Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

McQueen: Slave scenes necessary

Steve McQueen wanted to show the reality of life as a slave

Steve McQueen has revealed he refused to shy away from including harrowing scenes in his new movie 12 Years A Slave.

The director's latest film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free man who is abducted and sold into slavery, and includes scenes of beatings and one where Northup is hung up, with just his tiptoes reaching the ground.

But both the filmmaker and the star felt it was important to show the reality of life as a slave.

Steve said: "I don't think I've seen that on film, and I wanted to make damn sure if it was on film, it was going to be done well. It was very necessary for me to use those kind of shots to tell the story.

"Film is what 115, 120 years old? It's a baby. There's no right or wrong way to shoot anything. It's not style. It's necessity."

He went on: "I wanted everyone to be Solomon Northup. You are on that journey with him."

Chiwetel said: "If you don't know what that feels like, if you don't get inside that experience of being there all day, out there in the sun, hung by your neck, barely able to stay alive, then you don't know the depth that this man is prepared to go to in order to keep himself alive."

Michael Fassbender also stars in the film as harsh plantation owner Edwin Epps, and confessed the subject matter did take its toll.

"You are going to places that are uneasy, but it's my job," said the actor. "Of course the emotional elements follow, and they do have an effect and there's a residue going home with them. But concentrating on the work sort of protects yourself from that."

12 Years A Slave also stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong'o, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard and Sarah Paulson.

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