‘The Equalizer’ Set Report: Denzel Washington May Have His First Franchise

Published 10 months ago by , Updated June 20th, 2014 at 9:28 am,

Last August we had the opportunity to visit the set of The Equalizer and watch director Antoine Fuqua work again with Oscar winner Denzel Washington. Knowing the premise of the ’80s TV series where this film gets its name from, and knowing what Fuqua and Washington’s last partnership produced (Training Day) it’s easy to understand the potential surrounding this particular Sony-Columbia Pictures project.

It’s a hot summer day and we head to set, 45 minutes outside of downtown Boston. It’s day 46 of a 60-day shoot and the crew is setup at a massive empty Lowe’s Home Improvement superstore that had moved to New Hampshire due to sales tax reasons. It was the perfect venue to build a set doubling as a Home Depot (since it practically is one) and it had enough room for another stage that represents Robert McCall’s apartment.

At the time we traveled to set Chloë Grace Moretz had already wrapped for her scenes so the day was focused on watching Denzel Washington and director Antoine Fuqua work. In the film, Washington’s mysterious character Robert McCall works at this Home Depot (branded “Homemart” in the film) and the entire movie takes place in Boston, where it’s being shot thanks to the state’s film-friendly tax incentives. No doubling as another city required.

The Equalizer Photo Exclusive Denzel Washington 1024x685 The Equalizer Set Report: Denzel Washington May Have His First Franchise

New ‘Equalizer’ Photo

As we arrive on set we enter a trailer fitted as a screening room where producer Todd Black talks to us about the film and plays for us two bits of footage so we know what we’re getting into. The scenes don’t involve action, but instead focus on dialogue and drama, highlighting who Robert McCall (Washington) is and what he stands for. In the TV Series the film is loosely based on, McCall was ex-CIA and given what’s shown in the trailer, Denzel Washington’s character has similar specialist training. The Equalizer is a vigilante of sorts, someone who brings a little bit of balance to a society overloaded with injustice, doing bad things to bad people to help those in need. Black explains how relevant this is right now and how everyone could use an Equalizer to help out with issues that pop up in their lives.

The first clip is in a diner where McCall goes late at night (he has trouble sleeping) and he converses with an underage working girl (Moretz) who’s stuck in a bad situation. There are glimpses of this in the two Equalizer trailers so far. We learn about the ideologies of each character through the conversation and it’s emphasized that McCall suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder through how he arranges items on the table. The second clip precludes a violent action sequence teased in The Equalizer trailer where McCall enters the domain of a criminal group involved with Moretz. This is the “16 seconds” sequence referred to in the trailer.

After watching the footage, Black asked me how I would describe the footage in a word and I said it was “gripping” because it made me want to turn the page and he explains that that is exactly it, and how this movie got picked up. For The Equalizer, Black says it’s going to have a “hard R” rating and that its protagonist, McCall, is more skilled than any other character in any other movie. If there’s a sequel – and the producers have had that in mind since pitching it – we’ll learn more about McCall’s history so it’s not going to be fully spelled out in this first film.

The Equalizer header The Equalizer Set Report: Denzel Washington May Have His First Franchise

McCall’s OCD tendencies are an important layer for the character and one we talk about in our interviews with Todd Black, Washington and Antoine Fuqua that day on set. McCall is a character who’s lethal but doesn’t need to walk around with a gun. We explored McCall’s apartment on set and it’s perfectly organized and arranged in a very specific way, and that’ll be a reoccurring observation viewers will make wherever McCall goes. He’s widowed, he’s a master of disguise, and he’s amazing at his job – no matter what the job is. He has seemingly settled down in a quiet life outside of Boston but because of who he is and what he stands for, he gets pulled back in and is now facing the Russian mob.

From what they were shooting and what’s planned, they could cut the film in two different ways, one as a clearly defined standalone piece and another that sets up The Equalizer 2. Obviously, in the months since our set visit we’ve learned that Sony is indeed planning a sequel after early test screenings earned overwhelmingly positive responses.

