Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Magnificent Seven' Director Hopes to Set New Standard for Diversity in Westerns

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Magnificent Seven' Director Hopes to Set New Standard for Diversity in Westerns

Article excerpt

TIFF kicks off with diverse Hollywood western


TORONTO - "Magnificent Seven" director Antoine Fuqua is tipping his hat to Hollywood for giving him the wherewithal to deliver a multi-ethnic cowboy movie, led by Denzel Washington.

"This becomes the new definition of what a western is," Fuqua told a Toronto International Film Festival press conference on Thursday as his international cast of stars sat alongside him.

Among the other marquee names in attendance were Chris Pratt, South Korea's Byung-hun Lee and Mexican actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. Their movie officially ushered in the 11-day film festival in downtown Toronto.

"You've got to give the studio credit when they do something like this," Fuqua added about his diverse cast.

"They didn't blink an eye."

The star-studded remake of the 1960 Hollywood western -- itself a reinterpretation of Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" -- has been in the works for a long time. But it arrives at TIFF during what's widely considered to be a pivotal year in how racial diversity is represented on movie screens.

Washington shied away from linking the film too closely with some sort of cinematic statement.

"It's a movie. It's for people to enjoy," he said.

"What do they want to get from it? It depends what you bring to it."

Washington said when crafting his character he didn't watch the popular Hollywood western its loosely based on, which starred Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen.

"I didn't keep away from it, I just didn't know how it would help me," he said.

Washington did, however, watch the original Kurosawa version which Fuqua screened for the entire cast, and found other inspiration in books about the tough lives of frontier women.

He pointed to Mary Fields, also known as Black Mary, a freed slave who is considered the first black woman employed by the U.S. postal service.

"Black Mary knocked guys out," Washington said with a chuckle.

Fuqua hinted that he's hopeful his new western might be a harbinger for more open-mindedness in commercial cinema.

"You can make a 'Magnificent Seven' with all women," Fuqua proposed.

Haley Bennett, the new film's only female lead, echoed his sentiment.

"I got my hands dirty, which was not something a woman got to do in most of these westerns," she said, noting that often female roles never left the kitchen. …

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