the leader of the seven. “There are those who have been put on this Earth to protect the innocent,” says the actor. “For this town, he is the right man at the right time.”
With Washington leading the way, the filmmakers reached out to Chris Pratt to play the gambler Josh Faraday, Chisolm’s right-hand man and the first person who joins Chisolm in the seven. Pratt jumped at the chance, speaking for many of his co-stars when he points out that the chance to play real-life Cowboys and Indians was irresistible. “I’d put it out there that I wanted to do a Western, and when I was able to read the story and see the vision for the movie, I got really excited,” says Pratt.
Once Washington and Pratt were cast, the filmmakers began to think about the roles that would surround them. “Denzel and I sat and talked about it. We started reading all the books about the West and how diverse it was then. There were people from everywhere in the world – Mexico, Ireland, Russia. I thought, ‘I wanna see THAT West,” says Fuqua.
With that in mind, the filmmakers, along with screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk, would create new characters played by a diverse group of young actors: Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux; Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne; South Korean star Byung-Hun Lee as Billy Rocks; Mexican-American actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez; and Native American actor Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest.
All of these characters join the fray for different reasons, says Ethan Hawke: “One person’s there because he had a dream. One person’s there because he lost his family. One person’s there for a friend. One person’s there because he has a secret he’s not telling. One person’s there just because he didn’t know what else to do. None of them are there for ethical reasons, but they accidentally find themselves doing the right thing, and it feels good and that propels them.”
Opening across the Philippines on September 21, “The Magnificent Seven” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Use the hashtag #Mag7