Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz

Antoine Fuqua (Acclaimed Director & Producer) on his Extraordinary Path, Filmmaking, Audience Testing, & More

September 20, 2023 Kevin Goetz / Antoine Fuqua Season 2023 Episode 27
Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz
Antoine Fuqua (Acclaimed Director & Producer) on his Extraordinary Path, Filmmaking, Audience Testing, & More
Show Notes Transcript

Kevin is joined by acclaimed filmmaker, Antoine Fuqua.

Antoine Fuqua, director and producer, is known for his work on the films Training Day, The Magnificent Seven, and The Equalizer.

Kevin Goetz sits down with renowned Hollywood director Antoine Fuqua. They discuss Fuqua's extraordinary path from the tough streets of Pittsburgh to directing blockbusters and working with some of the greatest actors of our time. Fuqua opens up about his encounter with gun violence at age 15, which shaped his artistic style and pursuit of cinematic realism. He shares behind-the-scenes stories about working with Denzel Washington in Training Day, the value he gleans from test screenings, and his upcoming Michael Jackson biopic. Fuqua also provides insight into his intense focus on actors, self-criticism, and mission to keep evolving as a director who can capture the human condition under pressure.

Childhood Shooting (2:26)
Fuqua recalls being randomly shot at age 15 while running an errand in Pittsburgh. The traumatic event gave him a visceral sense of violence and mortality. He remembers the shooting like a vivid movie scene engraved in his mind.

Acting Process (11:34)
Fuqua explains his deep reverence for actors. Fuqua believes in giving actors space to use their own creative process and not interfering in their "magic."

“In the Moment Filmmaking” with Denzel Washington (14:18)
Fuqua shares a story from Training Day when he was so absorbed watching Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke improvise in character that he forgot to call "cut." He stresses filmmakers must sometimes "get out of their own way" and just feel unscripted moments unfold.

Test Screenings (16:48)
The pair discuss test screenings, and Fuqua shares that even though he is tortured by the test screening process, he considers it a blessing. Fuqua discusses his love for the audience and how the feedback exposes blind spots and forces him to see the film through their eyes.

Michael Jackson Biopic (21:56)
Fuqua reveals details on his upcoming Michael Jackson biography produced by Graham King. He was drawn to the project by Jackson's global impact and complicated life. Fuqua aims to look beyond tabloid headlines to capture the man underneath.

Men Under Pressure (27:24)
Fuqua discusses men under pressure, a major theme in his filmmaking, and how he is drawn to telling stories about people making tough choices that test their morals and define their character.

Tune in for a fascinating discussion that provides rare insight into the mindset of visionary director Antoine Fuqua. From his rough upbringing to directing actors like Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Will Smith, and Jake Gyllenhaal, he explains how his background shaped his directorial style and gift for portraying the human condition.

Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Antoine Fuqua
Producer:  Kari Campano
Writers: Kevin Goetz, Darlene Hayman, & Kari Campano

For more information about Antoine Fuqua:

For more information about Kevin Goetz:
Audienceology Book:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @KevinGoetz360
Linked In @Kevin Goetz
Screen Engine/ASI Website: www.ScreenE

Podcast: Don't Kill the Messenger with Movie Research Expert Kevin Goetz 
 Guest:  Acclaimed Director & Producer Antoine Fuqua
 Interview Transcript:

Announcer (00:02):

There's a little-known part of Hollywood that most people are not aware of known as the audience test preview. The recently released book, Audienceology, reveals this for the first time. Our podcast series, Don't Kill the Messenger, brings this book to life, taking a peek behind the curtain. And now, join author and entertainment research expert, Kevin Goetz.

Kevin Goetz (00:24):

Today, my friends. Let's talk men. And don't go there. I mean, you can if you want to. But truthfully, the leading characters in the films of today's guest are quite often males. They are larger than life and defiant characters in action, packed stories with fighting struggles. Epic battles, incredible shootouts, and high body counts. Among them are heroes, war machines, vengeance seekers, and enduring freedom fighters. And soon to be added to the list, someone who inspired love, hope, and compassion worldwide. These are remarkable characters portrayed by some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Today I have with me the insanely talented director and producer, Antoine Fuqua, who is the force behind films, including, you gotta hang on for this list, Training Day, South Paw, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer series, The Magnificent Seven, one of my favorites, Tears of the Sun, Emancipation, and the upcoming film currently in pre-production, Michael, based on the life of Michael Jackson. Antoine, my friend, thank you so much for joining me today.

