The Equalizer is an American spy thriller franchise initially co-created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim, and originating with a CBS television series from 1985 to 1989, starring Edward Woodward. The concept was thereafter rebooted twice, first with a pair of movies (The Equalizer in 2014 and The Equalizer 2 in 2018) starring Denzel Washington, slated to be followed up by a third film in 2023, and secondly with a re-imagined 2021 television series, also on CBS, starring Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall. A series of novels featuring Robert McCall has been written by original co-creator Michael Sloan, with the first volume published in 2014.
The franchise centers on a retired intelligence agent with a mysterious past, who uses the skills from his former career to exact justice on behalf of innocent people who find themselves in dangerous circumstances, while sometimes also dealing with people from his past in covert operations who want to pull him back in or settle old scores. The show's theme music was created by composer/performer Stewart Copeland. The track is called ‘Busy Equalizing’. An extended version appears on his album The Equalizer and Other Cliff Hangers.
Original television series
The original show ran for four seasons of 22 episodes each. It was initially renewed for a fifth season (causing Keith Szarabajka to turn down a role on Midnight Caller). However, the show was later canceled due to a row between CBS and Universal Studios over the renewal of Murder, She Wrote. In The Story of The Equalizer, created for the DVD box set, executive producer Coleman Luck also stated that Universal requested a script for a crossover episode with Magnum, P.I. despite the objections of the crew due to the vastly different tones of the two shows. Ultimately, the crossover did not happen and the episode was re-written as "Beyond Control".
The show's theme music was created by composer/performer Stewart Copeland. The track is called ‘Busy Equalizing’. An extended version appears on his album The Equalizer and Other Cliff Hangers.
The Equalizer (2015)
In December 2011, it was reported that Denzel Washington would star in the title role of the film version, to be financed by Sony Pictures Entertainment and Escape Artists. Director Antoine Fuqua came on board to direct on March 21, 2013, reuniting him with Washington after their successful collaboration on the 2001 Oscar-winning film Training Day. Chloë Grace Moretz was announced as a co-star on May 10, 2013; Anna Kendrick, Kelly Macdonald and Nina Dobrev were also considered. On May 31, 2013, Melissa Leo was cast in the film. Leo previously worked with Washington in the 2012 film Flight, and with Fuqua in Olympus Has Fallen (2013). Coincidentally, Leo actually guest starred in a season one episode of the original Equalizer television series titled "The Defector", in which she portrayed the daughter of a former Soviet agent, who enlists McCall's help to defect to the United States. Marton Csokas was cast to play the villain on May 17.
The Equalizer grossed $101.5 million in North America and $90.8 million in other territories for a worldwide gross of $192.3 million, against a net production budget of $55 million.
The Equalizer 2 (2018)
On February 24, 2014, seven months before the release of The Equalizer, it was announced that Sony Pictures and Escape Artists were planning a sequel, with Richard Wenk penning the script again. In early October 2014, Antoine Fuqua stated that there would be a sequel to the film only if audiences and Denzel Washington wanted it. He said it was an interesting character, and that the sequel could have more of an international flavor.
On April 22, 2015, Sony officially announced a sequel, with Washington returning to his role as vigilante Robert McCall. Fuqua's returning was not yet confirmed. In September 2016, producer Todd Black revealed that the script of the film was complete, and that Fuqua would return to direct, with shooting set to begin in September 2017.
The Equalizer 2 grossed $102.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $88.3 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $190.4 million, against a production budget of $62 million.
The Equalizer 3 (expected 2023)
Reboot television series
In November 2019, CBS announced that a reboot is in development with Queen Latifah in the lead role as Robyn McCall. Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller will serve as showrunners with Latifah herself as an executive producer. On January 27, 2020, CBS issued a pilot order for the new version.
The series was among the 14 pilots ordered by CBS in February 2020 and was fast tracked to series the following March, as they are unable to film their pilots where Universal Television was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 8, 2020, CBS picked up the series and they added Chris Noth as William Bishop, a quirky ex-CIA director who is the opposite of Latifah. It premiered on February 7, 2021, after Super Bowl LV.
In March 2021, the series was renewed for a second season which premiered on October 10, 2021. In May 2022, the series was renewed for its third and fourth seasons. The third season is set to premiere on October 2, 2022.
A series of novels featuring Robert McCall has been written by the original co-creator Michael Sloan. The first is simply entitled The Equalizer published in 2014, followed by Killed in Action: An Equalizer Novel, which was released in 2018. The novels are a modern reimagining of the original series and focus on McCall leaving The Company and eventually becoming a private investigator in New York. It also features a number of original recurring characters from the television series such as Mickey Kostmayer, Control, and Scott McCall. A third novel, Equalizer: Requiem was released in 2020.
- Callan, a 1960s–1970s TV spy series in which Woodward played a character similar to that of The Equalizer's Robert McCall.
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