So, how magnificent is it compared with the 1960 original?
Pretty magnificent. It stays true to the DNA of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai [the 1954 Japanese film on whose screenplay The Magnificent Seven was based], that tale of the underdog. I kept the style classic, shooting it on film but with a modern tone —there’s no “western speak” and tobacco spitting. Also, the characters are more diverse; we have Denzel Washington in the lead, along with Lee Byung-hun (South Korean), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Mexican) and Martin Sensmeier (Native American).
How did you find your seven?
It was tough. First, there was getting Denzel in a western, on a horse. Then we had to find a Steve McQueen [and we got] Chris Pratt, who’d had many offers, but loves westerns. I’d been trying to get Ethan Hawke [and Washington] together again [they co-starred in Fuqua’s Training Day], and when Ethan heard about it, he said, “I don’t care what role it is, I’m in.”
When is this film at its most magnificent?
When 200 horses are storming down a hill toward town for the finale. Looking at all my cameras, that was magnificent. But for me, it’s when the guys are walking up the street, planning how to protect the town—I’m looking at the Magnificent Seven.
And then there’s James Horner’s soundtrack—his last ever…
James played a big part in me making the movie. When I was struggling to put it together, he said, “Antoine, you’ll be remaking history.” When he died, it was crushing. Then I was told he’d left me a surprise gift: seven songs based on the script. I played them to my entire crew, which fueled everyone. It’s amazing, and to this day I don’t know how he did it—he didn’t see an inch of film.
- The Magnificent Seven is out on September 23: sonypictures.com
Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai inspired some far less magnificent creations…
Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
Billed “The Magnificent Seven in outer space” by executive producer Roger Corman, the film starred original cast member Robert Vaughn, with a soundtrack by James Horner. Directing the special effects was newcomer James Cameron.
¡Three Amigos! (1986)
The same story, but with seven magnificent warriors replaced by three idiots, played by Chevy Chase, Martin Short and Steve Martin. Has spawned its own actors-mistaken-for-heroes subgenre (Galaxy Quest, A Bug’s Life, Tropic Thunder).
The Ridiculous 6 (2015)
An Adam Sandler comedy western that succeeds as neither. Most reviewers would have chosen a less flattering adjective for the title too, it seems. Has a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.