Antoine Fuqua (01:40):

Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way. Happy to see you.

Kevin Goetz (01:42):

You and I go back probably, I want to say, 25 years.

Antoine Fuqua (01:47):

At least.

Kevin Goetz (01:48):

Which is insane. And I just looked and Tears of the Sun was 20, 21 years ago when we tested it. And I think you are that rare breed of director that not only has the chops to do that incredible action suspense, but you are wonderful with actors, and I love that about you. And I tell that to you every time I see you. And your movie that just came out, Equalizer 3 has done very well so far, knock wood, is a testament to that as well. And that was the last one we worked on. 

Antoine Fuqua (02:25):

Yes. That was the last time I saw you.

Kevin Goetz (02:26):

I want to start with Pittsburgh. I want to start with a young Antoine. I speak to this notion, and I think you do too, about things that inspire or inform your life. And I guess you had a pretty traumatic incident when you were 15. You came from a pretty rough background on the streets of Pittsburgh and were shot at that age.

Antoine Fuqua (02:51):

Yes, just wrong place, wrong time, you know, running through an alley. Going to the store for my mother, a lot of bad elements around, and I was a victim of that circumstance.

Kevin Goetz (03:01):

And how did it inform what was to come, particularly you as a director?

Antoine Fuqua (03:07):

Well, it informed me that I didn't want to be on the streets, that's for sure.

Kevin Goetz (03:11):


Antoine Fuqua (03:12):

But it also gave me a real sense of violence and death and its immediacy, and how unexpected it really truly is. On a day where you just run into the store for your mother to pick up macaroni and cheese with your buddy, gunfire comes out of nowhere.

Kevin Goetz (03:32):

And it could take you out in a second. 

Antoine Fuqua (03:34):

Oh, a millisecond and your life's over. And I was fortunate to survive that. But the memory is detailed in my brain to the point where even when I'm filming, that memory's always there. I mean, I saw the guy, it was raining, pouring down raining, and I was running in between houses and the guy was about maybe 50 yards, 30 yards up the alleyway, and something just said, run. I don’t know where this came from and I told my friend, his name was Clifford, told him to run. And we took off running and all the telephone poles around me started to splinter, just wood flying everywhere. We were ducking and running and I could hear the gunshots. And when I ran into the A and P supermarket, I was just breathing heavy. And the police officer, well the security officer told me to sit down and I thought, he thought I stole something and, and he saw blood. That's when the reality hit me. And my friend Clifford panicked and ran out to go get my mother and my family. But I remember sitting there and I remember seeing the guy at the alleyway's glasses in my mind, in a closeup with the water on the glasses and on the weapon as he was firing. I don't know how my mind clears up. Oh my God.

Antoine Fuqua (04:55):

But I was able to identify the guy, but it was almost like, it was like cinema in my brain, but it was real.

Kevin Goetz (05:02):

Wow, man. Thank God you survived. 'cause what you brought into the world is just plain and simple joy to so many of us. And I gotta ask you something. I love saying your name, Antoine Fuqua. It's music and I'm very musical. And where's the derivation of Fuqua?

Antoine Fuqua (05:23):

It's a French name, obviously.

Kevin Goetz (05:25):

No shit, man. I mean, come on.

Antoine Fuqua (05:27):

I'm saying on my fathers shin and Nigerian base. My family is from the Ivory Coast of Nigeria. That's the background. But my name is well known, and there's a lot of Fuquas in Georgia, and there's a lot of Fuquas in Louisiana.

Kevin Goetz (05:43):

And I've been saying it wrong. I say Fuqua, it's Fuqua.

Antoine Fuqua (05:46):

No, you say correct me. It's Fuqua.

Kevin Goetz (05:48):

It's Fuqua. It's beautiful. I mean, I really, I can't even stand it. And every time I see it on screen, I always say it aloud. It's just a gorgeous name. 

Antoine Fuqua (05:56):

You should hear how they, they say my name in Japan, though. It's not always so sexy.

Kevin Goetz (05:59):

What do they say?

Antoine Fuqua (06:01):

It's Fuqua. 

Kevin Goetz (06:06):

Your head is gonna be exploding at the end of this podcast because you're gonna be like, uh, wow. I'm all that. Huh? You have a left and right brain thing going on. Am I right to say that you went to school for chemical engineering or electrical engineering?

