Fun to shoot guns, ride horses
US actor Denzel Washington loved filming new reboot of The Magnificent Seven
In the reboot of 1960 Western The Magnificent Seven - itself a remake of 1954 Japanese classic Seven Samurai - US director Antoine Fuqua gives us a different take on the seven outlaws, bounty hunters and misfits who band together to save a small town.
Leading the motley crew is US actor Denzel Washington's character Sam Chisolm, a gunslinger and warrant officer, a free black man on the frontier, and certainly this casting accorded the film a perspective that had not been seen on the big screen when it comes to the Western.
SUPER SEVEN: The Magnificent Seven cast: (from left to right) Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Lee Byung Hun. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke are the two other leads alongside Vincent D'Onofrio, with Mexican Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Native American Martin Sensmeier and Korean heart-throb Lee Byung Hun rounding out the international cast. Peter Sarsgaard plays the villain, industrialist Bartholomew Bogue.
The Magnificent Seven opens here Sep 22.
Washington, 61, ambles into the interview room at the Four Seasons hotel in Toronto, Canada, casually dressed and very late.
The Magnificent Seven had premiered the night before at the opening ceremony screening of the Toronto International Film Festival, and presumably, the celebrations went late into the night.
You can tell why Washington's had a three decades-long career - this man has that elusive star quality not given to all actors, a presence he makes felt in spades.
Better still, he's in a playful mood, flashing that famous movie star smile often.
This is your third time working with Fuqua, after Training Day (2001) and The Equalizer (2014). Is there a shorthand with him?
Yeah, but it was a different dynamic because there were seven divas (laughs). He really knows and loves and grew up on Westerns, and he said that is what got him into making films. So that love was infectious. We have had great success together. So I trust him and go where he wants me to go. Now you are going to write about divas (laughs). Denzel says that they are all divas. I say WE are all divas. Yes.
Director Antoine Fuqua (right) with his The Magnificent Seven cast Denzel Washington (middle) and Chris Pratt (left). PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
Did you want to be a cowboy when you were a little boy?
My father was a minister. We grew up in a church and we didn't go to the movies. I didn't grow up on Westerns. King Of Kings and The Ten Commandments and that was it.
It wasn't like some childhood dream that I wanted. I just liked the script and trusted Antoine. So when he called me up, I read it and I was like, 'I like this, it's fun to shoot guns and ride horses'. I read the script and I knew that we were going to win (laughs).
So how was the horse riding training?
I enjoyed my relationship with my horse. I had never ridden that much before. I liked feeding my horse, washing him down, taking care of him and walking him around. I took care of him, he took care of me. He knew his mark and he could walk right up and stop. And he would bite the other horses and he wouldn't let them come close to him. And they can feel you. They know if you are afraid of them.
Denzel Washington (right) with Haley Bennett (middle) and Luke Grimes (left). PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
It sounds like a hard shoot.
It was hot. But we are making movies; it's not that hard. Sitting in the sun on a rock in Baghdad, that is hard. We would go into our air-conditioned trailers.
What was it like working with Lee Byung Hun?
I loved (his 2005 movie) A Bittersweet Life and I didn't realise he was the guy in it. A wonderful actor and very disciplined and serious. It was interesting, I didn't know how big he was, he is a huge star overseas, and I had no idea. And nobody knew who he was here. He's very quiet and goes about his business.
You turned 60 a couple of years ago. Any life lessons you can share?
I looked in the mirror and I said, "This ain't the dress rehearsal Denzel, so what do you want to do with the rest of your life?" So you simplify things, you try to eliminate the negative things in your life. Be a good friend, be a good husband and be a good father, and work hard. That is hard enough, come to think about it.
It's trial and error, and I have got no road map and I am like everyone else. You fall down, you get up and you keep going. What did somebody tell me? "Fall down seven times and get up eight." I am an ordinary guy with an extraordinary job. I don't take myself seriously, I take my work seriously.
Is there a legacy you want to leave behind?
Legacy? I never thought of that, ever. I have still got work to do. Might be the fourth quarter, but the game is not over.
I am an ordinary guy with an extraordinary job. I don't take myself seriously, I take my work seriously.
- Denzel Washington