Robert McCall is back. And this time, he’s living his best life on the Italian coast. The newest installment of the jaw-breaking, fist-throwing series sees Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua unite for a third and final time to see what other blood-thirsty hijinks everyone’s favorite ass-kicker is getting himself into.
The first of The Equalizer movie trilogy arrived back in 2014, and turned into a series that would provide fans with some of the best action movies on the scene. Of course, it’s not the only iteration of Robert McCall’s story, having been inspired by one of the best TV series and later being reimagined in 2021 with another, but it might just be the most thrilling.
Denzel Washington has made the character his own, and has come to solidify his own brand of cool-guy one-liners and unbreakable physical tenacity. In short, the thriller movies have become reliable fare over the years, and many will be sad to see this era of The Equalizer come to an end. Luckily, The Digital Fix had a chance to sit down with Antoine Fuqua to discuss endings, Italy, and…vampires.
The Digital Fix: With these big action movie franchises, they do tend to develop a certain kind of specificity over time in terms of what they give their audience. It’d be fair to say that with The Equalizer trilogy, it’s all about the creativity of the violence and the innovation in the fight sequences. Has there always been a kind of pressure to one-up yourself, especially with this third movie, or is it just so ingrained in you now?
Antoine Fuqua: I would like to say, “it’s so ingrained in me, I know exactly what I’m doing this time.” But I don’t. You still want to one-up yourself, right? But I look at it from the character’s point of view. The action takes place based on how he’s feeling and what he’s experiencing as a character at that moment. And that’s how brutal he may be, or not, but that’s how I create the action: out of his character.
This one starts off with Robert a little bit worse for wear, and it sees him in a position that we haven’t really seen him in before. He finds himself in this beautiful, relaxing community. Was that something you intended from the very beginning when you were developing this idea for a third movie? Really stripping it back and having him start from this weaker point?
Absolutely, yeah. The idea was to slow him down so he had to think about his moral compass. Has the violence gone too far? Is he enjoying it too much? And is he doing it for the right reasons?
What were the conversations like between you and Denzel in terms of what you wanted to achieve with this third one, because he’s said that this is certainly going to be his last time playing the role.
The thing we talked a lot about was making sure that it was more personal, that it told you something about McCall you didn’t know before, or you get to see him in a position that he hasn’t been in before. So it was really about making it more personal. That was the conversation.
The really sweet parts of the movie are where it takes a break from all the action. He has those little interactions with everyone in the town, and he gets a little something from everyone there. It’s such a nice setting, so I have to ask…Was that all part of the plan from the beginning to set it in this absolutely gorgeous Italian village so you guys could just hang out there for a bit?
(Laughs) Guilty. I mean, when you go to Italy, you know it’s gonna happen. But then we shot in Naples as well. We shot in Trinità and Rome, but the village… that’s what it is. You know, those people are real. Those extras are real. It’s all the people that live there.
I suppose Denzel gets the best of it, because he spends a lot of time sitting around drinking tea and wearing cool hats.
This marks a reunion between Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. Was that something you guys discussed from the beginning? Or was it just happenstance that she was best for the role?
Well, she was definitely best for the role, but I got a call from [producer] Todd Black one day saying Dakota was interested. I had lunch with her that afternoon, then I called Denzel and told him and he was very happy about the idea of Dakota, of them coming back together again. I mean, I loved Man on Fire. I loved her and seeing her as a little kid. It was great to see them come back together.
It is very sweet seeing them on screen together. Was that a nice day of whatever they filmed first together, seeing them back as a duo?
It really was a beautiful day, because they genuinely really like each other a lot.
People are saying this is going to be the last movie, at least for Denzel. Do you feel that it’s the perfect round-up of this trilogy? It’s about as happy an ending a character like this is ever going to get.
Oh yeah, this is his swan song. This is it.
How much of a collaboration was at this time round kind, and as these movies have gone on, with the screenwriter Richard Wenk? How much have you been planning with him from the beginning in terms of where you wanted to go in the long run?
I think it was [during] The Equalizer 2 we started talking more about Italy. I was saying, “how cool would it be to see Denzel in Europe? Just to have Denzel Washington be this guy in Europe?” One day we were sitting around, going through it, and Italy became the conversation. From that point, Richard went off to write the script and focused on Italy.
Did it present any challenges in terms of how you’re used to shooting these movies?
Yeah, absolutely. The language and the locations are, you know, difficult to do. But other than that, once we got there it was pretty smooth sailing. You know, once we got the rhythm. We had to put our California hats down and slow down and go at their pace. It was great.
Was there a certain sequence that was your favorite to film or one that you had in your mind ahead of time like, “I can’t wait to get to this”?
I enjoyed the opening scene. That was fun for me. Maybe because it was the first one that we shot. [Robert] was in a darker place and I wanted to see him in that. I wanted to see him that way in the beginning of the film, because I knew where it was going. Robert McCall in a little bit of a darker place. That one was fun to film.
That whole beginning sequence almost comes back again at the end. When he’s stalking through this house again, he almost looks a little bit like a vampire, hiding out in the shadows. You’ve got all this religious imagery going on as well. Was that a stylistic choice?
Yeah, you know, the whole thing is when the music shifts in the beginning, when he starts to kill, it’s like a monster inside of him. This thing that he’s trying to hold down. So the idea was that he does become a monster because of these bad guys. It’s like a reluctant destroyer, you know? So, at the end, he was like, “I’m just gonna finish it.” So he had to go really dark. Almost monstrous. And I filmed it that way, too.
The Equalizer 3 will be released in theaters from Wednesday August 30, 2023 in the UK and Friday September 1, 2023 in the US.
If you’re looking for more action, check out our lists of the best war movies and best action movies. You can also watch all the Mission Impossible movies in order and the Fast and Furious movies in order. What’s more, we’ve got a list of all the best Denzel Washington movies. You can also see when he’s set to return with the Gladiator 2 release date. We’ve also got a list of all the best movies of all time, to make sure you haven’t missed a single classic.