'The Magnificent Seven' brings diversity to Western genre

'Seven' stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt and is a remake of director John Sturges' 1960 Western, itself a remake of Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai.' 

Sam Emerson/Sony Pictures/AP
'The Magnificent Seven' stars Denzel Washington (l.) and Chris Pratt (r.).

Antoine Fuqua's remake of "The Magnificent Seven" is an old-school Western with more modern faces.

The film, which stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, is a remake of the John Sturges' 1960 Western, which itself was a remake of Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai." For Fuqua, who grew up loving Westerns, it was important for him to cast a diverse group of actors to welcome moviegoers to a genre not known for inclusiveness.

"For me, being black, I didn't see anyone that really looked like me," Fuqua said in an interview. "But I still loved the Westerns because as a kid, I wasn't identifying color. I was just identifying my heroes, John Wayne and those guys."

In Fuqua's "Magnificent Seven," the hero is unquestionably Washington, who plays a fearsome black-clad bounty hunter. It's the actor's first Western, and if nothing else, "The Magnificent Seven" unites one of today's true movie stars with Hollywood's most iconic, if somewhat out of favor, genres.

"I had a vision of him on that horse," said Fuqua, whose "Training Day" and "The Equalizer" starred Washington. "That's what made it fun for me. Right away, when we were talking about the different cast members, I said, 'You know, I'd love to see Denzel on a horse.' Everybody in the room got quiet. They said, 'Do you think he'll do it?' I said, 'Well, I'll fly to New York and find out.'"

Washington said he never saw Sturges' film, but he did watch "Seven Samurai." ''I didn't know how it would help me," said Washington. "It allowed me to do whatever I wanted to do instead of trying to not do what maybe somebody else did."

For Fuqua, watching the Western morph over time, particularly with Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns, was what most enthralled him: "I fell in love with them, watching them change."

He hopes his film – which also stars Ethan Hawke, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Vincent D'Onofrio – helps open up the genre to others, and more accurately reflects the diversity of the Old West.

"People say, 'Oh, Westerns are hard to sell.' Well, they're hard to sell if everybody in the Western looks one way," says Fuqua. "You're not going to get the Asian market excited about it if all the Chinese guy does is work on the railroad. And I won't get black people go see it if all it is is the slaves. Even white people get tired of seeing the same guy over and over as well. Everyone wants something to make it fresh. It's a great genre and I thought it was dying for no good reason."

"I hoping if this is successful, we'll get to see more Westerns – more diverse and interesting Westerns," he said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.