Antoine Fuqua (06:23):

Electrical engineering.

Kevin Goetz (06:23):

Well, either one of those is that brain. And then you’re an artist on the other side. How did you get into the art of it?

Antoine Fuqua (06:31):

I’ve always loved art. Obviously, growing up in the area I grew up in, there's no references truly to teach you at that time. There's no internet and all that about artists and what, what an artist truly is. So movies was my escapism, drawing, sketching, you know, anything I can get my hands on to make something. We used to make go-karts with batteries from a lawnmower. Like we were always making things. And when I took electrical engineering in school, I kind of fell in love with the concept of building something with a schematic diagram and capacitors and hot solder. And I found myself more interested in the designing of it than the function of it.

Kevin Goetz (07:14):

Just those words you said, you already brought me back to my elementary or junior high. I don't have that ability. So you're talking words on like, that's intimidating to me. <laugh>, what'd you say? Capacit. Capacitator. What'd you call it?

Antoine Fuqua (07:29):

A capacitor? 

Kevin Goetz (07:31):

<laugh> Yeah, A capacitor.

Antoine Fuqua (07:32):

It's mathematics. Everything has to connect to work. And we used to make AM radios so inside of the radio there's a capacitor with all the…

Kevin Goetz (07:40):

Oh, I do remember those kits they used to have. 

Antoine Fuqua (07:42):

Yeah. So it actually is a very interesting thing because in filmmaking it's the same concept, really. Concept. You have your crew, you have your team, you have your you and putting together your test screenings and all these things from my DP to my production designer, it's like designing a device, if you will, that everything has to work together for it to function. 

Kevin Goetz (08:05):

Ooh. It's a good way to look at it. By the way, I say the same thing. The art of filmmaking is not a solo venture. And as a director, clearly I have great reverence for directors and it's their vision, but it's their vision along with artists surrounding you who fulfill and, and act and visualize and bring to life that vision. Yes. So you can't do it alone. Yes, you cannot. You started in music videos, am I right?

Antoine Fuqua (08:35):

Yes. I started in music videos in New York.

Kevin Goetz (08:38):

What is it about music videos? You know, Steve Carr, in my book Audienceology, we talk about he was an artist and then he went into directing and then Michael Bay, of course. He started in music videos and several other folks. Why is that such an entry point?

Antoine Fuqua (08:53):

For me, I was blessed to get that opportunity. Steve Golin gave me that opportunity on Propaganda.

Kevin Goetz (08:58):

May he rest in peace.

Antoine Fuqua (09:00):

Love Steve, love Steve to death. Steve Golin, Anne-Marie Mackay, and John at Propaganda at that time. But music is a rhythm. Filmmaking is a rhythm as well. Editing is a, everyone had their own rhythm, their own pace, you know? And as a director, it was interesting to go to that school of music and the music videos because editing was a rhythm, right. And learning how much an audience can actually within seconds or minutes, it was a great study of that. And it does translate into features in a different way. You still have to have a rhythm, you still have to have a pace. Right? We talk about this a lot. Pacing. Oh yeah. You know, you and I have these conversations.

Kevin Goetz (09:42):

<laugh> Do we ever.

Antoine Fuqua (09:44):

Right? But it's a rhythm. Trying to find that rhythm and then trying to get your rhythm to connect with an audience.

Kevin Goetz (09:50):

That's interesting. The rhythm makes sense to me. What I find not all music video directors have brought to the big screen experience is the sense of story, meaning beginning, middle, and ending. And you innately seem to have that. And I find that one of your superpowers, because you tell compelling stories and you know really how to tell a story. That has to come from everything you've been through in your life all the way through, as you said, the idea of how an electrical engineer even approaches a project to storytelling. It has to have a relationship.

Antoine Fuqua (10:28):

Absolutely. Well, that brings us back to my love for actors.

Kevin Goetz (10:32):

Why do you love actors so much?

Antoine Fuqua (10:34):

Their gift to bring a character to life and make you feel is from God.

Kevin Goetz (10:42):


Antoine Fuqua (10:43):

When it's done well, it moves you. I remember the actors that moved me growing up. I remember watching Brando and Cagney and all the great actors at the time, Pacino, I could go on and on and on. But the emotions, I remember the first time I saw Out of Africa, things that moved me that I didn't directly connect to in my life, but the emotions that were coming off the screen were affecting me. That comes from an actor, that comes from them giving you and embodying that role.

