Twelve Years a Slave


Watching Hunger for the first time is not an experience that I’ll soon forget. British video artist-turned-director Steve McQueen imbued this vision of the 1981 IRA hunger strike with such a potent visceral sense, with such a rich and detailed tapestry of sound and image, that watching it is truly a corporeal endurance test of stark immediacy. McQueen’s approach didn’t require traditional methods of character identification and narrative pathos – he simply used the reality of shared flesh and blood to connect the viewer with the events depicted onscreen. The result of McQueen’s efforts carries a profoundly haunting, disturbing, and ultimately revealing insight into the politics of the body, told through a symphony of blood, shit, and urine. McQueen’s latest reportedly doesn’t pull its punches. I have yet to see Twelve Years a Slave, but it is hardly surprising that an artist whose life of work has been so invested in exploring the human body’s use as a device for subjugation, domination, and othering has created such an affecting vision of the horrors of American slavery and institutionalized racism. While Twelve Years a Slave is by most accounts McQueen’s most “accessible” work to date, he doesn’t seem to have lost the touch that made his museum-based work so unique during his quick rise in mainstream critical consensus. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from not that Steve McQueen.


news 12 years a slave

It’s no secret that Michael Fassbender has become one of the most respected, sought-after new faces to hit Hollywood in the last ten years. The guy went from supporting face to leading man in record time, and is now looked at as being the sort of talent who will raise your movie to a whole other level if you manage to land him. If you’ve been following his career so far, then you know that a big reason for his success is the work he’s done with director Steve McQueen on his features Hunger and Shame. McQueen, a visual artist turned film director, has a unique style and a patient camera that’s well-suited to showing off an actor’s performance, and it was largely the work Fassbender did in his films that opened up eyes all over the industry to what he was capable of if given a meaty role. While Hunger was mostly the Michael Fassbender show, Shame added Carey Mulligan to the mix, and gave her a platform to remind us how talented she is as well. If McQueen has proven anything with his first two features, and unquestionably he’s proven a lot, it’s that he works well with actors. He gets what makes them special, and he gets how to shine a spotlight on that specialness. The point of all this is that his third film, Twelve Years a Slave, should be pretty damned spectacular.



We’ve done so much drooling over Twelve Years a Slave that you should have a pretty good idea what it is by now. It’s the next film from visual artist extraordinaire, Steve McQueen, and his third in a row that sees him collaborating with the most exciting actor on the planet today, Michael Fassbender. It goes without saying that any chance we get to watch this actor/director duo work together again is reason enough to celebrate, but what’s been so exciting about watching this project develop is that, unlike Hunger and Shame, Twelve Years a Slave doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the Michael Fassbender show. No, this true story of the life of free man turned slave Solomon Northrup seems like it’s going to give McQueen the chance to spread the love around and direct a real ensemble. The cast is deep and impressive enough at this point that our own Kate Erbland has declared it to be the best of the year, so instead of getting too much into the who’s and what’s of things let’s just do a quick rundown. Joining lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor will be the aforementioned Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Scoot McNairy, Ruth Negga, Garret Dillahunt, and Adepero Oduye. That’s an impressive list to say the least. And, seeing as the film has already started production, it wouldn’t seem like there’s much room left for anyone else to be added. Still, somehow McQueen has managed to […]


Dillahunt, Giamatti, and Paulsen

Seemingly not content to follow up his critically lauded Shame with a cast that only includes such names as Chiwitel Ejifior, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano, Taran Killam, Scoot McNairy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ruth Negga, and Adepero Oduye, filmmaker Steve McQueen has just gone ahead and thrown another batch of incredible talent into the giant amazing stew that is Twelve Years a Slave. This time around, he’s mixed in no less than Paul Giamatti, Garret Dillahunt, and Sarah Paulson, a wealth of talent that would stand alone just fine, but the addition of which makes Twelve Years the most skill-laden cast of the year. I never say this about a film I’ve yet to see (much less one that’s not even been filmed yet), but – all of the Oscars. All of the Oscars. Based on the true story of Solomon Northrup, Ejifior will play a free man who is sold into slavery and who remains a slave for twelve years (yes, the title of the film should have clued you into that).


