In 1985, my brother, writer/producer, Michael Sloan, created the TV series The Equalizer, which starred British actor Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a retired intelligence officer who helped ordinary people in trouble. The series ran on CBS for four seasons.
Twenty-seven years later, The Equalizer is finally coming to the big screen, starring Denzel Washington. I asked Michael to tell us his feelings about the original series and the upcoming film, which begins shooting on April 8, 2013.
How did you come up with the idea for The Equalizer?
The idea for The Equalizer came jointly with myself and a guy named Richard Lindheim. Richard and I were having lunch and we were both saying that there ought to be an updated Paladin, if you remember Have Gun, Will Travel.
After that I started thinking about what I could do with maybe an ex-spy or an ex-mercenary who wants to retire.
What does a guy like that do? He either becomes a criminal, or he becomes a mercenary and works for foreign governments or, in the case of The Equalizer, he decides to help ordinary people in trouble who have nowhere else to go.
What was it about Edward Woodward that made him right for the role?
I had known Edward Woodward because he had done a small movie that I had written and produced called Hunted. And you may not remember this, but I was in a BBC-TV show about F Scott Fitzgerald (F Scott Fitzgerald: A Dream Divided).
He played the lead, and I had about three lines. So I knew him from there.
didn’t have him in mind when I wrote it, but when I started discussions with CBS, I said, ‘What about Edward Woodward? He would be great.’ They said, ‘Who?’ Luckily, he had just done Breaker Morant.
How long did it take you to get The Equalizer to the big screen?
About eight and a half years. I made a deal with Escape Artists who have a first-look deal at Sony, and they hired this really good writer named Richard Wenk. He wrote a first draft that everyone responded to positively.
Denzel Washington has a close association with the guys at Escape Artists and so the script was tailored for him in the hope that he would like it.
What qualities does he and Edward share that make them The Equalizer?
Part of the appeal of in The Equalizer series was that because Edward Woodward was an older guy and was English, when he walked into a room he didn’t look threatening.
Denzel Washington, even though he’s done a lot of hard-edged movies, upfront he doesn’t look like a threatening guy.
He’s a little bit older, he’s erudite, he’s charming, so there’s a certain quiet and stillness that he has where he’s very differential until you push the wrong buttons, and then he’s lethal. And that’s a quality that Edward had too.
It seems like this is the right time to say, ‘Justice is coming,’ because everybody feels there’s no justice in this world.
I think so, and it was relevant 25 years ago when I created the series. But it’s even more relevant now.
Twenty years ago when we did the series, people would come up to Edward in the streets in New York and say, ‘Mr. Woodward, I wonder if you could help me.’ And he would say, ‘Look, I’m an actor playing a role.’ But they still wanted help.
So what Teddy Woodward used to do is, he would carry two wallets, one was his own and in the second wallet he carried a list of cards for the Teen Abuse Hotline, or for the District Attorney’s office, etc, and he would hand the cards out.
The point I’m making is, even though the public knew that he was an actor, they wanted to talk to him anyway and ask him to help them.
I think even more now, where things are even tougher than they were 25 years ago, the idea that there’s someone you can turn to, not in the government, not a cop, not an attorney, who doesn’t care what the circumstances are or what the ramifications are, as long as it’s the right thing for justice, he will help you.
Edward Woodward made an audition video of several scenes from The Equalizer script. Universal were behind him, but doubtful that the network would go with him. Click here to find out from Michael how Edward got the role.
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