Kevin Goetz (11:18):

There's nothing like it. Where did you learn how to speak to actors? Did you take acting class yourself to know the language? Like how do you communicate with a Denzel Washington in Training Day or a Will Smith in Emancipation, or whomever you're working with?

Antoine Fuqua (11:34):

Hmm. A lot of it just comes from conversation. I didn't come through it in a traditional way, obviously through music videos and commercials. So I dealt with artists, right? Musicians. Sure, sure. I was ready to discuss certain things with them, which is different. But when I talk to actors, we talk about it in a way you and I talk, we just just sit and we talk. We have coffee and we discuss the character and the emotions and what we're really trying to convey. And I learned over the years when to step in to discuss or when to step away to give them the space they need to do what they do. The great actors, they have a big process that I respect. And there's times I don't even want to know the process. Sure. I just want the magic they bring because it's a very private thing.

Kevin Goetz (12:21):

And creating, I guess a safe space for them to play.

Antoine Fuqua (12:24):

That's right.

Kevin Goetz (12:25):

What I loved about the Equalizer 3, the last movie we worked on, is the fact that it's so human. Like I was brought into a, what would seemingly be a commercial film, but it's layered, it's textured. And I remember coming up to you right after the screening and I was like, man, you're so talented. I'm trying not to be a sycophant, but I really think you have this special gift of what we talked about, which is the human quality. And those are my favorite directors. I know I'm going to be talking to Peter Farrelly coming up and in the beginning of his career, write him off as a great comedy director. But he's so much more than that because he really understands actors and really gets into that as well. I admire that so much. And I feel that like anyone who would say Antoine Fuqua is a wonderful action director. It's true. But so much more than that. Yeah. What would you say your superpower is?

Antoine Fuqua (13:26):

I would say it's, it's feeling.

Kevin Goetz (13:28):

Tell me about that.

Antoine Fuqua (13:29):

It's like Miles Davis.

Kevin Goetz (13:30):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>

Antoine Fuqua (13:32):

Or any artist. You have to trust your instincts. It's a feeling when Denzel Washington is doing something, or Ethan Hawke in front of my camera, or Jake Gyllenhaal, any of those great actors, it's a feeling you get. It's not always intellectual.

Kevin Goetz (13:47):

In that feeling, as far as your superpower, how does it translate into actualizing? Is it because your instincts will kick in, and you'll say like, go with that or something? 

Antoine Fuqua (13:57):

Yeah, yeah. You have, it's like being in the moment. So in Training Day, Ethan Hawke and Denzel are in the car, the car’s cut in half, we got equipment everywhere and lights and camera. Crazy. Right? We're driving through rough neighborhoods.

Kevin Goetz (14:09):

Right, right, right.

Antoine Fuqua (14:10):

And I remember sitting on the Apple box and I'm sitting like this and…

Kevin Goetz (14:15):

He's, he's leaning in for the listeners <laugh>.

Antoine Fuqua (14:18):

Yeah, they're right. And they're here and they're going at it. And I remember the feeling I had. It was like floating, my hairs on my arms still stand up and I'll forget to yell cut, because I was just in it. And they just kept going. And the great actors would just go, the director said cut. I would go around the block and my cameraman at the time, Marlon, would sometimes look at me because the sun would all of a sudden be blasting through the window and I still wouldn't cut. And we’re shooting film, anamorphic film and the car. It's really delicate. And I could feel that I was in rare air, a space with these two actors. And then after maybe a couple runs we would keep going around the block. I wouldn’t let them stop going around the block and the police were trying to stop traffic, and Denzel would finally look through the side mirror and said you want me to yell cut?

Antoine Fuqua (15:09):

I was like, oh. And you can laugh, but he knew like I was just feeling it. And that's something that you learn to listen and remove yourself as the director. But you have to know it in the moment though. And that's not an intellectual thing. For me, it isn't. You can overthink it and you can convince yourself of it, but in the moment, if, if an actor's doing something, whatever he's creating, and then he doesn't walk over and pick up the cup unless it's a story point, if you yell cut whatever he was gonna give you, you won't get it again. Mm-hmm. The moment's not gonna happen again.

