Denzel Washington hell-bent on justice in all-action remake
DENZEL Washington was the only leading man for director Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven.
The Oscar-winner leads an all-star ensemble cast including Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Q: Tell us about your character, Sam Chisolm.
A: He comes to town and he’s looking for revenge for something that happened to his family. I don’t know if that’s in the other versions, but in our story he’s looking for revenge. He’s coming to do a job and then he finds that this town is being taken over. You know, it’s a story about good and evil – and he’s not completely good.
Q: He’s approached by Emma Cullen, played by Haley Bennett, who asks him for help and he clearly connects with her…
A: When Chisolm meets Emma he can see her fire. He can relate to her and her circumstances and I think he feels like this is his chance to set things right, to do something for her that he was unable to do in his own case, with his own family. He sees her resolve and her determination to seek justice. He wasn’t able to serve justice in his own family and he now has this desire to right wrongs, to make evil people pay for their crimes. Q: So he’s haunted by the past?
A: My character is a duly sworn warrant officer from Kansas. He’s also a licensed peace officer in Arkansas, Nebraska, Indian Territories and seven other states – that’s what he always says to everyone when he meets them because he’s a black man in the frontier, in a position of authority, so he needs to let people know that he has authority from the government to do his job. He’s a loner, he’s unafraid and he’s a master with his weapon, but he’s not a braggart. He’s a lonely man, an honourable and courageous man – you know, everything I’m not (laughs). He’s complicated and he’s not used to dealing with people, especially some young girl like Emma, but when he finds out the circumstances and what’s involved, he has a particular purpose.
Q: There are obviously some heavy scenes but is it fun, too, being in a western?
A: It’s fun because we’re on our horses and we’re all together and guys are talking, cracking jokes and, you know, the guys are spinning their guns. I never had the opportunity – and I don’t know if I’ll get another opportunity – to do a western. Maybe it shouldn’t even be called a western. It’s a story that takes place on the frontier, on the edges of a young and new America. And it’s about what happens on those edges when there’s lawlessness and sometimes a lack of order, so men like these seven come together to make sense out of it.
Q: Part of your preparation was working with Thell Reed, who is a world-renowned sharp shooter. What was that like?
A: He would always tell me “smooth is fast”. I have fast hands and I’ve been boxing for years. I’m just fast but he was always telling me, “Slow down! Slow down!” Thell is the man. He’s worked with John Wayne. You know, he’s the man.
Q: You’ve obviously got a great history working with Antoine…
A: Antoine and I have obviously had great success. We won our Academy Award with Training Day and we had great financial success with The Equalizer. He’s a master filmmaker; he knows what he is doing and he knows how to put films together and he allows me to do what it is I know how to do. I think we are a good fit. I think he got interested in movies from watching westerns, frontier movies, as a child and so this is a life-long dream come true for him.
The Magnificent Seven opens on Thursday.
READY TO RIDE: Vincent D'Onofrio, Martin Sensmeier, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Ethan Hawke, Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Byung-Hun Lee in a scene from the movie The Magnificent Seven.