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NYFF '13: Steve McQueen on '12 Years A Slave,' the Effects of Slavery Today and Reuniting With Michael Fassbender

By Clint Holloway | Indiewire October 10, 2013 at 10:00AM

The past six weeks have been very good to "12 Years A Slave." Coming off of his acclaimed 2011 film "Shame," anticipation was already huge for Steve McQueen's latest work, but once the film began screening the buzz became almost stratospheric. After its ecstatic reception at Telluride and Toronto (it garnered the Audience Award at the latter), the film soared to the front of the Oscar race, with many already positioning it as a lock for many of the main categories.
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12 Years A Slave

On the look of the film:               

"I've been working with Sean Bobbitt, the cinematographer, for the last 13 years. He's a Texan that's been living in England for goodness knows how long. First, it's about the color; we talk about the color. This is the first time I actually sort of feel like I've shot outdoors, in an environment which is so lush. So the palette is very important to talk about. The costume designer, Patty Norris, she took Earth samples from all three of the plantations to match the clothes, had a conversation with Sean to kind of deal with the temperature of each plantation, and the character temperature, of course. So there was a lot of that kind of minute detail."

On the actors working with such intense material:       

"I think all the hard work comes in rehearsal. As far as spontaneity and stuff is concerned, there are slight deviations for sure but not... Because when you're working with actors like this and you're rehearsing, they're so good that you want to stop. 'Oh, let's stop that and not do anymore.' So you get this light training and when you say 'action' or whatever you say... Actually I don't say that, the other guy says that, you say 'cut.' I want to say action, but I can't! What happens is that when you say action, or someone else says action and they're doing it, it becomes like a sphere. Because we've trained, we've talked so often, we've talked a lot with each other, we've formed a trust with each other, but they become spheres so that everything they do is correct. It's beautiful, it's magic, you work for that, you work damn hard to get there, but you have to trust them as well. But they become spheres, so that everything they do, wherever they go, is great."

On working with Michael Fassbender for the third consecutive time:  

"It's one of those with Michael, don't take him for granted. He's not gonna do things because I'm doing it, so it's one of those things where it has to be bloody good before you present him anything. Yes, he was always my choice for that. He's an amazing actor; me, personally, I think he's the most influential actor of his time. He's like Mickey Rourke when he was Mickey Rourke and Gary Oldman when he was Gary Oldman. I mean, people want to be an actor because of him, people want to be in a movie because of him, people want to make a movie because he wants to be in a movie. So he has that pull, that kind of quality where people want to jam with him. He's like Ginger Baker."

"12 Years A Slave" has another screening at the New York Film Festival on October 13 before it opens on October 18.

Watch the full press conference below:

This article is related to: NYFF, 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender







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