“As he was readying a classic Western reboot that this weekend heads toward a magnificent opening weekend, director Antoine Fuqua sat twice with Deadline to discuss his journey, and a breadth of hot button issues. Our first encounter came while he was editing the film, when the Oscar diversity controversy burned white hot. The collective fall-on-the-sword apologetic attitude felt hollow to The Magnificent Seven director. After all, he worked himself up from the hard streets of Pittsburgh to direct music videos, then commercials, and finally, films like Training Day, Shooter, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer and Southpaw.
He rose to A-list director not because he was some affirmative action obligation, but because he took methodical steps to establish himself as an asset whose movies come in on budget and usually make money for their backers. Not surprisingly, Fuqua believes those qualities are far more important lessons for aspiring filmmakers of color than pinning hopes on the notion that collective Hollywood shame will lead to meaningful long term changes.
Here, he explains how he earned his place at the table, and make sure he stays there.
DEADLINE: You grow up watching Westerns and playing cowboys and Indians as a kid, and then you make your first Western. What was the biggest surprise?
FUQUA: How hard it was. When you’re kids, you go out and put your gun belt on, I get my bow and arrow. Cowboys and Indians, man. I used to watch these Westerns with my grandmother. The Wild Bunch. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. I loved Shane when I was a kid, and the first time I saw The Searchers, it blew me away, because I never saw John Wayne play that dark a character.
Then, you’re out there making your Western, and it’s 300 horses, kids, dogs, chickens, cats, and 11 movie stars. And the sun, and the weather in Baton Rouge, where it storms and rains whenever God says it’s going to. We had no control over anything and I’m thinking, be careful what you wish for….”