'Magnificent Seven' cast on remaking the 1960 western
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TORONTO — For Peter Sarsgaard, remaking "The Magnificent Seven" with a more multicultural cast than normally seen in a western was more a reflection of reality than about making a statement.
"This is what the world looks like," said the Golden Globe-nominated actor. "The people that are having a problem with it aren't looking around enough at their neighbours.
"America is largely becoming even more multicultural than it was and the ownership does not belong to the English anymore. The people who said, 'My relatives came over on the Mayflower,' they're not the true Americans any more than the people who came over yesterday, to me."
In theatres Friday, the film is a more diverse take on the original 1960 western and its predecessor, "Seven Samurai."
Denzel Washington plays the imposing lead gunslinger of a ragtag group that includes Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Haley Bennett, Martin Sensmeier and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.
Together, they train townsfolk to protect their land from being taken over by Sarsgaard's chilling, industrialist character in 1878.
The director is Antoine Fuqua, who also worked with Washington on "Training Day" and "The Equalizer."
"He is the smoothest customer, man. The way he lets it all come to him," Sarsgaard said of Washington in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Denzel gets an enormous amount of power and has an enormous amount of power from just living in it, not worrying about it, accepting the power.
"A lot of actors you see are trying to do a little dance in front of the camera all the time to try to keep the audience entertained in whatever way, and Denzel just says, 'Watch me.'"
Bennett is the lone female in the group of gunslingers but plays a pivotal role.
She had to wear many layers — a wool skirt with bloomers and an underskirt — and had sweat dripping down her legs "like a waterfall" in the Louisiana heat, she said.
"Emma is a woman that I do aspire to be like," said Bennett, who plays the key character of Megan in the upcoming film "The Girl on the Train."
"She's strong, she's independent, she's in control.... I really became part of the boys' club and I was a part of all the action and riding horseback in a dress."
Speaking of boys' club, D'Onofrio had a so-called bromance going on with Pratt and Hawke, with whom he was already good pals before shooting.
He said he and Pratt met on the set of "Jurassic World" and did CrossFit together on the set of "The Magnificent Seven."
"It's like when you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend that you love to hang out with," said D'Onofrio. "We see each other when we're not working and two weeks don't go by where we haven't spoken."
Meanwhile, he and Hawke have been friends for 20 years.
"He's like a brother to me," said D'Onofrio. "We've been through a lot together.... I see Ethan and speak to Ethan mostly every day.
"I kind of thought that him and Chris were going to get along and they did. They just hit it off immediately."
Sarsgaard said it was difficult to play a bad guy in a PG-13 movie "because you can't bring out your flame thrower." He tried to imply the violence instead.
"What people don't know scares them more than what they know, so I think the reason it was a natural fit for me is that I'm good at doing that," said Sarsgaard, who played a murderer in "Boys Don't Cry" and a meth addict in "The Salton Sea."
"I'm good at letting you add to the story that I'm creating and you can make it your own way."