Robert McCall is becoming that urban superhero we all want to right the wrongs.
Denzel Washington returns as Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2. He is the unflinching man who fights for the exploited and oppressed in his retirement from the government. However, what happens when an old beloved friend gets murdered?
The film also stars Pedro Pascal, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Jonathan Scarfe, Orson Bean, Sakina Jaffrey, Caroline Day and Ashton Sanders. It is directed by Antoine Fuqua.
LRM sat down with director Antoine Fuqua last week to discuss the challenges of making a sequel like The Equalizer 2. We talked about the character Robert McCall, making a sequel, the hurricane sequence and working with Denzel Washington multiple times.
The Equalizer is in theaters nationwide starting tomorrow.
Read our interview transcript below.
LRM: You don’t usually do sequels. So why did you want to do a sequel for The Equalizer?
Antoine Fuqua: It’s funny, I don’t think about it in sequel sense. It was really about the script. I read the script thinking, “Okay, forget the first one. If I was the audience and I didn’t see the first one. Would this movie stand up on its own for people who may not have seen the first one.” When I did that, I thought, “This is good. This is a good movie.” If this was the first Equalizer and you never saw that one–this could work possibly. So that’s what made me want to do it. The word sequel becomes more of a studio thing as opposed to sort of exploring a character further of McCall. We left so much room in the first one and they didn’t know much about him anyway. A little mystery. So I thought it’d be fun to dig back. Lean into that guy again a little bit more and see where he’s at in life. That’s how that came about.
LRM: So when the thoughts of like an The Equalizer 2 even dawned upon you–when did the thoughts first originated when you were doing the first equalizer or that actually came much, much later?
Antoine Fuqua: The Equalizer 2 came much later. Was it four years later? Yeah, much later. To make The Equalizer one and to be thinking about two could mess with The Equalizer one. You go into making a movie as if you’re never going to get a chance to do it again. You make the best movie you can make with that material. If that works and then you might get a chance to do it again. If you go into thinking, but we’ll save this for two–you may not get to see two. You may make a mistake by not giving it everything you’ve got right now.
LRM: That’s a different approach than a lot of studios do when they always think of these things. They think of franchises.
Antoine Fuqua: That’s the business of it, right? As a filmmaker, I don’t think you can afford to think that way. As long as it’s in the script, if the DNA of the character is in the script and the behavior of the character doesn’t drastically change then you should be on track. It’s the character to lead you through anyway. When you start trying to think about it as a filmmaker, as franchise–it’s like you just packaging something and just selling it. You know what I mean? You got to be thinking about the ingredients is going in it. That’s my job. Then I hand it over to Sony and they do all the other stuff. I can’t control that.
LRM: Well, then speaking of ingredients, because this is the second movie, what are some of the stuff you basically said we definitely must keep? What are some of the ingredients that you said we need to bring this to make it more refreshed?
Antoine Fuqua: It’s the character with that the behavior or rather behavioral things. We know that McCall has these quirky behaviors.
LRM: The OCD. Yeah.
Antoine Fuqua: OCD things. We kept that. I think the connection he had with people in unexpected ways. The story is moving forward, but then you had keep stories with like the old man, who he would help, or the kid he would pull in, or the lady left the garden. I found in the first one people care about small things too. It wasn’t just a spectacle. In the first one, the girl Jenny loses with the guy robs her and comes in and takes the ring. He says, “Give me your ring.” He grabs a hammer and I’ve never showed you what he did to the guy. Later in the movie, she opens up the drawer and ring us there–I never forget the audience reaction and our test screenings. People were in awe and some people clap at these things. Maybe I’ve been sentimental. I realized sometimes we get jaded in film business and we think that the audiences didn’t care about that. They do. They care about little things like that if they’re connected to the characters. I wanted to make sure we didn’t get too ahead of ourselves and thinking that we can dictate or predict what’s sentimental things they may connect.
LRM: What about the new refreshing things that you wanted to bring to the table this time around?
Antoine Fuqua: Well, I knew I wanted to make them a little more…..not more brutal, because he’s pretty brutal. I knew because the story was more personal. I knew I wanted to handle the cinematic vision of it differently. The first one was a little slicker, because he was a little more distance. We didn’t really know much about it. It was shot a certain way. This one is a little grittier. I got a different DP, Oliver Wood, on this one. The fight scenes towards the end, the color of the movie starts to drain as the storm comes and it becomes a little more brutal.
