“I didn’t think about them as superheroes as much as they all had especial skills,” Antoine Fuqua says of his titular hired guns in The Magnificent Seven. “I want it to be fun. I didn’t want it to be just one thing. Everybody’s different. Everybody has a different skill set. As seven, they’re perfect. Seven’s the perfect number. When they’re not seven, they’re not perfect. But when they’re seven, they’re like a machine, and everything works perfectly.”
Though his team of tough guys (played by Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Martin Sensmeier) – who are hired by a collective of farmers when their land is threatened by a ruthless mining magnate – plays out almost like an Old West version of The Avengers, complete with near supernatural abilities to vanquish bad guys, Fuqua was keen to keep his remake of the 1960 classic (itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 masterpiece, Seven Samurai) old school. “I wouldn’t have done it on video,” he says. “I still wanted to keep it classic, and keep it on film. I wanted to keep the elements of the classic. I was trying to keep it classy and not go into the digital world. I wanted to reference Seven Samurai too. You’ll see shots that will remind you of the Seven Samurai, especially during the battle at the end. The battle is more Seven Samurai than The Magnificent Seven. The battle is epic. It’s a war. That was Kurosawa…his was a war, not just a battle.”
To get his actors up to scratch for the film’s battle scenes – and for their fighting skills – Fuqua put his cast through training. “Months and months ahead, we worked with guns, and on particular guns that would fit each actor’s character,” the director explains. “Our Korean actor, Byung-hun Lee, was already skilled with the knives. He was very athletic and beautiful to watch…it’s almost like a ballet. All of the actors had different levels of experience. But it was definitely mainly about getting used to those guns. Everybody had to get used to those weapons. Manuel Garcia-Rulfo was amazing. He just started spinning guns like he did it forever. They all picked up on it very quickly. They rode the horses just about every day. Even when I was filming, whoever wasn’t on the set would be riding or working with the gun guys. The biggest challenge wasn’t the guns or the horses. It was the environment. It was amazing. When it’s that hot and you’re in those clothes every day and you’re out there in those elements, the outdoor adventure is definitely something that you have to deal with. Credit goes to anybody that does it. You’re not in control of much. We had days where the horses just wouldn’t do anything. They’d give the horses a glass of beer so they wouldn’t sweat. Something to do with the glands…those are just little things that you discover. There are other scenes where there are hundreds of horses storming down a hill and explosions and stuff and it was just daunting…honestly.”
Were there any on-set injuries? “No injuries,” Fuqua replies. “Well, the stunt men got hurt. We had stunt men bump their heads, and get concussions. There’s a lot of action. Guys get run over by horses, and things like that. But there were no serious injuries, thank god,” the director smiles.
The Magnificent Seven is released in cinemas on September 29. Click through for the first part of our interview with Antoine Fuqua.