It looks like Brad Pitt will not just talk the talk, but also walk the walk in Steve McQueen’s next project Twelve Years a Slave. Pitt is producing the film through his production company, Plan B, and has reportedly worked on developing the project for a number of years, but now word is out that it won’t be just Pitt the producer showing up for filming, but also Pitt the actor.
A small item in Screen Daily announcing the addition of River Road Entertainment as producers and financiers, along with the news that Summit International will handle sales of the film at the upcoming American Film Market, also included a cast listing for the project. That list included McQueen’s contestant star, Michael Fassbender, along with the already-announced Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Pitt himself. The Playlist went ahead and confirmed the casting with Plan B, who would only confirm that bit of news, but would give no further details.
McQueen and John Ridley have adapted their script from the 1853 autobiography written by Solomon Northup, an African-American man who was born free and later abducted into slavery. Northup had an entire life in his native New York (complete with an education, a musical background, a wife, and three children) when he went to Washington in 1841 under the pretense of a job offer to play fiddle in a traveling circus. Once there, he was kidnapped and drugged. He was then sold into slavery and, for the next twelve years, was shuttled between owners and subjected to brutal conditions.
Northup was eventually freed after he befriended a Canadian carpenter named Samuel Bass, who wrote to Northup’s family and gave them details as to his location. New York had passed a law before Northup was even kidnapped and sold into slavery that required the state to recover any and all African-Americans who had been subject to the same ordeal as Northup had been. Bass’s help was invaluable in getting Northrup freed.
Northup’s story is a fascinating one, a personal tale filled with bizarre and horrific pieces of American history. Ejiofor will play Northup, and though it’s not been announced, I suspect that Fassbender will be playing the Bass role. Now just what could Mr. Pitt be signing up for…? Whatever it is, this is the exact type of work that Pitt should be doing. As one of those wacky cinephiles that think Pitt has never been better than he was in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, I’m itching to see him in another beefy historical drama.
The project is set to begin filming next year, most likely after what should be heavy awards buzz for both Fassbender and McQueen and their latest film, Shame, has worn off.