If you were formerly unfamiliar with the musical artist called The Bullitts, who also happens to be Seal’s brother, you’ll certainly know his name after November 3 when The Harder They Fall releases on Netflix. Jeymes Samuel makes his feature debut with the upcoming Western, revamping a genre that has historically excluded Black characters by assembling a cast of A-listers to play Black historical figures from the period. “I took all real villains and heroes and assembled them all in one place, like the Avengers,” Samuel told TimeOut.
The budding filmmaker grew up in the West London estates, an experience that Samuel says informed his work. “I used to watch all the Westerns with my mum and dad and then [see them all play out] on Kilburn Lane,” he shared during the same interview. “Growing up in the hood is like the Old West.” Samuel made his first official foray into the Western genre in 2013 with a 51-minute film called They Die by Dawn. It also featured real characters from history played by an impressive list of name actors such as Erykah Badu, Rosario Dawson, Jesse Williams, Bokeem Woodbine, Isaiah Washington, Nate Parker, and the late Michael K. Williams. Samuel recalled during an interview with Life + Times that he first “cast them mentally” and didn’t go the traditional route to get them via agents. The filmmaker relayed how over the course of two years he flew to meet with the actors personally and share his vision. “To have all of those characters that have never been portrayed or assembled the way we’ve assembled them, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime for us to make that statement,” was his pitch.
It worked, and They Die by Dawn was just the start of the filmmaker’s growing prowess for attracting big names. In 2017, he wrote and directed the “Legacy” short that accompanied Jay-Z’s “4:44” album. The 10-minute video is stacked with stars like Susan Sarandon, Aldis Hodge, Ron Perlman, Jesse Williams, and Emile Hirsch. It also marked one of the filmmaker’s many collaborations with Jay-Z, who also produced The Harder They Fall. Samuel said during an interview with Shadow and Act that collaborating with the music titan was “like breathing,” and that Jay-Z was involved in the writing process all the way to the end. “He’s super knowledgeable in various areas and fundamentally believes in the magic of cinema, as much as he believes in the magic of music,” Samuel asserted.
The filmmaker flexed his own musical talents for The Harder They Fall, contributing to its soundtrack and writing the score for the revenge saga. The film follows Nat Love (Jonathan Majors), who goes after crime boss Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) for killing his parents. Regina King and Zazie Beetz also star respectively as Gertrude Smith and Stagecoach Mary. LaKeith Stanfield plays Cherokee Bill, and Delroy Lindo portrays Bass Reeves, who many believe was the inspiration for the Lone Ranger. You can find all those names and more when Netflix releases The Harder They Fall come November 3. And considering the warm reception the film has already received amongst critics, the rising filmmaker may soon garner the same recognition as the A-listers that his projects attract. In the meantime, we certainly think Samuel’s earned this spotlight.