“I respond to stories about people under pressure”: An interview with The Equalizer 2 director Antoine Fuqua
The Equalizer 2 is the latest feature film from American director Antoine Fuqua. It is being shown at this year’s Locarno Film Festival. Denzel Washington reprises his role as Robert McCall, an ex-Navy officer and CIA member who delivers his own particular brand of violent justice. The film is about strength of character, fairness, grace under pressure and murdering lots of people.
We interviewed Fuqua the day after the screening of The Equalizer 2 in the Piazza Grande. We spoke to the director about his newest film, masculinity and making a big budget blockbuster.
Can you talk abut your working relationship with Denzel Washington?
We trust and understand each other. We have to put the work in. we made an agreement since Training Day not to tie our hands, to explore, so to find magic.
McCall is a strong man. What must a character have to inspire you?
Strength, for sure. Some power, some intensity. Passion, intelligence. I respond to stories about people under pressure.
Does this film respond to an unjust world?
I wasn’t doing it in that respect. But Shane really moved me as a kid. Seven Samurai… The Magnificent Seven. Sometimes movies speak to the moment.
How would you describe McCall’s masculinity, or moral compass?
I think it’s conflicted. Violence is not good for anyone but if that’s what you’re good at and you see something wrong, you should do something about it. Some people will say no, you should talk. But some people can’t be talked to. McCall at least gives them a chance to do the right thing. If they don’t, there’s violence. His masculinity? That’s a whole other question. Now you’ve got me thinking about being macho.
The Equalizer was a dark, focused film. In the sequel we see the light of living. McCall changes a lot. How did you try to show this change?
In the first film, McCall is on the fringes of society. In the second, he is trying to integrate into society. I put him more in the light. He’s a cab driver so he can be around people but remain invisible. He’s on a journey: he has to go home through a storm. It was intentional to paint that picture.
When McCall isn’t killing people, he’s reading books. Is his love of books symbolic? Why those books?
That’s the complexity of masculinity. You think you’re violent, you’re boxing, you’re doing push-ups. A lot of people who live that life are trying to find a way to live, a way for meaning. But you’re trying to feed your intellect. I grew up in a violent world. I read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl and it put my world in perspective. My life was a cakewalk in comparison. He saw people hanging on a fence, the Jews trying to escape. Yet he was able to enjoy the sunset in the distance. The balance of life between your intellect, your spirit and your physical body is complex. It speaks to a man as much as a woman. But growing up as young men, we’re taught to be macho: be tough, don’t cry. When you become a father you pass that onto your children. If my daughter gets hurt, my heart breaks and I rush over to see if she’s OK. If my son gets hurt, I say brush it off you’re not hurt. It’s complex. As you grow and evolve, other cultures help you become a better person. I think McCall wants to become a better person.
What attracts you to the action genre?
I liked the older action movies, the ones that were not even called action movies. Look at the original Scarface. Look at Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather. Are they action movies? They contain violence so people call them action movies. You care about the people – it’s not just about killing and blowing people up. Now nobody wants to know anything about the character. Everything is green screen; nothing is real. People are thrown into buildings and survive. We want to make action movies that are grounded. We need a balance. Give the audience more than one thing.
Do you feel pressure with a big budget?
For me it’s really tough. It’s a rated R movie in the summer. It’s a heart attack. Is it tracking? You’re looking at the numbers. You’re starting to sweat. Hollywood, you’re only as good as your last movie. If you’re numbers don’t pop, your job is on the line. You’ve got to raise the money. It’s a tough business. It’s hard to compete with Mission Impossible [Fallout] for spectacle. My movie is more about character and these intimate moments. You’d hope the audience would want to see that as well.
What would you do with a small budget?
If I had four million dollars and I was here [in Locarno]. This is found art. I would make a great movie. I came from music videos. The thing I love the most about coming to different countries is the reminder that Hollywood isn’t the only place that makes movies. You see films made on iPhones that are really good. And you’re like how did they make that? I made sure the Filipino film [The Woman Who Left] won when I was on the jury at Venice . It made you feels something. You don’t need a lot of money to make a great movie.
Are you going to direct the Scarface remake? Would it be with Denzel?
I don’t know. We’ll see. But Denzel just gets better with age. He’s done four hours with The Iceman Cometh. I get tired watching him. That’s what makes him special.
Photo: Pier Marco Tacca / Getty Images
The Equalizer 2 is released nationwide on 17th August 2018.
Read more reviews from our Locarno Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Locarno Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for The Equalizer 2 here: