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McQueen, Ejiofor and Fassbender Talk ‘12 Years A Slave’ On ‘Charlie Rose’ (Video)

by Sergio
October 14, 2013 6:31 PM
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As I said yesterday, when Tambay does his usual year in review and what S & A covered during the past year, 12 Years A Slave will no doubt be the film we most wrote about (With The Butler coming in second).

Every year, there always seems to be a film like that, which dominates. Last year it was Django Unchained, and the year before that, it was The Help (though you can argue that it really wasn't a black movie - just a film with a bunch of black people in it). For 2013, it's 12 Years A Slave.

What will be the film next year? Who knows? Stay tuned and keep reading...

So forgive us since we have, yet, another article about the film, but no doubt one of interest. Thanks to the observant eye of regular reader and contributor Jana Sante (who I recently spent a really delightful day with in Brixton London two weeks ago) who sent me this interview with Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender when they appeared recently on Charlie Rose’s show on PBS/Bloomberg TV.

It’s really teriffic interview about the film and the only video I’ve seen of the three of them together talking about the film.

Watch it here:

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  • Duane D | October 15, 2013 6:54 PMReply

    Why are these people that you would expect to be somewhat informed about the recent history of film acting as if there hasn't been a film made about the enslavement of African people in the diaspora. Haile Gerima's masterpiece titled "Sankofa" still stands as the finest dramatic film made for theaters on the subject. It has a consciousness that - after hearing this conversation - I fear that " 12 years a slave" will lack. I hope that I'm wrong. But, the moment in the conversation where Director McQueen attempts to co-sign some notion of "love" between the enslaved African woman in the film and her brutal rapist - the slave owner - is disturbing to say the least and abuses the notion of love. Why was the bulk of this conversation spent unpacking the "love" of this white slave owner over a discussion of the main protagonists love for his family and his intense desire to return to them. At the end of this discussion I know little or nothing about that Black man's love for his woman and much more about some white slave-owner's perverted distortion of his role as a rapist.

  • CC | October 15, 2013 7:43 PM

    HELLO!!! Duane my man, although you haven't seen the movie, you've in essence captured what many have failed to identify. This film, this adaptation of Northup's journey is much about some white slave-owner's perversions. There's little to nothing in this film that speaks to the Black man's love for his woman, nor the mention of his family throughout the 138 minutes of this film. This movie is Mister Edwin Epps' show, not the life and times of a free man who... btw, was held in bondage for twelve loooooong years.

    And I know love is a funny thing (and I don't want to give away too much) but in this film "love" - however one wishes to define it - leads one to desire death over another kiss. That's not love in my book. It's unadulterated rape... and McQueen and Fassbender can miss me with their pandering ways.

  • nichola | October 15, 2013 6:55 AMReply

    A good interview

  • jj | October 14, 2013 11:39 PMReply

    Damn, I keep forgetting we we're slaves!?!?!? Thank you for the reminder Hollywood.... :-/

  • Jeremiah | October 15, 2013 1:56 PM

    I sense a lot of shame from this comment. Steve McQueen addressed that in this interview. I think we need to stop being ashamed. We haven't embraced the awesome stories of rebellion and perseverance that exist within our history. I think the problem is that we haven't processed our history in any meaningful way. We want to just "get past it". But it's in us, better that we embrace it and not see ourselves as less because of our history. African (all across the continent) were focused on other things besides conquest, like math, science, arts, and agriculture. We shouldn't be embarrassed that culture obsessed with violence introduced themselves to us. That's a reflection of their faults, not our historic shortcomings.

    Sorry for the lecture, but I just think it's ridiculous that we don't see ourselves as great. If we get annoyed by our own history, then that's self hatred. Other cultures bask in there history.

  • sthn | October 14, 2013 11:42 PM

    No thank Steve McQueen and Mr Riley. At least they felt love after they saw the movie...

  • CareyCarey | October 14, 2013 10:24 PMReply

    "Every year, there always seems to be a film like that, which dominates"

    That's right, the anticipation and heated debates - before the film even comes out - are usually predicated on one main issue - RACE! But I believe once "12 Years" is seen, the usual debates/conversations will be quite different this time.

