Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning reunite in 'Equalizer 3': 'It's like a father-daughter relationship,' says director

Director Antoine Fuqua says he was a "big time" fan of "Man on Fire," the 2004 film starring Washington and Fanning.

Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning reunite in The Equalizer 3, nearly 20 years after they first shared the screen together in Man on Fire. The 2004 thriller was one of Fanning's breakout roles as a child star and Equalizer director Antoine Fuqua says he was excited to pair the actress as an adult back with Washington.

"We watched her grow up, so for me to be able to put them together again and to see their chemistry — even behind the scenes, see them talking and laughing — it's like a father-daughter relationship," Fuqua tells Yahoo Entertainment, noting he was a "big time" fan of Man on Fire.

"[Denzel] would look at me [on set] and just go, 'She's a grown up now,'" Fuqua recalls.

Dakota Fanning and Denzel Washington at the Man on Fire premiere in 2004.
Dakota Fanning and Denzel Washington attend the Man on Fire premiere in 2004. (WireImage)

Washington, 68, reprises his role as former government assassin Robert McCall in the final film of the Equalizer trilogy. As he gets ready to go up against the Mafia in Italy, he enlists the help of a young CIA analyst, played by Fanning, whom he's never met before.

"She's challenging [Denzel] in the scenes," Fuqua says of the 29-year-old Fanning. "It was fun. It was probably one of the most pleasurable things to see."

As for how the highly anticipated reunion came to be, Fuqua reveals Fanning's agent called one of the producers of the film and said she was interested in the role. Fuqua remembers he immediately set up a meeting.

"We went to lunch, I loved her, fell in love with her of course," he shares, "and I called Denzel after, I said, 'Dakota Fanning?' He said, 'Absolutely, grab her, snatch her up.' It was pretty cool."

Equalizer 3 was also a familiar reunion between Fuqua and Washington being the fifth film they've done together. Fuqua says it's Washington's ability to completely embody a character that sets him apart from other leading men in Hollywood.

"There are very few actors who are on that level," the Training Day director explains. "He's just one of the greats, he's a GOAT."

Washington first played Robert McCall in the 2014 film and Fuqua says the Oscar-winning actor is still up for all the action scenes — maybe too up for the action scenes.

"He's still got it," Fuqua laughs. "He trains every day. I'd have to tell Denzel, 'Let me get the stunt guy to do this one,' He's like 'I got it!' You have to protect him from himself!"

The Equalizer 3 lands exclusively in theaters on Friday, Sept. 1.