Kevin Goetz (15:54):

I wanted to ask you specifically about our experience together at test screenings. You've always honored them. I have found very respectful of the process and of the audience, quite frankly. You have a reverence for the audience and want to do right by them. I will share with you that the great directors that I've had the privilege of working with in my 35-plus years in this business, all possess that. They have that from Martin Scorsese to Ron Howard to Ang Lee. At the end of the day, you are making this for them. And I want to ask you about a particular experience that you might've had at a screening that was really important to the maybe changing of the movie or something that happened at a screening that you recall where you were like, wow, the audience really told me what to do and I listened.

Antoine Fuqua (16:48):

Yeah, it happens almost every time because you know, as a director you become obsessed with your work, right? As the director, you're painting a painting or you're a chef making food and you believe, you know every element that goes into it, every spice and <laugh>, we do our test screenings, even though it's not complete, the audience goes, nah, no, I don't really care about that. I really care about this. And you go, what? That's the, I didn't even think about that. That was the least on my mind. But your movie is made again when you put it in front of them because movies are made over and over and over. It's made in the development is made in the pre-production, it's made when you're filming it. And then we put it in front of an audience. And then you really see the movie you made. Really.

Kevin Goetz (17:30):

It's where the rubber hits the road.

Antoine Fuqua (17:32):

Oh yeah. Because they're in it and they don't know you didn't have enough time to shoot this or whatever happened with you in the studio. They don't care. They're just feeling it. It's an emotional experience. That's what I mean. So as a director, you have to remind yourself to sit back and, and just feel it with them because they'll start to tell you, I like it, but it's too long. The thing that I remember in Equalizer 1, I think it was, yeah one, there's a moment where the guy comes in, robs the store, takes the ring from the young lady, and then he goes and gets the hammer and then towards the end of the movie, the drawer opens and the ring is in there, in the drawer. I hated that <laugh>. I was like, ah, cheesy. I don't want to do that.

Kevin Goetz (18:14):

Cheesy. You thought it was cheesy.

Antoine Fuqua (18:15):

Cheesy. Oh my God. The Audience loved it. Loved it was one the favorite moments.

Kevin Goetz (18:21):

So suddenly it became your idea.

Antoine Fuqua (18:24):

Hell, all of a sudden I’m a genius. I'm like, yeah, but I hated it. You know, <laugh>, you know, it's one of those things where…

Kevin Goetz (18:30):

Oh, I love that. You know? Yeah.

Antoine Fuqua (18:32):

It's not about me. Again, it, it's the thing we just talked about is the ability to, and it's hard, to remove yourself and get out the way. You have to get out of your own way sometimes. We all do it right. We get in our own way. But at the same time, when you put it in front of an audience, you don’t know what people are going through in their lives and what they're feeling. And that's not something you think about when you're making the movie, of course, You just make the film. But when you put it in front of an audience, like, like you and I have done many times, many times, you learn so much, even when you do the Q and As, what someone says. And sometimes, as you know, people will get personal and they'll say, well, I remember in my life, and they'll say something that informs you that maybe that person is going through something or feeling something personal. Right? And you have to remember, as you said, we're making it for them. So as much as, believe me, I'm tortured when I gotta do test screenings, torture because it’s not fixed yet, I still want to, the music's not, you know, whatever it's, but I know how important it is, so I suck it up and I sit there and by the end of it, and then you and I talk in the studio talking, I go, thank God we're doing this because I didn't see that. I didn't know they felt that.

Kevin Goetz (19:44):

Do you really, you really do say that?

Antoine Fuqua (19:46):

I do. Because there's times where I sit back and I go, are they just being harsh on this particular thing because it's not done yet? Or is it really truly an issue that needs some addressing? And you don't know what that is until you get back into the editing bag, get back to the movie, look at the cards, see what they're saying, and kind of go, maybe it's the scene before. Maybe it's two scenes before, maybe it's not paying off. Maybe I'm making a promise that they're expecting that I'm not delivering. Anything like that. It's painful. It's one of the most painful processes in filmmaking for me, the test screening. Because it's the reality with a real audience talking to you and you have to accept it.

Kevin Goetz (20:28):

And they have no agenda, except the studio has an agenda because they want to make money, and a great movie, of course. The financiers, if it's not the studio, the producers have their own, the, even the editor has their own, and the director has their own, everyone has an agenda. But the audience comes in, they just want to like the thing, they just want to like it.

