Last night, if you hadn’t fall asleep by time it was announced, you may have noticed a slight chill when screenwriter John Ridley went up to accept his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “12 Years A Slave.” He curiously didn’t even acknowledge director Steve McQueen, walking by him on his way up to the stage, and in his speech, he thanked everyone involved with the movie except the director. Is that beef we’re smelling?
According to Nikki Finke, it could be as the former Deadline reporter tweeted out the following last night:
My sources attributing John Ridley-Steve McQueen cold shoulder at Oscars tonight to dispute over screenplay credit.
— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) March 3, 2014
The Wrap has more context, revealing that after McQueen tapped Ridley to pen the adaptation on spec — and “had a hand in shaping” the final result, but was denied by the writer when he asked for a co-credit. Fox Searchlight sided with Ridley, and everyone involved agreed to keep the battle under wraps, but it has surfaced in recent weeks, starting at the BAFTAs where Ridley was excluded from McQueen’s prepared speech. And while McQueen did mention the writer at the Golden Globes, it was a last minute reminder by a producer, reportedly to keep any notice of tension behind the scenes from affecting the Oscar campaign.
But last night, neither McQueen or Ridley mentioned the other in their speeches indicating that feelings are still very much bruised. And it’s not the first time Ridley has clashed with a director over credits to movie. Way back in 1999, Ridley and David O. Russell battled over “Three Kings,” with the writer blocking the director from publishing a book of the screenplay. Ridley wrote “Three Kings” on spec, but Russell rewrote the script extensively and the WGA ultimately ruling granting a Ridley a “story by” credit. “This is a guy who every step of the way has tried to grab credit,” Ridley told EW at the time. “I never heard a word while he was shooting the movie. Never saw any of the script changes. And then finally, a year later, I get a copy of the script, and my name isn’t even on it. It’s ‘by David O. Russell.’ My name is nowhere.”
“I’m shocked that he’s blocking the book,” Russell responded. “I think he’s doing it because he’s embarrassed by how little of his screenplay ended up in my movie.”
But whatever static they had at the time, seems to have long cooled with Ridley giving Russell a quick embrace on the way to collect his trophy. As for whatever is going with McQueen, we’ll just have to wait and see but it seems not even highest cinema honors in the land could mend it.
Below, check out Ridley’s walk through the Dolby Theater, and McQueen’s fake applause in response which has immediately gone viral.