I’d say that, after last night, all eyes are on what both director Steve McQueen and actress Lupita Nyong’o will do next – unquestionably 2 of the more interesting talents in the business at the moment, both still relative newbies (although he’d already achieved success and acclaim as a video artist, 12 Years A Slave is McQueen’s 3rd feature directorial effort; and Lupita only recently graduated from Yale Drama School – class of 2012; with 12 Years A Slave being her feature acting debut).
We’ve given lots of virtual ink to Lupita’s potential Hollywood (and non-Hollywood) acting career. She’s unquestionably the woman of the hour. And at the other end of that conversation is Steve McQueen, who I’d say is a contender for man of the hour today, with his big win last night. Although he may have to wrestle the title away from Matthew McConaughey.
Years ago, after his feature directorial debut, Hunger, McQueen was attached to helm the Focus Features long-in-development Fela Kuti biopic, with Chiwetel Ejiofor starring. This was in 2009/2010, thereabouts.
That project is still in Limbo, although McQueen has long since moved (he went on to direct Shame), and Andrew Dosunmu is now attached to direct.
In a January 2014 report by The Hollywood Reporter, McQueen told the magazine that “the movie is dead,” referring to the Fela Kuti biopic, adding that “they didn’t have the money. It’s just one of those things that happens in this business.”
He of course went on to direct 12 Years A Slave after Shame. Although, in an email exchange I had with Dosunmu on the Fela project, he said that, as far as he knew, the project was still alive. But he couldn’t share anything more than that – understandably so.
In my fall 2013 interview with McQueen, as 12 Years A Slave was about to open commercially, a question I was thankfully able to squeeze into my 12 minutes, was what we can expect from him next. His response then: a musical. Although, as shared, he hadn’t yet decided on what that potential musical would be.
But, soon after my chat with him, an announcement revealed that the much-talked-about director’s next project may not be a musical after all. And, in fact, it won’t be a project that will be released in theaters.
Last October, McQueen set up a project at HBO, with World War Z co-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, as well as Russell Simmons (yes, that Russell Simmons), and the Oscar-winning producers of The King’s Speech, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman.
Details were (and still are) sparse on the drama project, but it’s being described as “an exploration of a young African American man’s experience entering New York high society, with a past that may not be what it seems.“
I was instantly intrigued when the news broke, needless to say. I immediately began considering all the potential themes a concept like this could explore. And knowing that it will be in McQueen’s hands, and on a cable TV network like HBO, was (and still is) very encouraging.
As I told him during our conversation, I think he’s in very rare air right now, as a filmmaker of African descent who has the industry’s full attention, and is probably in a position to do almost anything he wants. At the very least, he’s in demand, and he’ll definitely be heard. How many other black filmmakers can say any of that today? And he’s been able to accomplish this with just 3 films.
The still untitled HBO project is expected to be in his signature provocative style, and is further being described as “Six Degrees Of Separation meets Shame.“
I loathe those reductive industry comparisons, but I understand why they are commonplace.
HBO was said to be fast-tracking the project, meaning it’ll likely be McQueen’s next directorial effort, with casting underway. But we’ve heard nothing new since the initial report in October 2013.
The concept definitely intrigues, and I’m curious to know more about what McQueen’s cooking up for us next.
3 months after that project news, the 44-year-old filmmaker told the UK’s Daily Mail in an interview, that he was working on a drama about the lives of black Britons for the BBC – a second TV project.
The drama would be “epic in scope” and follow the lives of a group of friends and their families from 1968 to 2014.
“I don’t think there has been a serious drama series in Britain with black people from all walks of life as the main protagonists,” McQueen said in the interview, and he wants to do something about that.
He added that the project, which is still in its early stages, would be developed over the next year with a writer and group of actors. He said it would be set in London, adding: “This isn’t a black Our Friends in the North“, referring to the 1996 BBC drama which followed four friends from Newcastle.
The BBC is teaming up with McQueen and Rainmark Films on the project, sharing that it was “incredibly exciting to be working with the hugely talented British director who has rapidly become one of the finest directors in the world.”
And he’ll be taking all that talent to the small screen it would appear, likely with the HBO project first, given that it was fast-tracked. Although, I certainly won’t be surprised if it’s announced sometime over the next month or 2 or 3, that McQueen is attached to some other feature film that he’ll make before either of the 2 TV projects.
I can only imagine the kinds of offers he’s been getting, in Hollywood and outside of it. I’d assume he has his pick of projects.
McQueen, who was born in London but now lives in Amsterdam, first found fame as a video artist, winning the Turner Prize in 1999. His mainstream movie career began with 2008’s Hunger (I think his most interesting film to date) about the Northern Irish hunger strikers, followed by the 2011 sex addiction drama Shame – both starring Michael Fassbender.
No we wait with anticipation to learn what he will do next… it just might be that musical after all.