Antoine Fuqua (20:47):

I never watch a movie or even my own screenings when I'm screening a movie without popcorn and Coke. I get a popcorn and Coke no matter what. And I don't really drink Coke like that, but I'll drink <laugh>. I have a little popcorn, raisinets or something because I want to keep trying to feel the experience they're feeling. Because these are hardworking people, money's hard to come by. You're in a movie, you're paying your money, you want to sit there and you want to just disappear into a world. Am I delivering that to them?

Kevin Goetz (21:13):

Oh, amen. When we come back, I want to talk about some of the future stuff and I'm excited to get into that. We'll be back in a moment.

Announcer (21:24):

Get a glimpse into a secret part of Hollywood that few are aware of and that filmmakers rarely talk about in the new book Audienceology by Kevin Goetz. Each chapter is filled with never before revealed inside stories and interviews from famous studio chiefs, directors, producers, and movie stars, bringing the art and science of audienceology into focus. Audienceology, How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love, from Tiller Press at Simon and Schuster. Available now.

Kevin Goetz (21:56):

We're back here with Antoine Fuqua, who is embarking on a very important project right now. One that is near and dear to one of my very close friends, Graham King, who's been working on it for years. Graham's been very close to the Jackson family since he came to Hollywood three decades ago. And it was very important for Graham to find the perfect director who could understand the nuance of a very complicated and arguably one of the most popular figures who ever graced the planet Earth, Michael Jackson. So, Antoine was selected for that. Antoine, tell me about the movie and how you said yes to it, and where it's heading right now.

Antoine Fuqua (22:44):

Well, how I said yes to it was Bob Richardson, my cinematographer for Emancipation and Equalizer, the great Bob Richardson kept talking to me every day about Graham King and the Michael Jackson project. And I love Michael. I grew up listening to his music, of course. And Graham got in touch with me and flew to Italy, actually to Amalfi, to meet with me about it. And he's so passionate about it. He's done so much homework, I mean, for years. And it's unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. And we sat and talked for some time there and I decided that it's important to tell the story of Michael Jackson.

Kevin Goetz (23:21):

A hundred percent. This is arguably one of the most interesting character studies ever. Just to get to that level of fame and to have gone through child celebrity and a family that was clearly all in the business. 

Antoine Fuqua (23:38):

Exactly. He had impact on, especially people that grew up in that era, all of our lives. And it deserves exploring. 

Kevin Goetz (23:44):


Antoine Fuqua (23:45):

I got into art, by the way. One of the first artists I studied was Caravaggio.

Kevin Goetz (23:51):

I read that. What is it about Caravaggio that turned you on so much?

Antoine Fuqua (23:55):

He reminded me of people I grew up with. He was rough. He lived in the streets. He was in the bars all the time. He was very defiant against the church. He actually murdered someone in a fight. And then he was murdered. Then he was killed. Really? Yes. Wow. Yeah, Caravaggio was a rough character. But again, when you put the painting in a beautiful frame and cost a hundred million, everyone forgets who the artist really was. Made him what he was. Right. You have museums for Caravaggio, you go to Naples, some places like that.

Kevin Goetz (24:28):

It's amazing, actually, because if social media were in the Renaissance, we would have probably dismissed Caravaggio or canceled him based on what you're saying. You know, it's so easy to just put people in these buckets, these boxes, and just relegate them to swipe right, swipe left. Right. Are you hard on yourself? Are you tough on yourself? 

Antoine Fuqua (24:51):

Yeah, I'm hard. I'm pretty hard on myself.

Kevin Goetz (24:53):

Are you a, would you call yourself a perfectionist?

Antoine Fuqua (24:57):

Other people say it. I just, I just believe in doing the best job and trying to be…

Kevin Goetz (25:02):

But you're relentless at it, if I'm not mistaken. Right?

Antoine Fuqua (25:04):

Relentless pursuit.

Kevin Goetz (25:05):

Yeah. Yeah.

Antoine Fuqua (25:06):

I say it to myself to people that work for me. Relentless pursuit. You have to be at whatever it's you're trying to do. There's no other way.

Kevin Goetz (25:14):

Yeah. Kind of love that, you know?

Antoine Fuqua (25:16):

And that means trying to be a better human being, which is very hard.

