“They were only seven – but they fought like seven hundred,” goes the original tagline for the 1960 Western firing on an all-star cast. “The Magnificent Seven” is directed by John Sturges and tells the action-packed story of a gang of brave heroes tasked with defending a town from heartless bandits. Packed with star names such as Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, the film stands as a beloved entry of the genre with an intense last stand and quick draw test that will have any viewer clapping their hands to see if they’re good enough to join the ranks.
Like so many other beloved gems, the film was given the remake treatment decades later, courtesy of Antoine Fuqua. Starring Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Chris Pratt, and Vincent D’Onoforio, the 2016 film has a good go at trying to capture the same magic as its predecessor, in a story that’s “epic” in every sense of the word. But is this intense story of heroism a real one? Did seven strangers with six-shooters (and some knives) take on a gang of bandits while grossly outnumbered? Well, not exactly — but it’s the film these two are based on that holds some interesting truths.
The Magnificent Seven’s predecessor was based on real events
As entertaining as Sturges and Fuqua’s efforts are, it’s revered director Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” that’s the superior predecessor, and the movie is deemed by many to be one of the greatest foreign-language films ever made (via BBC) — if not one of the best movies ever made, period. Released in 1954, the film follows the seven titular warriors, who must defend a small village against an army of bandits. What’s all the more impressive with this legendary film is that some real-life elements inspired it.
In preparation for the film, Kurosawa did extensive research into the life of a samurai throughout history to ensure that each one of the movie’s central team was fleshed out individuals (via the Science and Media Museum). Daily routines, attire, and even the diet of samurais were all studied so that this group of samurai was the real deal. While the story showcased in the film is completely fiction, “Kurosawa dressed his actors and sets according to old paintings and historical descriptions” based on the 16th-century setting.
Since the release and subsequent critical acclaim of “Seven Samurai,” the formula that conjured a classic has been replicated in various forms from “A Bug’s Life” to “The Avengers,” long after “The Magnificent Seven” rode into town (via Nerdist). While the classic Western may not hold any truth, the film it’s based on certainly does.