Benedict Cumberbatch

With an already insanely stellar cast, Variety is reporting that Steve McQueen‘s Twelve Years a Slave can now boast Benedict Cumberbatch. So let’s do the count. Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Ruth Negga, Adepero Oduye, Taran Killam, and now Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch will play one of the plantation owners who buys Ejiofor’s character. Normally, this is where all sorts of words would go, analyzing the news, but what else is there to say? The jaw is on the floor. This project is going to be profoundly good. At the very least, it has a stirring set of names attached to an indelible real-life story about a freed slave who is tricked and sold back into slavery. Could it possibly be too soon to celebrate?


Scoot McNairy at Cannes

Scoot McNairy and Brad Pitt recently tag teamed Cannes with Killing Them Softly, which is apparently pretty good. Unsurprisingly.So it’s probably unsurprising that the pair are going to be working together again in Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave. Speaking of people who love working together, the film stars Michael Fassbender as a plantation owner who buys a free man (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. According to Variety, McNairy will be playing a “shrewd circus worker” who has his eye on selling a free man as a slave. Hopefully McNairy can sell cabbage-smelling hands in a medium without scent.


Paul Dano to Co-Star in Twelve Years A Slave

We’ll soon be seeing Paul Dano starring in cutesy romance Ruby Sparks (co-starring alongside his own real life lady love, Zoe Kazan, who also penned the screenplay), but as wonderful as a sweet Dano is, there’s something much better: a cruel Dano. While a lot of the praise for P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood went (quite deservedly) to Daniel Day-Lewis for his yowling, evil performance as Daniel Plainview, Dano was just as terrifying (and just as unhinged) as Eli Sunday. Something about seeing Dano’s generally welcoming face twisted up into snarls and howls and screams was viciously unsettling, and it’s been too long since we’ve seen that side of him. Deadline Franklin reports that’s no longer the case, as we’ll soon be gifted with a particularly cruel Dano in Steve McQueen‘s Twelve Years A Slave, where he will play a slave owner who “brutalizes” Chiwetel Ejiofor‘s character, a free man who is abducted into the Louisiana slave trade. Dano will, in fact, just be one of the evil owners, but his performance will likely be a stand-out. He and Ejiofor will also be joined in the film by McQueen’s consistent star, Michael Fassbender, along with Brad Pitt.



When Tara Brown, a journalist for 60 Minutes in Australia, asked Brad Pitt how much longer he was going to be acting, he answered flatly, “Three years.” She repeated for confirmation, he confirmed, and when she asked him what he’d do after his acting career was over, he said, “Hell if I know. Hell if I know. I am really enjoying the producing side and development of stories and putting those pieces together. And getting stories to the plate that might have had a tougher time otherwise, so…You know, I have gotten away with a few things in writing and I have been pissed off about a few things. How’s that?” Exclusively producing might not be a bad spot for the veteran, but retiring at 50? It seems like he wants to avoid his twilight years in front of the camera. Maybe he’s tired of it all, maybe he doesn’t want his legacy to shift the way Kirk Douglas’s (and so many others’) did, but no matter the reason, it appears as though getting Brad Pitt to star in your movie might be a limited time offer. Of course, that’s also what Viggo Mortenson said. About 20 times. Three years is a long time to change one’s mind, and announcements like this are all too common. We’re looking at you, Michael Jordan. For now, Pitt will be seen in the forthcoming Cogan’s Trade, World War Z, Voyage of Time, and Twelve Years a Slave. Will they be his last movies […]


Brad Pitt

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 […]

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published: 01.25.2015
published: 01.25.2015
published: 01.25.2015

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