Kevin Goetz (25:20):

Do you go back in a movie and ever say, God, I wish I could do that one over again?

Antoine Fuqua (25:26):

Yeah. All of them.

Kevin Goetz (25:26):

All. Really. Wow. 

Antoine Fuqua (25:29):

Yeah. All of them.

Kevin Goetz (25:30):

I'm always curious when you say cut, let's move on. Uh, have you ever obsessed to the point of going back and reshooting something because you just, even before you saw dailies, let's say?

Antoine Fuqua (25:42):

Yeah. Yeah. I do. Because you know, you can get a better, you notice there's a certain amount of time and money you have and when you notice something you can fix and you know that there is an end to this and the money will run out and the studio will, at some point you have to deliver. I just get crazy about something, and I don't care if I have to shoot on the weekend or go back and do it and sacrifice of something else, I'll do it. Because you only get one time to do it.

Kevin Goetz (26:11):

That's right.

Antoine Fuqua (26:13):

So, if you see it's wrong, you can't just accept it. I mean, it's a sin. You have to go try and fix it. If you can, and I'm that way.

Kevin Goetz (26:25):

Do you shoot your endings in sequence usually, because to me the ending in a lot of your movies are so crucial, well, in almost every movie, but in your movies, because a lot of them are action driven? The endings are so important.

Antoine Fuqua (26:39):

Most of the time my approach is like in Emancipation or Tears of the Sun where there's big action sequences, I prep like I'm shooting the ending first, because it makes your crew also sharpen up on that. Because you can run out of time, run out of money, run out of energy. So if you start with it, the biggest set piece, start with that, prep that as if that's your first few weeks. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So try to answer as many questions about the complications of it. Even if you don't shoot it first, it gives everybody more time to work on it during the process of filmmaking. But you've got a lot of the heavy lifting done. Approach it as if that's first. Big battle scenes, set it up, design it, put all the energy into that first.

Kevin Goetz (27:24):

Really, really sound advice. I opened the program today by talking about men and your male characters. And all kidding aside, you really have that connective tissue in all your movies. Is there a reason for it? Is it by design? Is it purposeful or is it just worked out that way?

Antoine Fuqua (27:45):

I think it's what I understand the most. The men under pressure.

Kevin Goetz (27:50):

Ooh, that's so specific. I just want to go back and fine tune your superpower because I'm feeling like there may be, that may be part of that superpower. What you just said.

Antoine Fuqua (28:03):

Men under pressure.

Kevin Goetz (28:05):

Men under pressure. And then you think about 15 years old and you think about being keenly aware and not being able to identify the shooter and knowing what you were under at that time. And to me, there's some story there. I'm not really trying to bring this thing full circle, but wow, that's kind of cool, isn't it?

Antoine Fuqua (28:26):

Well, it is because it's a decision process that I believe men have to make sometimes without specific guidance. Meaning you can get advice, you can get counsel, but to make a moral decision, to make decisions when you are under pressure starts to define who you are. And specifically men, because not being graphic or anything, but men, we don't have anything that really tells us we're a grownup. There's no physical change in our bodies. We grow up and there's markers, you know, school’s your marker, right? You go to elementary school, you go to high school and you may go to college. What is it that tells you you're a man? What is it that tells you you're a grownup now? Do you have to put some of your childish behavior or your childish emotions aside and make proper decisions? Those things, there's no real structure there anymore. There was a time when there was war, so you knew at 19 you were going to war.

Kevin Goetz (29:29):

That was a benchmark. 

Antoine Fuqua (29:31):

Yeah, that was a benchmark. What is the benchmark now for a man? There's no benchmark. Your body doesn't tell you anything different. Really little bit here and there.

Kevin Goetz (29:40):

If you're Jewish like I am, I guess your Bar mitzvah says that's when a boy becomes a man. But let's be serious at 13 years old, <laugh>. Yeah, right. You're far away from becoming a man.

Antoine Fuqua (29:52):

Absolutely. And, and here I grew up in the definition of what a man is and was, was defined by obviously the people around you, the men around you, whether it be on the streets or wherever or you're in your house. It's also defined by the time. It's defined by movies. For me, a lot of it, the movies I watch the behavior in the movies. And then it's redefined when I actually realized that I'm a grown-up man and what being a man actually means now. Right? Because the definition, I wouldn't say changed, it felt hopefully evolved. So you're trying to find your way in the world and what it means to be a man. I remember one day I'm with my dad, I was a little guy, maybe 10, and he's driving the or something, and he's smoking his cigarettes, and we’re listening to Marvin Gaye or one of those guys. And I remember sitting there in Pittsburgh, and we came to a light, and he puffs a cigarette, and I would look over at him, he was a big guy, he was in the Army and stuff and I remember saying to my dad, what does it mean to be a man?

