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Steve McQueen On Whether Being British Was Of Any Influence On Making ’12 Years A Slave’

Steve McQueen On Whether Being British Was Of Any Influence On Making '12 Years A Slave'

I love the no-nonsense way in which Steve McQueen handles himself. It’s so rare to see this kind of forthrightness and outward displays of emotion from industry types – then again, I suppose he’s still something of an *outsider,* not living in Hollywood (he doesn’t even live in the USA actually).

But I especially love the perplexed looks he sometimes has on his face when he’s asked certain questions that just don’t register with him, or that seem like the answers would be obvious.

I recall the round-table organized by The Hollywood Reporter last year, during which he essentially called out and challenged his fellow white Hollywood directors on the lack of diversity in their casting choices. Watch it HERE if you didn’t see it.

Here, he even answers a question that has been asked before on this blog: whether the fact that he’s British was of any influence on his approach to the film, 12 Years A Slave, as opposed to if he were an African American filmmaker.

Here’s the press conference he and the cast of 12 Years A Slave gave after the film’s TIFF premiere last week. It’s worth watching. And underneath, you’ll find the press conference that followed the screening of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, with that film’s key cast and crew, including Idris Elba and Naomie Harris.

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Steve McQueen is not here for your BS, lol. His side-eye is razor sharp, and his sidekick Fass is a great example of an ally.


Steve McQueen is of West Indian/Caribbean background, Grenada to be exact, so he is not going to kowtow to these Hollywood reporters.

By the way, the Transatlantic Slave Trade started from Africa to the Caribbean, for decades before, it ever reached America.


David Motsamayi

That was a terrible question. Seems Henry Louis Gates put the reporter up to asking that.


"Can we talk about race in America, is it possible to have that conversation in North America?"

When I heard that opening question I knew trouble was on the horizon. I instantly thought of Spike Lee's interview on Bloomberg TV and the odd set-it prior to that interview. But instead of McQueen going off as Spike did, he gave Miss Betty Crocker a look of "what kind of question is that?" followed by "that's a question about 12 Years A Slave is it?" and then he basically blew her off.

What I saw in that exchange and a few that followed was not a "bad" moderator per se, but a typical white moderator and a no nonsense "I am not going to kiss your ass" black man. Consequently, as LJ implied, she wasn't prepared for that type of bold frankness.

What was interesting about the whole Q&A is no one in the audience seemed "prepared" for this crew who obviously wasn't there to suck-up and win favors. On that note, Steve even said his job was done, if the films garners Oscars and the producers turn a profit, cool, but his goal as a true artist was to simply tell a great story… fade to black.

Overall, this Q&A was a boring dud… and I felt McQueen's frustrations. Many of the questions did, imo, have obvious answers so when Steve raised his eyebrow in a puzzling stare, I was with him. Several times I screamed "COME ON MAN!.. what kind of question is that?". But when the brother (Jamaal from Black Street TV) raised his hand, I thought he'd save Steve from this grueling ordeal. But nope, he gets my reward for the stupidest question of the evening "How would this movie been done differently if done by an African American instead of a Brit. Does being a British man change you perspective on Slavery?"


Steve appeared frustrated with the question but handled it and the rest of the questions in such a way that has earned him my "The Baddest Brother of The Year Who Don't Talk No Mess" award.


McQueen found the moderator's questions nonsensical. He's not the pandering kind, so rather than play along, he expressed his puzzlement that the questions were asked.

I don't think he was comfortable with the focus on his British nationality. But some people seem to forget that the trans-atlantic slave trade involved at least three of seven continents–Europe, Africa, America. Four of seven if you consider North and South America separately.

It's not strange at all that the cast and crew are representative of the international aspects of the North American slave trade.

Overall, it was an informative press conference.


I don't feel as others do that she's a bad moderator at all. Many actors say the character almost inhabits them, and in a movie like this, that is a very daunting proposition. To go to the places that these actors had to go to, both Black and white, is unimaginable for me, and I thought it was a very good question to address. In fact, I think McQueen's fluffing it off as stupid, and saying well, they're actors…that's their job..if they couldn't do it, I'd get someone else…was ridiculous. It was flippant and failed to address that deep emotions and, perhaps, problems the actors had going there. Actually, I really didn't like many of his answers to any of the questions. He seemed dismissive of many of the questions, and there wasn't really any reason for it. Thankfully, the others on the panel saved this press conference.


Oh my, Steven Mcqueen is a trip! Poor moderator, she didn't know what she was getting into.


Wow! This movie looks great. I can't wait to see it.


Didn't anyone warn this commentator about Steve McQueen prior to her taking on this panel?


I saw that roundtable!!! It was priceless and disturbing all at the same time. They downright refused to answer the question… as if they were at a loss for words. *pish posh* Steve's "But that's so uniformed why would you ask that?" quizzical looks are always amazing. Can't wait to watch these. Thanks for posting!


What part of the video are you referring to? Some of us haven't got time to watch the whole thing?


I love how he thinks it's such an obvious story to tell. He even said that we see the effects of slavery here in this country every single day. How in the world do you not tell this story?

I really appreciate how he doesn't sweep anything under the rug. It's out there in the open, and he makes everyone uncomfortable with his seemingly condescending answers. It's great.

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