Magnificent 7 sounded like an especially tough shoot. Why was it tougher than usual?

Any time you do an outdoor adventure in any way anything that you can’t control, like the sun, you’re already dealing with some things because you only have a short window if you’re dealing with a storm because you gotta shoot early, or you gotta shoot late when the sun’s gone. Which is tough. You got a short window, so you gotta really be tight with everything. Then, it’s cold, and it’s wet, then you got a lot of moving parts. Every time you move down, you gotta move all your jet fans, and everything has to go, and you gotta get everything out of the way so you don’t see anything. You gotta figure out how to do all that, and then you do a big wide shot, and not see yourself. It’s a lot logistically, and keep everyone safe.

On Mag 7, I had 112 degree, most of the time, Louisiana, burning hot, I don’t know how many horses. They get too hot, they don’t want to do anything. People shooting with guns, and extras, and all that choreographed stuff. Rattle snakes, we had a rattle snake guy that had to come get the snakes all the time. Just kind of like outdoor adventure, man.

You just sit there some days and you go, “Man, what am I thinking when I sign on to this stuff?” And then you see it on the big screen, and when you finish it after you wash all the dirt off, or you get warm from the storm, and you watch it with an audience and you go, “I’d do that again.”

Yeah, you got to shoot a western with Denzel Washington in anamorphic. 

Yeah, you know what I mean? I’d do it again. It’d be painful, but you know. Because the end result is to get to see it on the big screen with an audience and to be able to experience it in a different way. Because when you’re in it you’re just in it, it’s work. It’s work. It’s like there’s nothing glamorous about it. But what an amazing job. I’m reminding myself of that everyday, even on this one. On Mag 7 sitting on the steps of the saloon with my script, and the heat, and all kinds of stuff going on, watching people clean up horse poop, and think, “fuck this, man.” Then I’d see Denzel, Chris Pratt, Ethan and those guys are all coming around the corner and laughing, doing their thing, and I’m like, “Fuck I’m making a western with all these nuts, this is like the best thing in the world.”

Same thing with this one, you’re doing the storm and everything and then my AD called Denzel to the set, and he comes to the set and look around and Pedro is there, and I’m like, you know, it’s the best job in the world.

On some of those days, do you ever have a desire to make a smaller drama?

Yeah, I do sometimes. When I read it, but then I don’t know. I read some good scripts sometimes, I’m like I could do a little small movie like that. I don’t know. Maybe somewhere down the line I’ll do that later.

You’ve managed to consistently work in a budget range we don’t see often from studios anymore, especially this time of year. Is that still becoming more challenging, making movies like Brooklyn’s Finest and Southpaw?

It’s tough, man. Because you’re not the Marvel $150,000,000 movie where you have all that machine. And you’re not independent, so you’re kind of like an independent studio movie. So it has to still be commercial, and once you’re with a studio then people look at it as if it’s $100,000,000 movie. Because the advertising and everything it’s like oh, this is going to be a big movie but it’s hard because you want to make it feel worth the money. And that is a, what do they call it? A blockbuster, whatever that means. Yet just trying to stay true to the scale of the material. You can try to outdo yourself and then you can wind up nowhere. You can wind up not a $150,000,000 big splash spectacle, or you wind up not enough. Or too little of it, because you made it too small. It’s a weird balance. But I love this range, actually. I do, I think it’s a good range where you just get enough independence at a certain level where they don’t bother you as much.

I know I’m running out of time with you, but I wanted to mention I really enjoyed your tribute to Prince after his passing. I’m just curious, when you think about your experience with him on “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” music video, what memory first comes to mind?

First time I saw him, yeah.

In the red suit? Only he can rock that.

Only he can rock that, man. But you can’t help but smile when you see that because it’s Prince, but there’s a moment in your brain where you’re just like, is he really wearing this, man? Is he really coming down these long steps in this outfit like, you know, he got no underwear on or nothing. It’s just like nuts there and he come walking down and he’s like, “Is this funny?” And then Prince, he has a deep voice. So it just trips you out, man. I think he knew it. He knew what he was doing. He had a sense humor, he was funny. But he knew entertainment. He knew, meeting him what that meant, and I think him and people like Michael Jackson, those guys never failed to give you what you think they were.

Always put on a show.

Always put on a show.

I know you’re a big of the show Miami Vice, so you must’ve gotten a kick out of working with Oliver Wood [who shot 18 episodes of the series] for the first time, right?

Big fan. I had so many questions for him about that show, and you know, I’m friends with Michael Mann and I just, man, I love that show. I would love to do a T.V. show right now, Miami Vice.

Was that show a big influence on you? It always sounds like it was.

Yeah, it was. It was so much — the music, the atmosphere, the cars, the guys, the relationship between the guys. I always thought that that was a good show about men under pressure. It was men under pressure, on a job. But it had style, and it made it fun. They didn’t shy away from being dramatic and having some heart in it. And losing people, and the complexity of doing that kind of job where there’s one hand where you’re busting somebody, and sometimes it got cartoonish but the guys had families. They were human. It was hilarious that he had, what was it? A crocodile [Laughs]. Or it was an alligator. On the boat, you know, it was hilarious. That’s entertainment though, right? It was supposed to entertain them. Miami Vice was something that I used to watch, and I remember it was entertaining, and that’s what we do, right?

***

Equalizer 2 is now in theaters.

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