    I mean, having seen the film I am positioning myself with those who are saying the movie is nothing special. It's a straight-forward slow moving drama with an uneventful ending. Had it not been for a few shock & awe moments rarely if ever seen in "slave" movies, this film would soon be forgotten.

    Listen, in my opinion, a film is not a great film if it's only defining moments are the hanging of slaves, watching them wiggle and gag as they fight for their last breath of air. Any C-league director can shoot that scene. And please, the brutal and graphic whipping of a woman, hearing the snap of the whip and seeing her skin fly through the air, is not enough to receive my vote for film of the year. Again, any high school student can shoot violence. And, seeing naked slaves (frontal nudity included) is somewhat new to cinema, but it's not grand theater, imo.

    So, take away the hangings, whippings, nudity and raping of the slaves. what's left in this meandering drama? What... grand acting? I don't think so.

    First, Odepero Oduye is not quite ready for prime time and her acting said so. Brad Pitts performance was... well, Brad Pitt-ish, he was not believable in the least. But granted, Michael Fassbender was an outstanding mean scummy racist pig, but I thought the story was suppose to center on the life of free black man who had to endure 12 years as a slave? That reminds me, as Tambay said, in this movie, Northup's journey seemed to last about 1 year, not 12.

    I am serious. Not only did Ejiofor not age one bit, we never see him go though the pain and emotions one would have to experience given his predicament. I didn't see him go through fear, severe doubt, hatred, loneliness, depression, despair and loss of hope. I didn't see any scenes which would lead me to believe time had past. I didn't see or feel any of those defining moments, or emotions, yet we are to believe and accept the fact that this man endured a life of bondage... day after day, month after month, year after year, for TWELVE YEARS, without it affecting him physically nor mentally? Please, spare me. This film had the feel of "One Year A Slave" not the life and times of a free man kidnapped into slavery for 12 years.

    But on a positive note, Steve McQueen did select nice camera angles and perfect sound effects to create a sense of suspense and intrigue, but that's not enough to call this film a great achievement.

  • CareyCarey | October 16, 2013 9:11 AM

    Somebody call the law, I am mad ass hell and fit to be tied. Miss BB, see what you made me do? Well, actually, I shouldn't blame you but after spending about 1 1/2 hours replying to your post, it was zapped, lost, sent to a land of no return. Don't asked me how that happened (because I really don't know) but since this system is funny about accepting copy and paste comments, I was typing in the comment box and could not save it. Anyway, after settling my mind by watching (for the first time) Kevin Hart's "Let Me Explain" I am back to try one-mo-again.:)

    So let me start right here--> "I know I went off on a little tangent at the end, but those are my thoughts. They're not as fanciful as an actual critic, but they're mine. :)" ~ BB

    Girl please, I have a slight aversion against critic's speech. Listen, that style of fanciful writing is frequently written for and by other frustrated wannabe filmmaker and screenwriters of which I am not a part of. I suppose it could be considered superior writing but I think it's best received by the intellectual and critical film lovers crowd. Anyway, we're in there, don't even think about it, you did a fine job of expressing yourself straight from your heart.

    Having said that, I was not surprise that you referenced Frances Bodomo's review. She is also in the "Coocoo for Cocoa Puffs"... I mean, crazy over 12 Years a Slave crowd, so lets go there.

    Well, since you're an actor and thus can relate to and identify good acting, I think I'll mention where we agree. I have to admit that I sort of skipped over Nyong's excellent performance, it was Oscar worthy. And yes, Sarah Paulson was the perfect mean spirited, compassionless slave owners wife. She handled that part. So lets move on to Ejiofer.

    "And then there is Chiwetel Ejiofor. In all honesty, going in, I was worried about his interpretation of Solomon. He tends to play characters with such dignified black pain... thanks to Ejiofor relentlessly holding on to the dignity of his character, I am free to question him as a subject and not an object: what character traits led Solomon to be sold? Does he take too much pride in praise from the white men around him? Why does he so believe in the legal system (procuring his free papers to prove his freedom)? As a freed black man, does he not question a legal system in which his kin are still enslaved? Because the film is so loyal and relentless in stripping him of the affect of his socialization, it is exhilarating to watch dignified Ejiofor go through the twists and turns of a character that is being robbed of his identity, humanity, psychology."

