Director Antoine Fuqua can still remember his first day on set with his now five-time co-star Denzel Washington. It was early 2001, one of the early days of production on Training Day, which eventually gave Washington his second Oscar (and co-star Ethan Hawke his first Oscar nomination). Fuqua was eager to show Washington and Hawke some of the day’s footage, but Washington objected. As Fuqua recalled, Washington assured the director, who had just made his third film, that he was “flying this plane”.
It is an experience Fuqua has not forgotten – that moment when a teacher like Washington assures the director that he trusts him and that he deserves the honour. for him Vision — which has led the duo through five films, including the three-film series “The Equalizer.” The duo rounds out the series with this week’s “The Equalizer 3,” which sees Washington vigilante Robert McCall take his special skill set to Italy and eventually take down the mafia in the process.
As Fuqua reflects on their journey, he is clear: They are as ambitious as ever, even if some of their misgivings have shifted. For the director, that means preparing for new projects (including his Michael Jackson biopic), perhaps reworking some old ones (Tears of the Sun), and saying goodbye to the “working man” (but certainly not Washington). ).
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
IndieWire: The last time we spoke was on The Equalizer 2, I asked you about possible ideas for a third movie. You said, “Honestly, my dream, if it works, would be to have ‘Equalizer’ come out in Europe next,” so obviously you guys have had this idea for a while. Why was it so compelling for you to take this action on the road?
Antoine Fuqua: After the first image I looked like, he became the working man’s James Bond. And I spoke to (screenwriter) Richard Wenk, and I said, ‘Listen, he should be in Europe. Denzel is a big world star.” I remember being in Italy with Denzel, and I think he was Roma, and he was surrounded by crowds the whole distance, and I couldn’t get out of the way. I was like, “Get me out of here.” He was in the middle of all these people, and they They love it here, so I thought it would be fun to do a movie here.
Eventually, the movie turns into a mob movie, and you’ve had an interest in this kind of story before. What was interesting about that?
Of course I wanted to do a mob movie. I grew up on Scorsese movies and all that. At one point, I was going to do a Gregory Scarpa story, a New York mobster, so I’ve been developing that for a while. I still have a burning desire to do so. I wanted to write a story about the Camorra, which is the mafia, which we’re dealing with a little bit here.
You have that sense of what the fans want from these. You told me last time people come up to you at airports and tell you what they want Denzel to do. However, you are aware of the fact that you can’t just serve the fans, and that’s even more obvious this time around.
It’s really about Robert McCall. They love the franchise, they say, because they love Robert McCall. So I always start with Robert McCall, he’s the heart of it all. So wherever he is, whatever situation he’s in, the way I deal with him is. If he is in a dark place, then he is in a dark place. If he is meditating, he is meditating. But it all starts with him. So they are going on the journey with him. They love Denzel.
How does the process work between you and screenwriter Richard Wenk when he writes this stuff?
We talk about him before he goes to write. Then he has studio meetings and stuff, and he comes back to me and gives me the pages and we go back and forth for a while. And then, at some point when I’m busy with what I’m doing, a movie or whatever, he goes into his world and writes down what we’ve discussed. And then we bring that to Denzel and the producers delving into that point.
What does Denzel like about this?
He was into the whole thing. I guess you have to ask Denzel, but I remember (was) interested in having Robert McCall in a different place emotionally based on his actions. And we both talked a lot about questioning himself a bit.
But you also ramp up these things physically. The killings are more brutal than ever.
There is no fair fight. I guess I’m escalating it based on the bad guy and his actions. I think the public wants satisfaction when the good guys are taken advantage of, and we want (the bad guys) punished.
However, a lot of these scenes are kind of funny, so overblown that you can’t help but laugh. There’s a scene where one of the bad guys takes out the key, and I know you’re going to use that key against him, so it looks like you’re having fun here too.
definitely. I’m having a great time. I’m like a kid. There are some days where I say, “Well, maybe something is wrong with me.” “You’re sick,” said Denzel. He came into my office one day and I had all sorts of things hanging (on the wall), keys and shovels, that sort of thing. And he said, “What’s going on?” But it’s like, “Hey, there’s no fair fight. There’s no such thing. They’re bad. They deserve it.”
