Last year, the world of film and music lost the great James Horner, long before his time. It seemed his score for The 33 might have been his final completed composition, but that’s not so. We were lucky enough to land a recent trip to the editing bay to view scenes from Antoine Fuqua‘s upcoming The Magnificent Seven, whose first trailer dropped this morning. The director told us that Horner’s music for the movie—which wasn’t entirely finished at the time of his death—has been completed by Horner’s assistants and will be used in the film.
Fuqua had become rather close to Horner in the month’s leading up his death, and the Training Day director told us how he came to find out that the score had been completed. “I was shooting and I got a call that he had died. That was a tough day,” Fuqua remembered. “It was hard to discuss composers with anybody. I figured I would deal with it later on in post.” But a call from Horner’s agent and two music assistants changed things. “They said, ‘We want to come down and visit you. James left you a gift.'”
The idea that the score had been completed was the furthest thing from Fuqua’s mind; he guessed the gift might be one of Horner’s many gadgets that Fuqua admired. “I went to James’ house and he has these amazing toys from around the world,” Fuqua said. “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life. He was an engineer…he had tornado makers and toys from 1800s. It was just amazing.”
Fuqua continued, remembering how uninterested Horner was in displaying another kind of memorabilia. “He had no film, nothing. No Academy Awards, no posters, no nothing. It was all toys and beautiful things. He loved airplanes hanging from the ceiling—in no particular order, by the way. Rooms and rooms full of it. It has to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I thought it was something from there that he showed me when I went to go hear the music for Southpaw.” (A score that Horner scorned, for what it’s worth.)
But, of course, it wasn’t one of those things at all. “They came down and they said that James had written a lot of the score from the script. [They said,] ‘He was going to surprise you,” Fuqua said, still astonished by the remarkable man and his work.
“It just blew me away,” he continued, remembering the first listen. “They played it for me and it just blew me away. It just like, ‘God, he’s a genius.’ He was trying to be ahead of it. We had discussed doing that, but I didn’t know he was actually going to write it and actually have an orchestra do it. It was almost like, ‘How do you know you’re going to pass away?’ Of course, I don’t think he knew that, but that’s a weird feeling that someone can write to your script and give it to you after he’s gone.”
The Magnificent Seven, being such a massive cultural icon, was a very daunting prospect for the director, who’d been a fan of Westerns since childhood. He said it was Horner who talked him into it. “I just wasn’t feeling the love at that moment,” Fuqua said, “and I was trying to get Denzel [Washington] at that point to agree to the deal and everything. I sat with James and I said, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to do it. I’m having a tough time trying to get the money to match the level of actors,’ blah blah blah.”
But Horner changed Fuqua’s whole approach after telling a story about how Calabasas (where Horner’s ranch is) used to be riding trails, pointing at the open expanse. Finally, Horner, whom Fuqua described as a slight, soft-spoken man, turned to him. “‘You have to do it.’ He said, ‘Antoine, you’ll make history. You, Denzel, Chris [Pratt]. Magnificent Seven.’ He says, ‘Don’t worry about the money. I’ll do it for whatever, but you’ve got to make that movie. You’ll probably never get to make another Western in your lifetime. You’ve just got to figure out how to do it.'”
Fuqua said that was the push he needed. “It was a weird little moment. I thought, ‘Yes. F**k yeah. You’re right. I’ve got to figure this out. I’ve got to stop whining and figure out how to do it.'” He called the studio brass that day and said if Washington and Pratt signed on and agreed to various caveats, would the movie be a go. And as the story goes, everybody said yes. “It was James that fueled it. It was that idea that you get to make a movie, man. F**king figure it out. Stop whining. It’s a Western, and he was right.”
We’ll get to hear James Horner’s final score, and how it matches up to Fuqua’s frenetic yet laconic Western direction, when The Magnificent Seven hits theaters September 23. The film stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Peter Sarsgaard, and more.
Are you looking forward to this re-imagining? What’s your favorite James Horner score? Let us know in the comments below!
Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist and an avowed lover of all things Western. Follow him on Twitter!