New Magnificent Seven and Oscar buzz

Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt (both in front) with The Magnificent Seven cast at the 41st Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on Thursday.
Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt (both in front) with The Magnificent Seven cast at the 41st Toronto International Film Festival in Canada on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

TORONTO • A multi-ethnic band of outlaws and hired hands kicked off the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday in The Magnificent Seven, leading a slew of action films and true stories vying for early Oscar buzz.

While the cast of Sony Pictures' remake of its 1960 namesake is far more diverse than the original, director Antoine Fuqua said he was not trying to make a statement when casting the film. "I just wanted to see Denzel Washington on a horse," he said at a news conference.

"Denzel walks into a room, the room stops. Clint Eastwood walks into a room, the room stops. Is it because he's a gunslinger, or because of the colour of his skin? We'll let the audience decide."

"Westerns change for the times they're in," he added. "We made our film based on the world we live in right now."

The tale follows a band of outlaws who come together to defend a gold mining town from murderous baron Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), after a widowed young woman vows revenge for her dead husband.

The film is led by Washington's bounty hunter, who brings together a card shark (Chris Pratt), a sharpshooter (Ethan Hawke) and his knife-throwing comrade (Lee Byung Hun).

They are joined by a tracker (Vincent D'Onofrio), a Mexican outlaw (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and a Native American warrior (Martin Sensmeier).

Washington and Fuqua have collaborated before, notably with Hawke on 2001's Training Day, which also premiered at Toronto and went on to win Washington a Best Actor Oscar.

The 10-day festival, now in its 41st year, has often been the launching pad for Oscar-winning films, such as The King's Speech (2010), 12 Years A Slave (2013) and Spotlight (2015).

Other award contenders this year include historical slavery drama The Birth Of A Nation; Hidden Figures, about three black female mathematicians who helped Nasa in the space race; the sci-fi drama Arrival; and Queen Of Katwe, about Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'New Magnificent Seven and Oscar buzz'. Print Edition | Subscribe