How Regina King Earned More Screen Time In The Harder They Fall [Exclusive]

In "The Harder They Fall," Regina King's character, Trudy Smith, plays lieutenant to the cowboy gang leader Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba. She's one member of an ensemble cast that also includes LaKeith Stanfield, Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, and Delroy Lindo. The film juggles numerous characters, and editor Tom Eagle had his work laid out for him in the cutting room.

When you have so many great actors but only two-plus hours to tell a story, how do you decide which parts to keep? In an interview with /Film's Shania Russell (who also spoke with Majors, Beetz, and writer-director Jeymes Samuel), Eagle said that the performances themselves help dictate what goes in and what stays out. In King's case, her committed performance as Trudy ensured her more screen time. Eagle explained:

"To a degree, people buy their own screen time. Do you know what I mean? It's not just if they're doing something great, if they're doing the right thing for the scene at that point in time. There was a lot of ad-libbing in the movie. Jeymes was fairly loose, he let people come up with their own sayings and there was one scene where we lost Idris early, so the whole scene wound up having to be ad-libbed.

But that scene in particular, that's the scene where Nat Love rides in to try and rescue Mary and is asking for Rufus, Idris' character. And Trudy, Regina King's character, holds them off, and everyone was ad-libbing in that scene, but she was doing the right thing for the character, so that became Trudy's scene."

Building Characterization

The scene in question, where Nat confronts Trudy on the street in the town of Redwood, was featured in the trailer for "The Harder They Fall," and it's fascinating to hear that they ad-libbed it since it feels so consistent with the rest of the film. 

There's another moment before that where Trudy sits peeling an apple, telling Beetz's character, Stagecoach Mary, a story about how she slit a bully's throat when she was young. The scene is not necessarily essential to the plot, but it adds to King's character. Eagle continued:

"I think she probably bought herself more time in this movie than maybe anyone. Some of those scenes that she has — where she's telling her story, for example — theoretically could have gone and the story would still have made sense. But her performance was so on. We joked about how it could go, but we never seriously considered chopping that scene because she does it so well."

If you've seen "The Harder They Fall," then you'll know that it ends on a note that could be setting up a sequel, in which King's character might play a prominent part. 

"The Harder They Fall" is now streaming on Netflix.