Director Antoine Fuqua and star Denzel Washington are bringing a new take of the classic film The Magnificent Seven to movie screens, and with that comes a lot of hype, marketing and expectations. You probably already knew that this is not the first version of The Magnificent Seven, as it’s a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, which starred Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. In fact, the original movie was also a remake of a film that wasn’t even a Western! This fact, and many others about the original The Magnificent Seven, are not widely known, but they are worth considering if you plan on heading to the theaters to see this latest Western film to get a contemporary update.
10. The Magnificent Seven Is Actually Based On A Japanese Samurai Movie
As mentioned, the 1960 movie The Magnificent Seven is itself a remake, of a 1954 movie by Japanese master director Akira Kurosawa called Seven Samurai. The critically acclaimed film is set in 1586, during the Warring States Period of Japan’s history. It is about a village of farmers who hire seven “Ronin” (masterless Samurai) to combat bandits that are planning to return after the harvest to steal their crops. Hollywood took it upon itself to change the setting of the film to the Old West, and to make the bandits a bunch of Mexicans, and thus The Magnificent Seven was created. However, the basic plot of the story remained essentially the same.
9. The Original Movie Bombed
Today, The Magnificent Seven is considered a classic of the western movie genre. In 2013, the film was even selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” However, when first released, The Magnificent Seven was savaged by film critics. In fact, Howard Thompson of The New York Times called the movie a “pallid, pretentious and overlong reflection of the Japanese original”. Due to the nasty reviews and the fact that most of the cast, which included Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn, were not yet big stars or household names, the film tanked at the North American box office. The only place the movie made money was in Europe, where it became a hit in markets such as France and Germany.
8. The Magnificent Seven Inspired The A-Team
The classic 1980’s television show The A-Team is actually based on The Magnificent Seven. In fact, actor James Coburn, who starred in the 1960 version of the film, was originally cast to play John “Hannibal” Smith, the team’s leader, a role that ultimately went to actor George Peppard. In addition, Robert Vaughn, who also had a role in the original movie, was added to The A-Team cast in the show’s final season in an attempt to boost ratings. The pilot episode of The A-Team literally copies the plot of The Magnificent Seven lock, stock and barrel, as it has the team helping to defend a group of farmers from a bunch of bikers. The creators of the show always maintained that it was an updated version of The Magnificent Seven, with the cowboys changed to soldiers of fortune, and with only four main characters instead of the seven from the movie.
7. Stephen King Wrote A Book Based On The Movie
Believe it or not, horror writer Stephen King wrote a novel in 2003 that is based on The Magnificent Seven. The book is titled Wolves of the Calla, and is part of King’s legendary series The Dark Tower. In the story, gunslinger and protagonist Roland Deschain defends a small village from a raiding party that steals children once a generation. The village’s name in the book is “Calla Bryn Sturgis,” a reference to John Sturges, who directed the 1960 movie, and to Yul Brynner, who starred in the film. The similarity to The Magnificent Seven is directly referenced, and leads Roland and his allies from 20th century New York to realize, partway through the book, that they are actually taking part in a similar story. The novel also includes the line “Mister, we deal in lead,” which is straight from the 1960 movie.
6. The Film’s Score Is Considered One Of The Best In Movie History
The score and soundtrack for The Magnificent Seven is widely considered to be one of the best in movie history, and certainly the very best ever for a western movie. Created by legendary composer Elmer Bernstein, the score was actually nominated for an Academy Award, the only one the film would garner (it lost to the movie Exodus). The score is now listed at eighth on the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 25 American film scores of all time. In addition, the score has kind of taken on a life of its own in recent years. Beginning with the 2012 Wrecking Ball tour, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band began playing the theme from the movie when they take the stage at concerts. It is also widely played at Disney theme parks around the world. In fact, you’ve probably heard it dozens of times and never realized what movie it came from!
5. There Were Three Sequels
If the Denzel Washington version of The Magnificent Seven is a box office hit, it will no doubt lead to sequels being made. However, the 1960 film already spawned three sequels of its own – Return of the Seven (1966), Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969), and The Magnificent Seven Ride (1972). Yul Brynner returned for the first sequel, but was thereafter replaced, as Guns of the Magnificent Seven starred George Kennedy as the leader of the group, and the final sequel starred Lee Van Cleef. Each sequel made less money than the previous films (and you might recall, the first one was a box office bomb). However, The Magnificent Seven, along with Planet of the Apes, is credited with being one of the first movies to generate multiple sequels, creating a bonafide franchise as a result.
4. Yul Brynner And Steve McQueen Didn’t Get Along
While they may seem like the best of friends in the movie, actors Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen actually hated each other and nearly came to blows on set while making The Magnificent Seven. Brynner, who was, at the time, the biggest star in the cast, felt that McQueen was constantly and deliberately trying to upstage him, and especially hated how McQueen was always fidgeting with his hat in scenes where he was giving a speech. Brynner allegedly got so insecure about his co-star and rising movie idol that he hired an assistant to count the lines of dialogue McQueen had in the film, and would also build mounds of dirt for him to stand on in his scenes with McQueen so that he would look like the taller of the two on screen. McQueen responded by kicking over the dirt with his cowboy boots, a move that nearly brought the two actors to fisticuffs.
3. The Magnificent Seven Was Also A 1990’s TV Show
The 2016 reboot isn’t the first time that producers in Hollywood have tried to bring back The Magnificent Seven. The movie was actually turned into a television show that aired on the CBS network between 1998 and 2000, starring genre legend Michael Biehn (Aliens, The Terminator) in the Yul Brynner role. The show co-starred Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy) and Robert Vaughn, who starred in the 1960 film, also appeared in a recurring role as a judge who hires the seven gunmen to protect the local town. The show got decent critical reviews but only lasted 22 episodes spanning two seasons. It was nearly cancelled after the first nine episodes, but a fan write-in campaign kept the program alive for 13 more episodes. The entire series can now be found on DVD and Blu-ray.
2. A Mexican Special Interest Group Had A Significant Influence
One of the ongoing criticisms of the 1960 film is the way that the Mexican peasants and bandits, led by Jewish-American actor Eli Wallach, are portrayed. However, the depiction of the Mexicans would have been a lot worse had it not been for the intervention of a Mexican special interest group during the filming. They were on hand as the movie was being made, and ordered a number of changes, notably that the Mexican peasants always be seen wearing clean clothes and that the female Mexicans wear nice dresses. They also required that the children all have nice haircuts and that the Mexicans not be shown to abuse their horses or other animals. The demands actually became so onerous that director John Sturges had to bring in a new scriptwriter to make changes on the set, as well as additional wardrobe and make-up crew.
1. It Has Been Shown On TV…A Lot!
People who are not familiar with The Magnificent Seven have probably not been looking closely enough at their local television listings. That’s because the 1960 version of the movie is the second most-shown film in U.S. television history, behind only The Wizard of Oz. That’s right, The Magnificent Seven has been on TV more than almost every other film ever made. All the exposure has certainly helped the movie’s critical reception, as it currently holds a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is also ranked at number 79 on the American Film Institute’s list of American cinema’s “100 Most Thrilling Films”. Clearly, the movie had come a long way from its humble beginnings as a critical and commercial disaster. Hopefully Denzel Washington and his popular co-stars, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke, can help revive this storied movie franchise one again.