Hard-hitting, brutal, as well as poignant and touching, it was no surprise when a sequel to The Equalizer was quickly greenlit following the action film’s $192 million gross back in 2014.
Especially because it paired director Antoine Fuqua with the screen legend Denzel Washington for a fourth time, as the duo looked to continue the story of Robert McCall, the retired CIA Black Ops operative who is now working as a vigilante, and who becomes even more incensed after a former colleague is murdered.
During my recent discussion with Fuqua, “The Magnificent Seven” and “Training Day” director admitted that Sony actually inquired about doing a sequel long before the first film had even come out.
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“Talking about it started after the first test screening for ‘The Equalizer.’ We scored like a 91 or 92 with the audience. At the time Amy Pascal was the head of the studio, so the conversations started then.”
“They got much more real after the film opened, and then Richard went off to write the script. A year later we all got a draft that was pretty strong and pretty much the movie you see.”
But while Fuqua and Washington were immediately interested in doing “The Equalizer 2,” the duo also wanted to make sure that the follow-up felt unique and still appealed to those that missed the original.
“Most of the conversations I had with Denzel were, ‘If we do another one the script had to be different from the first. It can’t be the same movie. And it has to stand alone for the people that didn’t see 'Equalizer 1'. Just as a movie.’”
“That was really what our focus was. We didn’t even really use the word sequel. That’s more of a business term that studios use, it was not for us.”
But how did Fuqua make sure that “The Equalizer 2” still connected to “The Equalizer”?
“The most important thing for me was that Robert McCall the character, his basic essence is the same, in that he stands for justice, he has certain qualities and OCDs, and he always gives the bad guys, most of the time, a chance to do the right thing. There were certain things like that that we held on to as character traits.”
“From the first film we also learned that, you know, there’s a tendency in Hollywood to get a little jaded. You know, you think everyone is a tough guy who likes these movies.”
“In the screenings, people seemed to care a little bit more about the smaller things. The action scenes were fun, they talked about the corkscrew a lot, that kind of thing. But we really tried to put a lot more energy into what people seemed to resonate with, which was they cared about other people.”
“They cared about the simple things, like him trying to help young people, spend time with people. In the first film there was a girl called Jenny, who got her ring stolen, and he went to get it back. When she opens the draw and sees the ring, the audience just started clapping.”
“I was surprised, because I was thinking I was getting older and getting soft. But no it was interesting to learn that people care about the simple things as well as the big sweeping action.”
You can see how “The Equalizer 2” blends action with emotion when it is released on July 20.