Reporters pushed, pulled and probed for some sort of Hollywood diversity plaint at a Magnificent Seven press conference, the first of this year’s Toronto Film Festival. But they didn’t get much.
“They didn’t blink an eye,” was about the most director Antoine Fuqua said of MGM and Sony executives, who were more than willing to make their Seven Samurai reboot with a cast of black, white, Asian, Native American, and Hispanic actors, plus a woman, Haley Bennett. Fuqua added: “The only thing they wanted to know was, can I get ’em?”
Asked why he agreed to do the film, Denzel Washington — who had some sharp words about diversity at the Film Academy’s Governors Awards a year ago — kept it personal. “Because Antoine asked me, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
When a reporter from the Toronto Sun asked whether there was a diversity agenda behind the casting, Fuqua was succinct. “We just wanted to make a good movie together,” he said. Later, he allowed that maybe the film had indeed changed the path for Westerns going forward. “You can make a Magnificent Seven with all women,” he suggested.
Of the assembled filmmaking ensemble, only Bennett really wanted to talk identity politics. She hadn’t watched Westerns growing up, she said, because they were mostly populated by quiet, retiring women—apparently, she missed True Grit, in either of its incarnations, or Lonesome Dove, for that matter. Both had some tough Western females.
But never mind, the Toronto press gaggle got enough of what it needed from actors and a director who were less concerned with diversity than with having a good time at each other’s expense. Byung-hun Lee, cast as Ethan Hawke’s partner in the film, said that he kind of loved and kind of hated Hawke because his wife had been so happy to meet him. “I’ve never seen her that happy,” he said, adding, kind of glumly: “I’ve been hanging out with her for 10 years.”
Richard Crouse, the moderator, asked Martin Sensmeier, the film’s Native American, whether he any tips on how to handle a tomahawk. “Put it down,” advised Sensmeier.