    Well-well-well, that sure was some mighty fine writing, but this is where we part ways. I mean, in spite of Bodomo giving McQueen a pass by his neat and sweet characterization of Ejiofor's character as "dignified", all those questions are still on the table, which leads me to conclude that this version of Solomon Northup's odyssey is really the story of the sadistic white slave master, Edwin Epps. So let's go THERE! I have to do this in three part so the system doesn't reject it. Cont.....

  • CareyCarey | October 16, 2013 9:09 AM

    .... "12 Years a Slave is not a pity party, it is a heart-clenching horror film... we are drawn through a tense and chilling journey with little respite." ~Frances Bodomo

    Oh really, do tell?! A horror story huh, hmmmm? Well, that's right, now we're talking turkey. As I've said many times, minus the shock & awe of the lynchings, the brutal whippings and rape scenes, there sits a bland story of a man we know little to nothing about. Yet, some are quick to say Steve McQueen did a masterful job. Hell, I say, with his cheap use of graphic violence and vivid images of slave's degradation, he turned the suspenseful odyssey of a black man kidnapped into slavery, into a freakin' horror film, yet many are saying job well done. Again, I say poppycock.

    But wait, both you (Miss BB) and Bono championed McQueen's use of vivid violence and gut wrenching images of gapping wounds as a necessary evil--> "Patsey's brutal beating... it was tough to watch, and McQueen wanted it to be so. I really appreciated that about him. He doesn't let folks (especially white folks) off the hook because it perpetuates the "Oh slavery wasn't THAT bad" mentality which permeates our society" ~ BB

    Oh really, he was trying to send what message, to whom? Please, spare me. Those who cannot conceive or will not accept the fact that chattel (during that period) could be raped and sold, used and abused by any means of the owners choosing, should not be the focus of this story, and white guilt has never changed the mindset of those entrenched in their opinions on slavery and blacks in general. So surely this 12 years a slave should not have been turned into a cheap horror story. There's a deeper story of a black man's 12 year ordeal and his family that we've yet to see.

    But wait, I am not done identifying how you and Bono have given Mr. McQueen a pass and an excuse for his missteps.

    "Despite its rigidly temporal title, McQueen is masterful in removing a sense of the passage of time" ~ Frances Bodomo

    "I am with you that the aging didn't really happen at all. Maybe we're being finicky about it, but I definitely didn't feel it was 12 years" ` Miss BB

    Masterful? Finicky? Nope, neither. I believe it's a simple case of McQueen blowing it. I believe he was so focused on building a platform for his go-to-guy, Michael Fassbender, that he put Solomon's journey on the back burner. Or maybe, it's possible, he simply does not possess the skills to depict the passage of time. Hey, the title is TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE, not "One Year of Watching Master Fu*k, Brutalize and Kill Slaves"


  • CareyCarey | October 16, 2013 9:05 AM

    Lastly, as a side note--> "The scene where Northrup gets off the slave ship and one of the fellow slaves goes running back to his master and he's hugging up on him and snotting and everything else... that just sent chills down my spine. How emasculating must it have been to be solely dependent on a white man?"

    Unfortunately, I've had the opportunity to see that behavior up close and personal. I have been in/on a plantation that is presently known as the U.S. Correctional System. I can't count the times I saw brothas arrive with smiles on their face as a white man welcome them back home. To the average person it's a place of unthinkable suffering and a place where many could not survive, but just like the slave who hugged his master, for many there's no place like home, where one feels the most comfort and security.

    One more thing, in reference to Brad Pitt and the sheriff who rescued Solomon. Now, that was masterful storytelling. Well, actually, I'm being a bit factious. Mr. McQueen knows, and we know, any movie on slavery in the United States, showing in white theaters, begging for white dollars and white approval, must have a few nice white saviors.

    Thanks for the conversation.

