“The Equalizer” is an action film, there’s no doubt about that. But it’s likely not quite what moviegoers are expecting when they see the top billing of Denzel Washington, reunited with “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua in a reboot of a mid-’80s TV series. When MTV News visited the Boston set of the film and sat down for a chat with Denzel, Fuqua and Todd Black, the film’s producer, we found that this was certainly no campy action reboot.
Washington plays Robert McCall, a home improvement store manager whose side gig involves, well, equalizing. That is to say, he finds people who have been wronged, and then rights those wrongs, often by brutal means. One of the wronged parties that the movie focuses on is Chloe Grace Moretz’s young prostitute, a 16-year-old who wants to be a singer but is trapped in her illicit profession by a crime ring.
For many reasons — including the OCD diagnosis of Washington’s reluctant hero — Fuqua and Washington promise that “The Equalizer” will be anything but a standard shoot-em-up action movie. (More on the topic of shooting in a moment.)
Read on for the six most surprising things we learned on the set of “The Equalizer.”
This Is Not Your Grandfather’s “Equalizer”
Do you like the way “Denzel Washington is…The Equalizer!” sounds? Yeah, so do the film’s producers. That’s why the overall concept, but not any plots or details from the original TV series, will carry over to the movie.
“The title, in my mind, was a great title — was a great, great title,” producer Black said.
And slotting Washington into the lead role just made sense.
“That kind of matches to me, it’s peanut butter and jelly,” he continued. “So we went after the title and the concept of it was great. We weren’t really hung up on what the show was and all the machinations of what Robert McCall did or didn’t do, and what his backstory was. We knew that that didn’t really matter because it was a whole new audience, so we took the concept and we took the title and we made it our own.”
Expect A Hard, Hard R
Much like “Training Day,” you can expect “The Equalizer” to be a very firm R rating. Leave the kids at home, guys. Fuqua referenced films such as “Taxi Driver,” in which the violence is realistic and direct, as an example.
“The violence that you witness is Denzel doing it,” Fuqua said. “When you see something happen, it’s happening in front of you, as opposed to cutting away or doing a bunch of tricks. It’s in front of you, so it’s hard not to make it a hard R, if you see a guy get punched and teeth wind up in somebody’s knuckles or something — you know what I mean. I don’t think we could get away with a PG on that one.”
If that sounds intense to you, Fuqua teased what sounds like an upsetting sequence: “There are some other things I could tell you. You’ll never look at corkscrews again. I’ll tell you that. It’s hardcore. There’s some stuff that I even go, ‘Wow, ok.’”
OCD, But Not Obsessively So
Washington’s McCall is a widower with plenty of baggage, including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. For example, in a scene shown to journalists on-set, he opens and closes a door a number of times before entering the den of a Russian mob boss. When he sits down, he arranges the items on the baddie’s desk very carefully to suit his liking.
Of course, the arrangement works to his advantage when he uses some of the items to disable the crew, the aftermath of which is seen in the recently released trailer for the film.
“Sometimes it’s used in the film where it is OCD, and sometimes it’s strategic,” Fuqua said. “So, if you see somebody laying out knives and forks consistently, but one day those knives and forks become weapons, you’re not sure if he does that as a warrior — that’s just his thing, he gets ready for war all of the time — or is it really OCD.”
Washington revealed that the OCD doesn’t hold his character back in do-or-die situations, though.
“That would be interesting — I get shot because I’m closing the door,” he joked, slipping into character and laughing. “‘No, wait, wait!’”
Denzel Won’t Pull The Trigger
In another move atypical for an action flick, filmmakers plan for Washington’s character to be anti-gun, disarming other characters but never carrying one himself, preferring to utilize improvised weapons.
“Well, he doesn’t carry one, you know,” Washington said. “Other people have one. He takes a lot. He takes guns from people.”
Washington is seen carrying a gun in the movie’s trailer, so we’ll see if he actually uses it. From what producer Black said, it sounds like a no.
“He never uses a gun in the movie,” Black said. “So he has to use whatever is around him. The skulls that you saw on the desk, whatever is around him, he will use as weapons, because he is, for the moment, anti-gun.”
Fuqua described him as a character who comes from a shady background, a higher-up in some sort of organization that taught him the skills he uses to “equalize” the bad guys. In Fuqua’s words, McCall is “a sort of anti-hero guy, reluctant to, ashamed even, to pick up the gun again, but because he wants to help other people, he does.”
It May (Or May Not) Be A Franchise
If you think that “The Equalizer 2″ has a certain ring to it, you’re not the only one.
“We’re all committed to do a second movie til there isn’t a second movie,” Black said. “If it works and the audiences like it and it works critically and financially, I’m sure Sony and Denzel and all of us will want to do a second movie.”
Fuqua agreed: “I would be lying to you if I said I wouldn’t [like to make a sequel]. I would love for it to become a franchise. I would love for it to be a hit and all that great stuff, but who knows. Just make the best movie you can make. Eat the elephant one piece at a time, so to speak, and we’ll see what happens.”
If it sounds like a done deal, well, it’s isn’t. There’s one little wrench in the plan, going by the name of Denzel Washington. The actor has never made a sequel and balked when asked if he’s interested in making it a franchise.
“I don’t, no. Never have,” he said. “Obviously I guess when you have a name, ‘Spider-Man’ or something, some name brand thing, there’s that potential, but you know, no. You don’t look at ‘Training Day’ and go, ‘Oh, let’s do ‘Training Day 2,” you know what I mean?”
Everyone Wants An Equalizer…Except Denzel.
Black referenced the recent economic turmoil as an example of why the revival of “The Equalizer” is relevant today, and said that, personally, there are situations he’d like rectified, such as one of his kids getting the runaround from a mechanic on car repairs.
“They’ve had my kid’s car for two weeks and I can’t get anyone on the phone,” he said. “I’m so angry at this point, I’m in Boston, they’re in LA, that I want an Equalizer! And that’s me! So I think it’s really relevant. I think every one of you have been in a situation at some point in your lives, now or earlier or later, with a landlord, credit card company, a bank, something that you wish you had somebody to go, have a little muscle, and say you better stop it, right?”
When asked what situation in his life he’d like equalized, however, Washington only laughed. If he did have a problem, he said, “I wouldn’t call this guy up, nah. No.”
“The Equalizer” hits theaters (hard) September 26.