The Harder They Fall Director Jeymes Samuel Didn’t Reinvent the Western—He Freed It

If you take away the narrow, white-male-centric stories we were given, then that means you have a whole universe of stories with women of actual dominance, with people of color, all races.

Basically, you have a genre where 90% of it is unexplored.

~ Jeymes Samuel


It’s often said that to love something is to also be critical of its shortcomings. That has always been the case for director Jeymes Samuel, whose inventive new film was born out of both his admiration for and frustration with the Western genre.

“I wanted, with The Harder They Fall, to employ all of the Western tropes and then to turn everything on their head,” he tells Katey Rich on this week’s Little Gold Men podcast.

Samuel’s vision now lives on Netflix and boasts a sprawling cast, including Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, LaKeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz, and Delroy Lindo (Sidenote: How could they NOT mention Regina King? ~V).

In a wide-ranging interview, Samuel tells V.F. about his mantra to “obey your crazy” and why stereotypical Westerns “damaged the way we view each other.” The latest episode of LGM also includes analysis of the best-screenplay Oscar races, discussion of Netflix’s Tick, Tick…Boom!, and an interview with Power of the Dog star Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Vanity Fair: In one other interview, you said you’d always thought of The Harder They Fall as a three-parter. Is that still in your head now that it’s out in the world?

Jeymes Samuel: Yeah, 100%. I’ve always imagined The Harder They Fall as [going with] a prequel and the sequel, always. I’ve always been sketching out the stories of both and then, also, just the whole Old West.

If you take away the narrow, white-male-centric stories we were given, then that means you have a whole universe of stories with women of actual dominance, with people of color, all races. You have a whole genre. Basically, you have a genre where 90% of it is unexplored.

So I’ll always be going back to the Old West. I love it too much. People think they don’t like Westerns, or a lot of people would say, “Ah, man, The Harder They Fall, such a dope movie, and I don’t even like Westerns.” It shows that you do like Westerns. You just haven’t been given stuff that you needed. And then the Lord made Jeymes Samuel.

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