Why you should care
Steve McQueen’s next movie is gonna be big – Oscar-contender big.
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It’s no surprise that a $20 million historical flick about slavery in the American South is already generating Oscar buzz. Especially when the cast of 12 Years a Slave includes Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Michael Fassbender, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Beasts of the Southern Wild ’s child prodigy and best actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis. Due to “exuberant” early test screenings, its release date has been pushed up from December to October 18.
Much like his films, McQueen is brash and not easy to pin down … and even snubs the company of other artists.
Its success sounds a bit predictable, even. With artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen behind the camera, though, it’s bound to be anything but. The Telegraph film critic David Gritten says McQueen has ”indisputably become one of our most distinctive, compelling film directors” — but that’s in the U.K. Across the pond, he’s not really the Hollywood type. London-born, with West Indian roots and a Caméra D’Or from Cannes, McQueen doesn’t like storyboards, caring what people think or happy endings. He has warned the media as much: “I’m doing a film about slavery next, and that’ll piss off people in America.”
Imagine that: A film about slavery directed by a black man for once.
Best known for his video works, McQueen is uncompromising as an artist, usually to good effect. Channel 4 studio execs were “shitting themselves” when they first saw his prize-winning film Hunger (2008), which includes a 17-minute continuous shot of a priest confronting IRA activist Bobby Sands over his decision to starve himself. (The scene stayed in and earned wide acclaim.) And when the Royal Mail commissioned a series of stamps honoring British soldiers, McQueen solicited photos of service members killed in Iraq from their next of kin. (Her Majesty’s postal service refused to issue the resulting Queen and Country, 2007).
McQueen’s Acclaimed Indie Feature Films
2008: Hunger, starring Michael Fassbender
2011: Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan
Much like his films, McQueen is brash and not easy to pin down. He doesn’t “give a shit” about commercial potential or notoriety and even snubs the company of other artists. “That’s like if you’re a butcher, hanging out with other butchers,” McQueen explained to W. “You chop meat this way, and I chop meat that way. What’s there to talk about?”
McQueen’s been granted the title of Commander of the British Empire, and his work is in museum collections all over the world. But he’s still looking to have fun that’s a little transgressive. “I always wished there was an adult playground where you could use the swings,” he says from his new home in Amsterdam. “I cheat when I’m with my daughter: I squeeze my bottom into a swing, and swing and swing. It’s fucking brilliant.”