  • bb | October 15, 2013 8:20 PM


    I am back and ready to answer your questions lol. Also, I am definitely NOT new to S&A nor am I a new commenter; I've just changed my handle a few times. I get bored. So I am familiar with your heckling ways. :)

    Now on to 12 Years a Slave...I think Frances Bodomo's review encapsulates all that I enjoyed about the film. As an actor, I especially appreciated the wonderful performances. Nyong'o was absolutely fantastic in her first feature film, and you know Ejiofor and Fassbender will give a great performance no matter what. I was especially intrigued by Sarah Paulson's character; I hated her, and that's the mark of great acting. Truly talented actors make character choices that make you invested in their safety, demise, etc.

    I saw Steve McQueen at a Q&A, and someone from the audience asked him about why he decided to linger on certain shots, mainly the Patsey whipping scene and Northrup's hanging. McQueen said that he lingered on those shots simply because they were meant to be uncomfortable. In the hands of another director, the scene would cut earlier, letting the audience off the hook, and he definitely isn't one to let the audience off the hook. He wanted the audience to truly see what Solomon was going through as he fought to stay on solid ground or be hung, or Patsey's brutal beating. It was tough to watch, and McQueen wanted it to be so.

    I really appreciated that about him. He doesn't let folks (especially white folks) off the hook because it perpetuates the "Oh slavery wasn't THAT bad" mentality which permeates our society way more than it should. Who knows, maybe he wanted white people to feel guilty about slavery lol. I know it definitely worked at the screening I attended. There were people literally sobbing the ENTIRE movie. That is not an exaggeration. Another audience member, a white woman, declared that she was so angry about this, and before she could go on, McQueen cut her off. He said, "There's no need to be angry, but if you are, let it be a call to action to change the systems that have been in place ever since slavery to disenfranchise a certain group of people." (Not his exact words; I took a few liberties lol).

    The cinematography was great, as was the music. I am with you that the aging didn't really happen at all. Maybe we're being finicky about it, but I definitely didn't feel it was 12 years. That didn't stop me from truly appreciating this film. I like how this wasn't necessarily a representation of slavery on the whole, but just this one man's fight to get back home.

    I always found this certain aspect to be interesting, and I'm not sure if anyone else is talking about it. The scene where Northrup gets off the slave ship and one of the fellow slaves goes running back to his master and he's hugging up on him and snotting and everything else... that just sent chills down my spine. It did. How emasculating must it have been to be solely dependent on a white man? Northrup couldn't see it until the very end of the film when he needed Brad Pitt's character to get him out. Then when his friend from up North (forgot the actor and character's name) comes to claim Solomon, it's a repeat of what we saw earlier. Crying, snotting, hugging, clinging to this man. He's grateful for sure, but it was also heartbreaking to watch. It just made me think a lot about my place in the world as a black person and how much we as a people struggle with our identities when it comes associating with white people. I know there have been times when I just felt soooooo grateful that white people would choose me as their friend. I was sooooooo special. :-/ I think about my mentality back then and wonder how much of that is passed down from slavery.

    I know I went off on a little tangent at the end, but those are my thoughts. They're not as fanciful as an actual critic, but they're mine. :)

  • CareyCarey | October 15, 2013 6:57 PM

    LOL with BB as I wait patiently for your return.

    In defense of my patronizing and heckling ways, it's simply what I do :-) I mean, when I see a "new" poster who seems as if they desire a conversation, yet doesn't jump in with both feet, I'm thinkin' they're either a drive-by poster who stumbled upon the site, or a newbie who's a wee bit shy. So, being of the mindset that "controversy" can start a firestorm of conversation, I chose to light a little fire under your behind. :-) So please forgive my unconventional approach... I wait for your return. And thanks for clearing up the Adepero issue.

  • bb | October 15, 2013 4:28 PM

    Now, CC, why are you tryna antagonize me? I'm currently at work and can't devote much time to expanding my thoughts about the film. I will later, though. Just be patient.

    And for the record, I'm not jumping on the McQueen bandwagon. I've been a fan since I sat by myself in an art house theater and watched Hunger, fascinated the entire time. So, please stop with the patronizing.

