Antoine Fuqua Explains How Casting Denzel Washington In ‘The Magnificent Seven’ Changed The Entire Film

The remake is a funny concept in modern cinema. Some fall by the wayside and give the original film a chance to shine in its failure, and others have fans seething at the mere idea of their beloved movies being reimagined; cinema goers feel that some movies should be left alone and untarnished by the remake trend that is currently blazing through Hollywood. In some cases, they may have a point, but on the odd occasion, a remake comes along that not only piques the interest of the cinema goer, but also gives the modern version of the film a chance to stand alone and have a valid chance of acceptance.

The Magnificent Seven seems to be one of these movies. With a trailer currently doing the rounds, it has fans talking and excited, but not in a bad way. Even fans of the original are interested in seeing this modern incarnation of the movie. After all, the original 1960 movie was a remake in itself, an Old West-style reimagining of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese classic Seven Samurai. Plus, it’s been more than fifty years since The Magnificent Seven first introduced us to the gunfighters of the title. A new, polished adaptation might just be what we need.

The film includes a stellar cast, too. It stars a roster of character actors who are currently enjoying a wave of success in their careers. Denzel Washington heads up a rogues gallery that includes Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’Onofrio, amongst others, but for a film that also features a Native American warrior, a Korean assassin, and a Hispanic outlaw, could this possibly be one of the most diverse casts in Hollywood history? Maybe, but according to director Antoine Fuqua, it wasn’t always meant to be that way. In fact, he revealed recently that casting Denzel Washington in the lead role actually changed the entire film.

The cast of the original The Magnificent Seven. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, and Charles Bronson featured in the film. [Image via United Artists/MGM]
Speaking in an interview with Total Film, Antoine Fuqua revealed the following about the film’s casting.

“It’s funny, when I was in a room with MGM and everyone we were just talking about the cast. Right away, we went down the list of actors… Denzel’s name wasn’t on that list. It was just a lot of actors. Most of them were white. I just said, ‘I think this movie needs an event. It needs something more than just the title. It needs to be something that everyone can grab on to. Denzel would be amazing as Yul Brynner, that character, coming over the hill in all-black and looking like a bada**…'”

Casting or recasting a white character with a black actor is not a new trend in Hollywood, and most people welcome it. Most recently, it happened with Annie and The Fantastic Four, and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower film adaptation welcomed Idris Elba to the fold in recent months. Elba will be playing Roland Deschain in the movie, a character who is described as white in the source material. Even the recasting of James Bond has been linked to such a change in recent years, again linking Elba to the role. Fuqua was obviously aware of this in his meeting and continued to clarify his choice.

“It was like a hush went over the room. I got excited. I got that feeling in my stomach that he would make it special. And then the fact that he was black kind of came up in the room. I just think of him as a great actor. I didn’t think about color. People asked me whether I was going to make an issue out of it. I said, ‘No. Let people who come to the theaters paint their own picture. You already know he’s black. I don’t need to point that out.’ And then I started thinking about making it more diverse after I thought about Denzel.”

The decision to cast Washington certainly seems to be a popular one. Unlike many remakes, The Magnificent Seven is actually garnering a popular following already. Whether this is down to the solid cast or the fact that the film will be relevant again after 56 years is debatable. A full cast run-down was released by Cinema Blend last year, and it certainly got the fans talking, although some of these actors have since stepped down. Regardless of this, the movie looks to be moving in the right direction. You can see the trailer below.

Yul Brynner as Chris Adams in The Magnificent Seven. Although the character has been renamed for the remake, Denzel Washington will be stepping into his role as the leader of the Seven. [Image via United Artists/MGM]
Another thing of note, and something that is obvious from the trailer, is the female casting in the movie. Old West films tend to feature women as damsels in distress or ladies of the night, but Fuqua is taking a different approach to this. Haley Bennett (who worked with Fuqua and Washington on The Equalizer) features in the movie as frontiers-woman Emma Cullen, and seems to be holding her own with the seven gunfighters. In more than one scene, she can be seen wielding a firearm and riding a horse, so will the Seven actually become Eight? You can find out when the film is released later this year.

The Magnificent Seven will ride again at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8 before seeing a U.S. release on September 23.

[Image and trailer via Columbia Pictures]

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