Richard King interview: ‘The Harder They Fall’ sound editor
“We wanted to raise the bar,” admits four-time Oscar winner Richard King (“Master and Commander,” “The Dark Knight,” “Inception” and “Dunkirk”) about the complex sound design on the Netflix neo-Western “The Harder They Fall.”
The film “presented a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities, a lot of very fun opportunities, for sound,” he says. “I can’t speak highly enough of Jeymes Samuels, a genius. He really is. He wrote the film, he directed it, he wrote the music. There’s generally two or three levels of meaning going on in any given scene and it was just fun to explore those and really try to make something different.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“The Harder They Fall” is Samuel’s feature directorial debut from a script he co-wrote with Boaz Yakin, for which Samuel also serves as the film’s composer. The film features an all-star cast including Emmy nominee Jonathan Majors, SAG Award winner and Emmy nominee Idris Elba, Emmy nominee Zazie Beetz, Oscar winner and multiple Emmy winner Regina King, Tony nominee Delroy Lindo and Oscar nominee LaKeith Stanfield.
In the film, an outlaw reunites his gang to seek revenge against a past enemy who has been released from prison. It depicts a wild West in which people of color and women take center stage as gun-slinging heroes and villains against the backdrop of an ambitious soundtrack featuring collaborators like Shawn Carter (aka Jay Z), filled to the brim with diverse original songs in styles ranging from hip hop to reggae, and rounded out by Samuel’s pulsating musical score.
Samuel avoided merely revisiting traditional Western motifs, instead creating something fresh and unique, which aligned with King’s thinking when it came to the film’s dynamic soundscape. “We all think we know what the old West sounds like, but we really tried to redefine that or just start from scratch and build it up in our imagination,” he explains. “Any time we felt like we were veering towards familiar Western territory, we quickly changed course and did something else. We wanted to feel like almost like a contemporary film in the sense that we really wanted to feel like we were in there with them and participating in the story with them.”
For example, King explains that he re-defined the typical sounds we expect to hear with gunshots, by also focusing on the sound that bullets make in the air after they are shot. “We used a lot of bullet traveling sounds, traveling through the air, ricochets, bullets hitting things. That’s a big part of every gunshot in the movie; what happens is that bullet leaves the gun? We recorded a lot of ricochets out of disparate elements, out of sounds you wouldn’t expect,” he says.
Ultimately, King was over the moon with the final cut of the film. “I love the way it sounds. I am really, really happy with it,” he reveals. “We were given a lot of freedom by Jeymes; he just said ‘follow your crazy.’ He loved the crazy ideas and he wanted us to keep following that and not ever give up or go the easy route [so that] we can just just play to our hearts’ content.”