This interview was conducted during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
This year, there were a lot of spy thriller-action films that came much to the surprise of everyone. From the amazing stunts of Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part One to the highly-choreographed John Wick 4, these films have excited fans for so long and it’s understandable why! Fortunately, this streak is continuing with Denzel Washington’s hard-hitting journey in Equalizer 3 in a franchise long going for almost ten years.
To escape the horrors he’s faced, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) has moved to Southern Italy to settle into a peaceful community. However, after he discovers that some of his friends have been taken hostage by the Sicilian Mafia, Robert must return to his old ways. Following up on Equalizer 2, this sequel brings back Antoine Fuqua in the director’s chair alongside Denzel and Dakota Fanning.
I had a chance to talk to VFX coordinator Erick Alcaraz about developing the intensive action behind Equalizer 3, transitioning from cinematography, and more. Check out our interview with him down below!
THH: You’ve involved yourself with more thriller-focused short films. How big of a transition was it going from doing short films to doing something big like the Equalizer franchise?
ERICK ALCARAZ: It’s a change, it’s a change, right? You’re used to working in this low-budget stuff and it’s a certain rhythm than just stepping into this big world. Then, you need to get used to that rhythm as well. So, it’s complicated in the beginning, but then, once you understand how things move around and what’s the pacing of things, it’s even better because you go back to the other world and then it gives you a different perspective.
THH: There are a lot of graphic and quick-paced action sequences throughout this film like those dark-lit fighting scenes with Denzel. Were there any sequences that felt the most challenging to work on?
ERICK ALCARAZ: Yeah, there’s this scene about the car crash that you can see in the trailer for a second. That was really complicated because we needed to shoot so many separate elements so we could blend them together afterwards in post-production. That was really hard, to get the speed of the van right so the van could crash at this specific moment. Then, you need to gather all these different little pieces and then recreate that on a set, on a blue screen. I think that was the most challenging one to film.
THH: With these sequences, did you collaborate with any visual effects houses to help develop these types of scenes in the film?
ERICK ALCARAZ: Yes, we always work with VFX vendors and those are the guys that make the magic happen. We prepare the ingredients and they cook them and they make the final shot!
THH: How was it like collaborating with Antoine Fuqua, who helped out on other action flicks like Bullet Train and The Magnificent Seven, and what was that process like for you?
ERICK ALCARAZ: You know, it’s incredible. It’s always great to work with talented filmmakers and Antoine [Fuqua] really knows what he wants. He can be very demanding as a director, but that’s even better because he’s pushing you as well to be better. Working with him and with Robert Richardson and the VFX supervisor James McQuaide, you’re always improving all the time.
THH: On that collaboration, how many notes did the creative team have for you in order to get a specific shot right? What was that process like?
ERICK ALCARAZ: Well, there’s a lot of discussions. There’s a lot of back and forth. At the end of the day, the moment you read the script, you can start spotting which ones are gonna be the biggest scenes, right? The most complicated scenes in there. But, you know, it’s a back and forth collaboration and once you know where you’re going to, then things become a little bit easier because you know exactly what you need to get in order to make it.
THH: In that process, there are a lot of shots in the film that are definitely eye-catchers for viewers. In addition to these challenging shots, which shot was your favorite to work on?
ERICK ALCARAZ: I think the beginning sequence, the one that happens in the farmhouse. It’s the first moment that we get to see the Equalizer [Robert McCall] again on the screen. It’s a whole sequence with a lot of action and this is a new world, so we’re introducing you to the new world of this new film. So that’s my favorite one to work on.
THH: There are also a lot of these visually tonal sequences that you’ve edited yourself. How would you describe adapting all these changes made throughout the film?
ERICK ALCARAZ: I think at the end of the day, it’s a rediscovery of what the Equalizer story is and what the character is. The reason why everything is so dark and moody has to do with a lot of internal psychology of the character. So, everything at the end is just a story that keeps on evolving and that’s something, at the end of the day, Antoine [Fuqua] wanted to do: see what’s the next step of the Equalizer.
THH: If there was something you could take away from working on this movie, what would it be and where do you hope it will lead you to?
ERICK ALCARAZ: I’m hoping to be able to keep telling good stories, putting good stories out there, and keep evolving. If anything I could take from this film is that it made me a better filmmaker and it was a pleasant [experience] to be able to work with such talented people. That’s what I would like you to follow: to just keep working with more talented people and keep telling better stories.
Equalizer 3 releases in theaters on September 1.