Due to the nature of what was shooting that day, we didn’t see too much and the focus was on learning how The Equalizer came to be and why it’s unique. We watched Denzel entering a room, armed during what appears to be a hostage situation at the Homemart. Fuqua is very patient and calculated and takes all the time he needs to get the perfect angle and lighting. There’s so much attention to detail in things that you’d normally not spend much time on and it’s one of the reasons this movie is different.

Denzel Washington The Equalizer Image The Equalizer Set Report: Denzel Washington May Have His First Franchise

Denzel Washington fans who like seeing him as the cold and confident badass with a heard of gold, will get a lot of that in The Equalizer. It’s a hard R action movie but action isn’t the focus. That’s how its strong script was pitched to Washington and it’s what may allow it to become the first film the star could make a sequel to. It’s also what made picking the right actors and right director a challenge, but they found exactly what they wanted in Washington, Fuqua and the supporting players.

The Equalizer Interviews


More: Re-Teaming Denzel Washington & Antoine Fuqua


The Equalizer hits theaters September 26, 2014.

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  1. Denzel is the best actor out there and this looks solid.
    Personally, would love to see a film directed by Ben affleck starring Denzel, matt Damon, christian bale, Robert Downey Jr, Joseph gordon-levitt, Jeremy renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Natalie portman, Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson, and mila kunis.
    Music from u2, onerepublic, Lupe fiasco, Kendrick Lamar, and john legend

    • Hmmm, quite a Smorgasboard…but yes, you are right. I think you could get a pretty good flick out of all that. There is some talent there.

  2. This movie looks insanely good.

  3. I find myself REALLY looking forward to this movie.

  4. “a heard of gold”-So what are you saying? Denzel is full of BULL-shigiddy!-lol In all seriousness, Denzel is the best there is. This looks good.

  5. Denzel is good, but he is not the “best” out there. Please.

    As concerns a “franchise”…I love how people and studios start suggesting that notion before the first film is even released. Haven’t we all heard that before with films like John Carter, After Earth, The Lone Ranger, etc? It’s just an attempt to drum up hype about a movie.

    • And theeeeere’s your hater folks!

      • What, pray tell, did I say that you would define as “hate”?

    • That’s your personal opinion in terms of Denzel. Mine is that he is the best out there

    • i have to disagree, DenZel is the best out there right now, hes so diverse, he can play any character and he makes every scene entertaining…and you just named like the 3 biggest movie flops of the last couple years and ill tgrow in Battleship too, honestly i enjoyed all of those films except for After Earth, but what alot of people dont understand is John Carter and the lone ranger are top 5 in the most expensive budgets of all time at 250 million, Battleship is like 17th but its still at over 200 million, Battleship still profited obver 3100 million its just still shy of what they expected and the lone ranger and johnn carter only profited less than 50 million so i think it was the production teams fault on those movies why they didnt do very good

  6. Good article.

  7. I’ll give this a watch, despite it not being very similar apparently to the Edward Woodward Equalizer. DW can probably cut a pretty good figure on the screen in this, so it might be an interesting actioner. Speaking of thriller-ish things, anyone heard anything recently about where the Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie or Doc Savage flick is going? Progressing or stuck in Development Hell?

  8. Are people really interested in watching this? This reminds me the typical action movies from the 90´s with Van Damme or Steven Seagal. In this case the actors are better, that´s true, probably the technical aspects will be better too. But the story is ensentially the same: invincible good guy pisses off dangerous bad guys, dangerous bad guys take revenge on him, the good guy is invincible and the bad guys suffer the consequences of his revenge instead, in the end he has killed all of them in the most painful possible way.

    Personally I don´t like invincible heroes that kill everybody without even sweeting. I don´t see anything new or original in this movie that makes me want to watch it.

  9. There are actors that immediately get your attention,like Matt Damon,Liam Neeson,Chris Hemsworth,Al Pacino and Denzel Washington,because they can hold their own and keep a movie going,then there’s content and script,plot and direction,but a good lead is almost everything,Denzel got it!