×

Antoine Fuqua on Clearing Paths for Black Filmmakers, Taking Denzel International

The 'Equalizer 2' director also broke down his upcoming slate of projects

LOCARNO, Switzerland — Originally announced as a movie re-teaming, post “Southpaw,” Antoine Fuqua and Jake Gyllenhaal’s “The Man Who Made It Snow” is now set up at Epix as a limited TV series, Fuqua said Saturday at Locarno Festival, where he will present Denzel Washington-starrer “The Equalizer 2” at the 8,000 seat Piazza Grande, one of the biggest open-air cinemas in Europe.

Inspired by the true story of Max Mermelstein, a Jewish hotel engineer who becomes embroiled unwittingly and then unwillingly in the building billion-dollar U.S. drug trade of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel, “The Man Who Made It Snow” was originally written by Michael Kingston and Brett Tabor. A new screenwriter is now being brought in to transform the movie into a drama series. Gyllenhaal may or may not be involved, according to his schedule, said Fuqua.

“What I love about it is that Max was a nerd, an engineer. He fell in love with a Colombian girl. He didn’t realize some of her family members were part of the Escobar cartel,” said Fuqua. He added: “When she was lonely, she wanted him to bring over her family, so he started helping smuggle them in and instead of two people showing up it would be 12 people, then 15 people. And the people were all part of the cartel. He was part of the reason Pablo was worth almost $7 billion dollars.”

Fuqua will produce “The Man” and maybe direct the first and last episode. The now-series forms part of a building slate of film and TV work which makes him not only one of the most prominent, but also busiest black film and TV directors in Hollywood.

Two trends run through the projects. One is a growing interest in international. Fuqua is on board to direct “The Street,” from a screenplay by “Goodfellas” scribe Nicholas Pileggi, for Tooley Entertainment, eOne and Pressman Films. Pic is a thriller set against the backdrops of New York and Shanghai.

“We are just now getting the script going and I’m excited about that movie,” Fuqua said. He added: “I think it can be a good version of where we are in the financial market and how that world works. ‘Wall Street’ was one thing but now we are in a whole different world that is much more international. Obviously China plays a big part of that, so the film would touch on a modern American ‘Wall Street.’”

Fuqua and “Sully” writer Todd Komarnicki are developing a movie about the 2003 terrorist attack at Mike’s Place, a beachside blues bar in Israel, Komarnicki to direct.

Fuqua would also love to make “The Equalizer 3,” with Washington’s character, outlier Robert McCall who serves unflinching justice for the exploited and oppressed, traveling to Europe.

Reasons for this cut several ways. There are few more reliable stars in Hollywood than Denzel Washington whose 10 movies, this decade, all made for studios but midrange in budget, have, save for “Roman J. Israel Esq.,” all punched solid domestic figures in the $57 million (“Fences”) to $126 million (“Safe House”) range. Only one, however, Tony Scott’s “Unstoppable,” has made more money in international than domestic.

Traditional Hollywood lore is that back stars don’t sell so well in international. At Locarno’s StepIn think tank discussions on Thursday, “Black List” creator Franklin Leonard questioned whether that had ever been true. Fuqua at least thinks that there is more audience potential for Washington outside the U.S.

“I think Denzel is international. He’s a movie star. I don’t see any reason he should be based in only one place. It’s like James Bond. Those films move all around, it’s fantastic,” he said in Locarno.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover UsageMandatory Credit: Photo by Glen Wilson Columbia/Sony/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (9765573i)Denzel Washington"The Equalizer 2" Film - 2018
CREDIT: Glen Wilson Columbia/Sony/Kobal/Shutterstock

“I think Denzel is a guy that can translate anywhere. It would be fun to see him in a different environment, to see him overseas in a European setting and speaking other languages. I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t happen. I would be more [than] interested,” he argued.

But such reasoning is part of a larger Fuqua interest: the empowerment of black America. He is currently concluding a four-part series for HBO on Mohammed Ali. And, while “The Equalizer 2” has been slammed by many critics for the sadism of its violence, or middle-age male wish fulfillment, a lot of Fuqua’s films talk in many ways about violence. So is it the violence Fuqua is interested in, or is it the means to the end of entertainment?

“Both,” according to Fuqua, but insists Ali is different.

“In Ali’s case, and in Sugar Ray Robinson’s case, they didn’t love boxing, but they were great at it. Boxing lead to them being able to help other people.”

Does Fuqua feel then that his films, which are beginning to near around about $200 million in worldwide grosses, can equally help the black creative community?

“I do. I think it helps,” Fuqua recognises. “My feeling with color is you can only win with success. So if people look upon my color, and in Hollywood they look at my color and they look at the numbers, then maybe the guy behind me can do the same thing as long as the numbers make sense.”

He adds: “That’s the only way I think you can get past the color barrier is success. You have to be successful.”

A surprise U.S. No. 1, outperforming expectations and fellow rookie “Mama Mia” by $1.06 million, “The Equalizer 2” punched $36.0 million over its opening July 20-22 weekend, was tracking at $71.1 million after two weeks, and looks likely to end up slightly below the original’s $101.5 million domestic box office earnings.

The jury’s still out on international where many major territories have still to open: Germany (Aug. 16,), U.K. (Aug.17), France (Aug. 19). Fuqua’s presence at Locarno is part of a larger cause.

More Film

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • Stuber Movie

    Disney Left With a Slate of Film Flops After Fox Deal

    Is Disney having buyer’s remorse? The studio would be forgiven if it were having some regrets after absorbing 20th Century Fox, the company that once generated big box office with the likes of “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After “Dark Phoenix” bombed earlier this summer, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista’s action comedy “Stuber” [...]

  • Taika Waititi Returning to Direct 'Thor

    Taika Waititi to Direct Marvel's 'Thor 4'

    Taika Waititi is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok.” Waititi’s take on the fourth “Thor” movie puts Warner Bros.’ long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely. However, the studio hopes that “Akira” can get resume production with Waititi at the helm once [...]

  • Akira

    'Akira' Production Put on Hold by Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has put its long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely, sources tell Variety. Sources indicate that after a brief delay, the studio has pulled the plug on production indefinitely for the classic anime adaptation, which was set to begin later this fall. “Thor: Ragnarok” helmer Taika Waititi was on board to direct, and the [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

  • Sebastian Maniscalco Green Book

    Sebastian Maniscalco Moves Into Movies With 'Green Book' and 'The Irishman'

    As a comedian whose routines not only lampoon Italian stereotypes but demand larger-than-life performances of those cultural peccadilloes, Sebastian Maniscalco has carefully — if inadvertently — created a niche for himself as an actor. In 2018, in between selling out shows at Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, he took his first steps [...]

  • Erin Westerman

    Lionsgate Promotes Erin Westerman to President of Motion Picture Production

    Lionsgate has promoted veteran executive Erin Westerman to the post of president of production of its Motion Picture Group. Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Drake and motion picture group president Nathan Kahane made the announcement Tuesday. The post has been vacant since earlier this year, when it was held as a co-presidency by Peter Kang [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content