Toronto: 'Magnificent Seven' Cast Diversity Unintentional Yet Noteworthy, Says Antoine Fuqua
"We just talked about actors, and I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse. I didn’t think about color or anything."
The gunslingers of The Magnificent Seven on Thursday gathered for reporters just before the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and they were immediately asked questions about the intent of the cast’s diversity onscreen.
But Antoine Fuqua shot down the idea of trying to make a political statement with his call list. “We just wanted to make a good movie together,” the director explained. “When I was in a room with MGM and Sony and the producers, we just talked about actors, and I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse. I didn’t think about color or anything, I just thought that would be an event. … My idea was, Denzel walks into a room, the room stops. Ethan Hawke walks into a room, the room stops. Is it because he’s a gunslinger or is it the color of his skin? We’ll let the audience decide.”
Washington echoed, “It’s a movie, and it’s for people to enjoy. Like I always say, whatever you get from it depends on what you bring to it. … I know one of the things you’ll get from it is a good time.”
However, since the film does feature a refreshingly diverse cast, audiences “gotta give the studios credit when they do something like this. … They didn’t blink an eye,” Fuqua stressed.
“It’s a different time, a different era. Young people who don’t know Westerns need to feel like they have their own,” he continued. Therefore, “this becomes the new definition of what a Western is. You can make a Magnificent Seven with all women — and there were some tough women then! … Why not make a movie like that? You can do it today.”
Fuqua gave the cast creative freedom to craft their own characters — a tradition appreciated by Hawke, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Chris Pratt. “We got to go into a wardrobe room with a ton of cowboy shit” and try on whatever accessories and weapons they desired, said Pratt. “Clothes make a man, and we’re making out characters.”
But in doing so, they weren’t required to revisit John Sturges’ 1960 film The Magnificent Seven — or, in Washington’s case, watch for the first time. “I know it’s odd to hear that from us, but that’s not something you do when you approach a project,” said Vincent D’Onofrio. “You don’t try to be something that already happened; you try to create something new and hope it happens.”
Pratt added, “We could’ve called it The Cowboys, but this [film title] has more reach, it gets people excited. But it’s probably more Wild Bunch than it is [like the 1960 film] Magnificent Seven. We used the title, we used the story, there’s seven of us and we’re all f—ing magnificent — we got that going for us — but let that movie be that movie. This is a different movie.”
Fuqua also explained that his intention was not to remake Sturges’ film of the same name — “The world was different then, they were much more wholesome. … None of them sweat, and none of them were black,” he joked — but instead to “stay true to the DNA” of Akira Kurosawa’s original 1954 classic, Seven Samurai. “Kurosawa is like Shakespeare,” said the director. “I believe he would’ve loved to see a version today. He was a very forward thinker.”
As for the remake’s modern relevance, Fuqua highlighted the universal story of all three films: “Do right by others, even at your own cost — I think that’s timeless.”