Kevin Goetz (30:56):

How old were you?

Antoine Fuqua (30:58):

Maybe 10. It's just something I was just thinking about. I don’t know where it came from, but I remember the moment and I remember him thinking about it and smoking and he kind of said, it takes everything you got. And it was a long pause. And I was like, what the fuck the does that mean, you know. I'm a kid, you know? And then he said, and then some.

Kevin Goetz (31:21):


Antoine Fuqua (31:22):

And that was his answer. Right. My dad worked for HJ Heinz company. He became a foreman. He worked for an airline. He had two jobs, he had five brothers. They raised themselves.

Kevin Goetz (31:31):

And then some, and then some.

Antoine Fuqua (31:34):

I'm now living the and then some, I'm living that now. I didn't know what he meant then. But when you have your own life, and you have your own pressures, and you have the world around you changing, that's the and then some.

Kevin Goetz (31:48):

I usually have a guest tearing up, but you got me tearing up. It's the truth. That's really something, man. I gotta tell you, I'm doing a reverse Barbara Walters here.

Antoine Fuqua (31:58):


Kevin Goetz (32:00):

Wow. Who was your strongest male influence? Was it dad?

Antoine Fuqua (32:07):

It was my dad and my cousin Andre, who's an anesthesiologist. He was like my brother. He's my cousin. We were very close. We're still very close today. Those are the two.

Kevin Goetz (32:16):

Yeah. Who, how about, how about in the movie business? Who, who are your, who are your strongest mentors if you will?

Antoine Fuqua (32:24):

You know, I became friends with Oliver Stone early. He was always really kind to me, and Martin Scorsese, very kind to me. And I used to go visit Martin in New York. And he would have movies for me to watch. And I call him on the phone and talk to him about, I talked to him a lot about Training Day before I shot training day. Michael Mann.

Kevin Goetz (32:41):

Oh. Because Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.

Antoine Fuqua (32:44):

Taxi driver. Exactly.

Kevin Goetz (32:46):

It's so interesting you just said that. 'cause I feel there's kind of like a connection there.

Antoine Fuqua (32:51):

Yeah. Those are the guys that, especially Marty, even today we talk that really were my mentors. Coppola I never got a chance to spend any time with, but obviously as a director, I love Francis Ford Coppola. But Martin Scorsese I got to know, Oliver Stone I got to know pretty well. We have dinner sometime and Michael Mann, really good friend. 

Kevin Goetz (33:14):

Wow. Yeah, some of the greats. Some of the greats. And I would be remiss if I didn't say that you are indeed a lover of women. You have some beautiful female characters in your movies. It's terrific. We can talk forever. I don't even want to end this, but I had a certain time allowance. You are a deep artist, a gifted filmmaker, and I'm happy to call you a friend. So thank you so much for doing this.

Antoine Fuqua (33:40):

For many years, hopefully more to come.

Kevin Goetz (33:43):

I'm sure there's many more on the horizon. God bless you, man. Thank you. Thank you.

Antoine Fuqua (33:48):

God bless you, and thank you. And it's always great to talk to you.

Kevin Goetz (33:51):

To our listeners, I hope you enjoyed our interview. I encourage you to check out Antoine's films, including the recently released The Equalizer 3. Also, please follow him on social @antoinefuqua. For other stories like this one, do check out my book, Audienceology, at Amazon, or through my website at You can also follow me on my social media at KevinGoetz360. Next time on Don't Kill the Messenger, I'll welcome two blockbuster producers, Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal. Until then, I'm Kevin Goetz. Until then, I'm Kevin Goetz, and to you, our listeners, I appreciate you being part of the movie-making process. Your opinions matter.
Host: Kevin Goetz
Guest: Antoine Fuqua 
Producer:  Kari Campano
Writers: Kevin Goetz, Darlene Hayman, Kari Campano
Audio Engineer & Editor: Gary Forbes
Produced at: DG Entertainment, Los Angeles