Even Covid couldn’t stop the British film-maker reimagining the American genre – with one of the starriest Black casts imaginable
If you want to know who’s hot in Hollywood, have a look at the lineup for righteous and rowdy new western The Harder They Fall. It is produced by Jay-Z and features a magnificent seven: Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Regina King, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz, Delroy Lindo and RJ Cyler. Among such talent, it is the film’s writer-director, Jeymes Samuel, who has the lowest profile. But the 42-year-old Londoner isn’t a low-profile kind of guy. Even via video call, Samuel makes an entrance. He frequently refers to himself in the third person (“That Jeymes is one interesting fellow!”), and launches into detailed critiques of classic movies at the slightest provocation; his thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany’s (“Holly Golightly is actually a really horrible character”), for instance, culminate in an a cappella rendition of Moon River. And that’s all within the first five minutes.
It is a personality to match the size of the vast vistas of the New Mexico desert where The Harder They Fall was shot, with a reported $90m (£65m) budget. The plot is a simple cowboy tale of revenge – Nat Love (Majors) hears that the man who killed his parents (Elba) has broken out of jail, then reassembles his old posse to seek justice – but it plays out in widescreen wonder: a standoff with a steam train, gangs galloping across the open prairie and plenty of daring shootouts in dusty frontier towns.