Why Antoine Fuqua Had to Sacrifice An R Rating For The Magnificent Seven

Director Antoine Fuqua is best known for his hard-hitting R-rated action dramas. Training Day, The Equalizer, Southpaw, and Olympus Has Fallen are among his most well-known movies, and each earned their hard R rating with a bevy of swearing, bloody violence, and provocative imagery. He’s not a total stranger to tamer fare, having directed both 2004’s King Arthur and the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven, both of which were rated PG-13.

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The Magnificent Seven, even with its PG-13 rating, is still an exciting and crowd-pleasing action movie with great performances from its ensemble cast and some of the coolest Old West gun battles ever captured on film. As it turns out, Fuqua’s Western epic wasn’t always supposed to be a comparatively mild, family-friendly rating.

During interview with the director about his latest film, The Equalizer 2, the conversation turned to the level of violence in his movies:

You’re famous for how violent your movies sometimes are. Even when it’s a PG-13 like The Magnificent Seven… It’s like, the hardest PG-13 you can get. Was that always the plan? Was that shot for PG-13?

Antoine Fuqua: Mag 7? No. That was an MGM businessman.

Was that a fight you decided to give in on?

Antoine Fuqua: Well… It wasn’t as much of a fight as… Ya know, I got to make a Western, and I think I wanted to get a broader audience, as well, to see a Western, so I rolled along with it. I don’t know if I should have or not, but at the end of the day, making a Western is a very rare opportunity, so you have to compromise somewhere to try to make sure everybody gets their money back.

The unfortunate irony of the situation is that Fuqua was discussing MGM’s business decision while promoting The Equalizer 2, an R-rated sequel to an R-rated film which outgrossed the The Magnificent Seven remake by $30 million worldwide. Indeed, despite its all-star cast (including Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Byung-Hun Lee) and the supposedly more broadly-appealing PG-13 rating, the Western actioner failed to break out at the box office, grossing a mild $162 million off a budget of $90 million. Meanwhile, The Equalizer had a more modest budget, a harder MPAA rating, and a smaller cast, but still grossed a solid $192 million.

Regardless of behind-the-scenes politics, The Magnificent Seven is a noteworthy addition to Fuqua’s canon. If the choice was between making a PG-13 Western and not being allowed to make it at all, it’s obvious he made the right choice. Still, it would certainly be nice to see his original vision for the film see the light of day. After all, an unrated Director’s Cut of King Arthur was eventually released, which restored all of the historical epic’s graphic violence. Maybe someday down the line, audiences will be able to watch an R-rated Director’s Cut of The Magnificent Seven, in line with what Fuqua had always intended for the film.

KEY RELEASE DATES
The Equalizer 2 (2018) release date: Jul 20, 2018

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