‘Magnificent Seven’ Director Says Diversity In Casting ‘Not A Statement’

Antoine Fuqua, the director of the remake of the 1960 western classic The Magnificent Seven has opened up about the diversity in the movie’s casting. Fuqua wanted it make it clear that the diversity wasn’t just to make a statement and he had actually chosen the actors for their qualities. The film stars Denzel Washington in the lead role.

Director Fuqua opened up about remarks on the film’s diverse casting, before the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday night.

“I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse. Everyone else fell in place around that idea.”

The film also stars Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke. Vincent D’Onofrio, Mexico’s Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Native American actor Martin Sensmeier and South Koran actor, Byung-Hun Lee, make it the magnificent seven. The movie is a remake of the 1960 classic film of the same name directed by John Sturges, which in itself was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese classic Seven Samurai.

The Magnificent Seven
Director Antoine Fuqua and Ethan Hawke. [Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images]

In the light of all the ongoing debate in Hollywood regarding diversity in casting, The Magnificent Seven director was asked about his choice of a diverse cast. In response Fuqua said that his intention was not to make a statement about it, but rather to bring together an ensemble of good actors in order to make an epic film.

“It wasn’t to make a statement. We don’t talk about it because you guys [the media] talk about it. My idea was: Denzel Washington walks into a room and the room stops, Clint Eastwood walks into a room and the room stops. Is it because of the gunslinger or because of the color of his skin? So we let the audience decide.”

Denzel Washington has previously worked with director Fuqua in the movies Training Day and The Equalizer. Washington says that he has never seen the John Sturges original, staring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, and Horst Buchholz. He pointed out that it wasn’t intentional that he had kept away from it, but just that he couldn’t see how finally watching the movie after all these years would help him for his role in the new movie.

“I didn’t keep away from it. I just didn’t know how it would help me. [Not seeing it] allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do. Instead of trying not to do what someone else did.”

Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese-language film Seven Samurai has a story revolving around seven samurais who protect a village against a band of robbers terrorizing them. The 1960 John Sturges version of The Magnificent Seven, an old western style remake of the Akira Kurosawa film, has as story revolving around seven gunslingers who protect a mexican village against a group a bandits. And in Fuqua’s 2016 remake of the movie, seven gunslingers protect a town called Rose Creek from the grips of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, a role played by Peter Sarsgaard.

The Magnificent Seven
Director Antoine Fuqua and Chris Pratt [Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images]

Fuqua claims that the film plays homage to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

“The most important thing was to stay true to the DNA of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. You can’t do the same thing every era. Westerns change all the time. If we were sticking to just one way of doing something then all westerns would be all white guys looking like John Wayne. Westerns change with the time where in, so we made our film based on the world we living in.”

The Magnificent Seven Premiered at the Toronto film festival on Thursday. Following the premier the movie was panned by critics. Todd McCarthy of Hollywood Reporter called The Magnificent Seven “efficient but uninspired”.

“It would seem that ethnic variety was the guiding principle more than anything else, the obvious irony being that it’s now a rainbow coalition of misfits defending an all-white town against all-white villains way out west in 1879.”

Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian gave the movie three stars in his review, calling it “strenuously-topical.”

“Denzel Washington’s classic western hero is commandingly cool and supported by a rakish Chris Pratt. But there’s a great deal of waiting around for something to happen”.

The Magnificent seven is coming to theaters in the UK and the US on September 23. You can watch the trailer below.

[Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images]