Director and screenwriter Jeymes Samuel says he couldn't have picked two more perfect actors to portray real-life cowboy and Old West hero Nat Love for his 2013 short film They Die by Dawn and his 2021 directorial feature debut, The Harder They Fall.
In They Die by Dawn, Samuel tapped the late Michael K. Williams for the role of Love, which the director reveals was his first encounter with the talented Wire actor.
"When I used to watch him act, he would embody heartbreak in such a poetic way," Samuel tells ABC Audio. "He'd embody heartbreak and vulnerability with such strength. And that was Nat Love for me…I couldn't see anyone else playing him — just the way that he portrays heartbreak and the beauty of everything he's gone through…and…gives you hope on camera and off."
Samuels says it was those important characteristics that made Williams the "quintessential Nat Love" for his film. Not surprisingly, when it came time to make The Harder They Fall, Samuel says he looked for similar qualities.
"I came across Jonathan Majors and he had the same thing," Samuel says of Majors' "much younger" portrayal of Love. "The way he finds strength through vulnerability is so beautiful."
Although Samuel says the two projects are very "different," the director notes that he felt a significant connection to both Williams and Majors.
"[Majors] sent me a poem of the mental workings of Nat Love [and] I knew it was him," Samuel says of how Majors landed the role. "And then [Majors and Williams] did Lovecraft [Country] together, unbeknownst to me. And then they forged a beautiful friendship with themselves. So it's almost like Nat Love bonded all of us in real life.
The Harder They Fall is now in select theaters and debuts on Netflix on November 3.
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