But things get more emotional here, too. It’s easy to cry at the end, which is an odd feeling for “Equalizer.”
I fell in love with Italy. And I fell in love with people. It is a romantic place. Plus, I’m much older now, and I’m interested in making a movie that has more heart. You get a little older, and then, especially with your kids and with the things that are going on in the world, you tune yourself out a bit, check in with yourself, and see what message you’re sending out to the world. this is important.
And now with the added bonus that Dakota Fanning is here, you get to have your very own Dakota and Denzel show. What is their reunification process?
I got a call from Todd Black (longtime producer) saying Dakota was interested, and I said, “I want to set up a meeting.” today At lunch”, and we went to lunch and I immediately fell in love with her. I knew I liked her in the movies, but I had never met Dakota. She is absolutely right.
I called Denzel afterward and said, “You just met Dakota. How do you feel about that?” And he goes, “Oh, I am love Dakota.” You can just hear him light up on the phone. He was like daddy. He just lit up. And then when I put them together on set, it was fun to sit and watch. He was just so taken with her. After the shots, he’d look at me and say, “It’s woman now. I grew up.” He couldn’t believe it.
We did a test screening, and (people) would love to see them on screen together. I mean, I I like to see her. Apparently, she was a child in Man on Fire. I know I fell in love watching them together, and it was so sweet to know that there was such a built-in history with these two, so you didn’t have to say much. So it made my life easier.
You and Denzel have now made five movies together. How does this relationship evolve and change?
We are both older. And it’s funny that we had to go up those steps, those 700 steps[on the set of the movie in Italy]and I’m younger than Denzel, but I’m still not young, and I’d say, “Are you?” Have any Advil? Do you own any? Do you have an ice pack? We go get ice. We put it on our knees. So we’ve slowed down a little bit that way. But we are both ambitious and driven as ever.
Our rhythm is like music. I guess the only way I can describe it is, they’re like two musicians who pick up their instruments and go off and start playing and it just flows. This has been our relationship since Training Day. And he set that tone (on the set of Training Day), I remember he was sitting at the table with Ethan[Hawke]and I said, “Do you want to come and look (on the screen)?” It was my first scene with him, him and Ethan, I was scared to death. And Denzel was like, ‘You’re flying that plane, buddy. Call me when you need me,” and then she got up and walked away, and thought, “I can’t screw this up.” Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. But this told me he trusted me.
He never came and looked at the screen. He just looked at the screen when he He was about to direct. He would come first and ask me questions about lenses and different things. It never came to my screen and I never looked. He never came to Tahrir Bay. None of this. None of this.
A while ago, Ethan mentioned that you had a longer clip from the remake of “The Magnificent Seven” that he really wanted people to see and that he was “begging” you to post it.
He saw the first one. I don’t know where he is now, with MGM, I have to try to get him. I would like to fix it myself, but I don’t know who will pay for it. I’ll have to pay for it, somewhere, maybe I’ll try. But yeah, he saw the first cut, which I thought was even better. You deal with the studio, timing, and theatres, but you have a business. But I wish this was the (released) version.
Do you feel this way about any of your other films?
Yes, “Tears of the Sun” had a lot. And it was much more than that. It has been cut quite a bit. It’s become a little more movie star driven and that wasn’t the intent. It was more about people and events, and then it became clear that he had changed. But Bruce Willis is a great movie star, and I get that.
What’s going on with Michael Jackson’s movie? You picked his nephew Jafar Jackson earlier this year, so what’s next?
Cast, we’re scouting, (producer) Graham King and I spoke yesterday and we’re on hold because of the strike. So I’m like everyone else, just waiting.
At least you’re on it, doing the bulk of the promotional work.
I know Denzel would probably enjoy watching me do it! “Make him do more, make him do more!” I love this franchise. I will miss Robert McCall, I really do. I enjoyed the process. I enjoyed the movie. I enjoyed being in Italy. It is definitely a dream come true. It’s a nice way to say goodbye.
A Sony version titled “The Equalizer 3” will hit theaters on Friday, September 1.