The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a movie by the same name, which itself was a retelling of The Seven Samurai . The idea of remaking this famous Western began with producer Roger Birnbaum, the man behind such movies as Invictus, the Rush Hour trilogy and ironically, 27 Dresses, who was looking at Metro-Goldwyn—Mayer’s magnificent library of movies. “Staring me in the face was The Magnificent Seven,” he said. It was a movie he had loved since he was a boy, and later, as a film student, he loved that it was linked to Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, a movie about seven Japanese warriors who are bound by honour and duty.
“Kurosawa influenced American films more than people realise,” says director Antoine Fuqua (best known for the Academy Award winner Training Day). “The Seven Samurai informs our film in every way. That’s the DNA, the mother of these movies.
“I saw that movie and it made me want to be a film maker. Kurosawa shot that movie with the depty of field, the strong foregrounds, the big, sweeping shots, and he played in the shadows with the samurai, whether they were good or bad.
“Kurosawa’s characters are ronins, a little dangerous and men of violence, but also men of service, which is what samurai means. That all informed Sturges’ film of course, but even more this one.”
The story of men of service who are a little dangerous and men of violence, who forge a band of brothers is ripe for the telling, says Birnbaum. “There’s a theme about being unselfish and self-sacrificing - these men, all of whom live outside the law, do something selfless to help a community, and there’s nothing in it for them,” he says. “They pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and dig deep inside to fight an outside force, facing impossible odds . . . seven men against an army . . . they know people will die. . . and they do it for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.”
Along the theme of “the right thing to do”, The Magnificent Seven has a diverse cast of actors, far more representative of the way things really were around the time period. Double Academy Award winner Denzyl Washington was signed to play the leader of the seven, Sam Chislom. He and Fuqua read a lot of books about the wild West and realised how “White” the old Western films had been. “There were people from everywhere in the world - Mexico, Ireland, Russia.” says Fuqua. “I wanna see THAT West.”
Screenwriters Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk created new characters that will be played by a diverse group of young actors: Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux; Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne; South Korean star Byung-Hun Lee as Billy Rocks; Mexican-American actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez; and Native American actor Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest.
Westerns are by nature, action films, filled with horse riding stunts and gunfighting. The cast had to learn to be quick on the draw, to spin and twirl their guns. Lee, though, was more graceful than your average cowboy and also has knife-throwing skills that the screenwriters put to the test. Sensmeier will be going with his trusty bow and arrow, and as befitting his role, will also be riding bareback. “We also did bow and arrow training and rifle and gun training, because Red Harvest does everything – shoots the bow, guns, tomahawks, knives… I actually shoot a bow myself, so getting to use one in a film was pretty awesome,” Sensmeier said.
And on a last note, if you love film scores, you’ll know that the theme of the original movie is, well, magnificent. Elmer Bernstein’s score has a memorable rhythm that became synonymous with Western movies. That music has been around since the 1960s, so we have high expectations for the remake.