LRM: I noticed that even if your camera angles and how everything moves. Yeah, I noticed that it was a lot different.
Antoine Fuqua: Yeah, a lot different. So I was trying to say something with that. He’s evolved, but also the emotionally things changed in the beginning of this one. You saw more color than the other one. So with things like that. I was painting a picture.
LRM: I found hilarious that in the first one, he kind of worked like at sort of like a Home Depot and it ended it in that aspect. Tell me about making him into a Lyft driver that no one really expects. [Laughs]
Antoine Fuqua: Well, I remember what first read the script. I started laughing. I was like, “Oh! He is a Lyft driver.” You started second guessing yourself. I remembered my first reaction was like, “That was pretty cool, you know?” It felt contemporary Then I thought that makes sense, because you don’t want to see them sit on a computer finding people. How do you connect to people and with many different types of people? A driver sometimes just disappear, right? When you get in the back of the car, people say the most outrageous shit as if the driver’s not there. I thought that’s a smart thing. He can move around easily. He can listen to the people. He can see who he can help, but it’s also therapy for him. All those things went into it.
Denzel is so powerful just with him looking in the rear view [mirror]. You have to be a certain type of actor to pull that off. I felt good work, because I filmed him in the car before like in Training Day. I knew he has a lot going on. So that’s what I was filming.
LRM: Was filming car sequences that difficult for you?
Antoine Fuqua: Yeah. It’s only difficult, because while shooting cars, especially when you’re out on the streets, you’ve got to deal with traffic. It’s like a circus. You have to go around on the blocks. That stuff is very tedious. They’re not hard. It’s just tedious. It’s a circus! You’re going down Beverly Hills and you got police blocking lanes, There’s people. Everyone wants to stop to take pictures. Denzel! You can’t use that recording. It’s kind of tedious, man. [Laughs]
LRM: In the first one, which it went full circle where it goes back to his work. In this one, it doesn’t. I’m not going to reveal where it actually went, but I do want to mention that there is a huge hurricane sequence in the movie. Why was that hurricane sequence so important to actually be presented in that movie? How was the production of that being handled?
Antoine Fuqua: It was important, because it’s really more of a metaphor. The hardest journey is the journey home. You have to get back to yourself. Sometimes it’s your past It pushes you back where you started. You can’t hide from it. Susan tells him once you go home, make peace with it. So the storm represents that journey home.
Getting it right was tricky, because Texas and Florida were hit with hurricanes during that time. Your people are very familiar with what they look like. Practically shooting it is hard. I got to find a movie to just do it two people just talking. After Magnificent Seven with horses and the heat, then try and create a hurricane with jet engines everywhere and you had to shoot it at the end of the schedule where it was cold. We had to shoot over about a water and we were wet the whole time. It was miserable, because you can’t have any sun. You’ve got short hours, because you know you need the window whereas grayer. We had the big tanks all lined up all the way down as beach against the storm wall. They’re blasting these waves. I wanted like 25 to 30 foot waves. That’s tough when the tide comes in and we had to hurry. We had to get all that stuff out and get everybody’s safety.
LRM: That’s crazy.
Antoine Fuqua: That town went underwater two weeks after we left.
LRM: Oh, wow! You’re very fortunate.
Antoine Fuqua: And we took over the entire town.
LRM: Well, I do have to ask. Obviously, everyone has to ask about Denzel Washington. This is the fourth go around with you. How was it doing this again with him in another production. And how has it all changed for all these years working with them?
Antoine Fuqua: Oh, it was great to do it again. It was really special. We trusted each other. He trusts me. I trust him. I know he’s going to do this job. I’m going to do mine. It’s challenging. He’ll challenge the material and make sure everybody’s on their game. I’ll do the same. It’s calmer. It’s easier. We have this shorthand. I think that’s the most important thing is that we don’t need to have a whole lot of conversations. Once we have our initial conversations when we lock into something–we’re off and running.
LRM: Terrific. Hey, thank you very much.
Antoine Fuqua: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Source: LRM Online Exclusive