Photography: Sam Emerson/Courtesy
Photography: Sam Emerson/Courtesy

A young star on the rise is the driving force behind this year’s The Magnificent Seven.

Haley Bennett is the only prominent woman in the male-dominated cast of The Magnificent Seven. Yet her character, Emma, is the catalyst for the action. “Emma is a God-fearing woman,” Bennett says, “but she is also headstrong and determined. She has nothing to lose as her husband’s been killed, and retribution becomes revenge.

“Anger drives her throughout the movie, but she finds peace by the end of the film.” Still in her 20s, the strawberry blonde actress is beginning to amass some impressive credits. A singer as well as an actress, Bennett first costarred opposite Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore in 2007’s Music and Lyrics as a vapid pop star. She also performed several of the songs on the film’s soundtrack.

Then she was cast for a supporting role in The Equalizer, which put her on the radars of Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington. The plum roles keep on coming: In addition to The Magnificent Seven, she appears in this year’s film adaption of Paula Hawkins’ thriller novel The Girl on the Train and Warren Beatty’s upcoming ensemble comedy, Rules Don’t Apply.

Photography: Sam Emerson/Courtesy Sony
Photography: Sam Emerson/Courtesy Sony

But Seven was perhaps Bennett’s biggest acting challenge of late. She tackled it with the toughened mindset of her character. “I worked with a boxing trainer to beef up my waiflike physique,” she says. As a frontierswoman, her character has one objective in life — to survive.

“It was such hard work, but we all approached it in a real and grounded way.” Bennett says that her gun trainer summed up the experience perfectly: “If it ain’t hard, it ain’t a western.” Riding and shooting became Bennett’s life for five months during production last year on set in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Going out to the shooting range quickly became one favorite thing to do, and I fell in love with my Winchester,” she says. Riding a horse was more challenging, and she knew there was no cutting corners.

“We had scenes on the horses where dialogue was traded between the characters, and I had to look comfortable speaking on the back of the horse. I’d drive 100 miles a day to ride with the wranglers, and learned in stages — from an easy ride to my more permanent horse, Joe, a Palomino who could be a very naughty boy.”

From the October 2016 issue.