Talk about coming out all-guns-blazing. With his feature debut, writer-director Jeymes Samuel has gone for broke with The Harder They Fall – a stylish, violent, playful Western that reframes a historically white-dominated genre through a different lens with a predominantly Black all-star cast. Boasting Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Regina King, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo, and LaKeith Stanfield among its cast, Samuel’s film is about to open the upcoming BFI London Film Festival 2021 – and is primed to become a new genre favourite.

Speaking to Empire in the new issue – on sale Thursday 20 September and available to pre-order online now here – the filmmaker spoke about shifting the focus of the cowboy story to reflect an under-represented perspective. Even if they’re rarely glimpsed on screen, Black cowboys and lethal frontier women were a staple of the Wild West. “What if there were women and people of colour who weren’t subservient in some way? I think it’s really important to give a rounded and more balanced version of events,” he says. “For me, it’s almost like this movie isn’t the Old West. It’s the New West.”

The Harder They Fall – exclusive

If this is Samuel’s full-length debut, he previously helmed 50-minute film They Die By Dawn – a self-funded Black Western shot in just four days, starring Rosario Dawson, Giancarlo Esposito, and the late, great Michael K. Williams. “What I learned from that film is the enthusiasm that people have for watching people of colour in the Old West, and also strong women in the Old West, from the cast, to the crew, to the public,” says Samuel. “The biggest takeaway from They Die By Dawn was, ‘Okay, the world is ready for The Harder They Fall.’” Giddy up, everyone.

Empire – November 2021 cover crop

Read Empire’s full The Harder They Fall feature – featuring interviews with Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Jonathan Majors, and Regina King – in the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife issue. Find it on newsstands from Thursday 30 September, or pre-order a copy online here. The Harder They Fall opens the BFI London Film Festival on 6 October, comes to cinemas from 22 October, and hits Netflix on 3 November.

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