    And Muse, we are talking about Adepero. Kthxbye.

  • CareyCarey | October 15, 2013 2:31 PM

    No Muse, did you see the film? I know who Lupita Nyong'o is, her performance was commendable, Adepero's was not.

    I believe her addition to the cast was for name recognition and to throw a bone to black viewers. The same can be said about the additions of Michael K. William, Quivenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, and other lessor known black actors, they all had small roles with little substance. To that point, make no mistake about it, Ejiofor was in a starring role, but this film was a starring vehicle for McQueen's main man, Michael Fassbender. He had the loudest voice and the most prominent role in this film, in spite of the implications of the film's title.

  • Muse | October 15, 2013 1:51 PM

    The actress you're referring to is Lupita Nyong'o, NOT Adepero Oduye.

  • CareyCarey | October 15, 2013 1:50 PM

    "Carey, can you expand upon your thoughts about how it was nothing to write home about? I'm interested because I thought the film was great on every aspect, and I've been hearing some people say that it was just okay or not being enthusiastic about it at all. What concerns did you have?" ~ BB

    Now BB, show me yours because I've shown you mine. What are all these great aspects in this film that has you carrying pom-poms and jumping on the "McQueen is the greatest filmmaker around" bandwagon?

  • CareyCarey | October 15, 2013 1:20 PM

    @BB, as I love saying, the devil's in the details. So, if you've seen the movie, what exactly are you disagreeing with? Come on now, state your position. If you cannot voice your disagreements, you leave me no choice but to dismiss your opinion as... well... you know...

    @ MK, thank you... and we are not alone. While leaving the theater I spoke with a few others who didn't particular enjoy the film. One couple ( a black couple)who I spoke with prior to seeing the film hollowed at me and my lady as we were riding pass them on the escalator. The conversation went as followed. The husband caught my eye as we passed by and then yelled "Hey man, what did you think of the movie?". I shrugged my shoulders and yelled back "I can't give it more than a 7 1/2". He replied, "That's too high, I give it a 6".

    @Abagebe, twas me, twas me, twas me oh lord, standing in the Black Cinema House on Sunday afternoon. One of the rewards of attending film festivals is the opportunity to meet the directors, actors and producers up close and personal. I try to take advantage of those opportunities, especially when black folks are front and center.

  • bb | October 15, 2013 12:38 PM

    Now CC, I'm gonna have to disagree with majority of your sentiments. However, I DO agree that Adepero Oduye was in her own movie. She definitely wasn't ready to be in a film like this opposite Ejiofor.

  • MK | October 15, 2013 12:20 PM

    Thanks for posting this, Careycarey.
    I share your sentiments.

  • Abagebe | October 15, 2013 11:48 AM

    I saw the film at the AMC theater in Chicago and I agree with careycarey. For those who find pleasure in viewing vivid images of slaves in iron mussels or multiple images of slaves with scarred backs, some fresh with oozing blood from inch thick wounds, this movie could be considered a great accomplishment. As an added pleasure, there are other shocking moments of degradation and humiliation, such as rape scenes and public display of nude slaves.

    For those who desire a richer, deeper, multilayered story of Solomon Northup before he was kidnapped and during his capture, this film will not move you. Also, if one desires an in-depth background of the central characters, this film is definitely not for you because none exists in this adaptation of Solomon Northup's autobiography Twelve Years a Slave.

    @CC, was that you at the Black Cinema House?

  • DJ THJ | October 15, 2013 2:08 AM

    ROCKET...Stop nut huggin

  • Rocket | October 15, 2013 12:36 AM

    Of course, one of you could rebut CC's criticisms instead of calling him names.

  • Carl | October 14, 2013 11:08 PM


    We all know that. Pay him no mind. He's like the dumb old, half brain dead, jealous uncle in the back of the house making noise that you tune out and never take seriously. Just shove the plate of food in front of the door and walk away until its time to come back and get the empty plate. Pay his whiney house negro ass no mind.

  • CareyCarey | October 14, 2013 11:06 PM

    ...and Mr. M, you're an eggplant, but what did you think of the film? Oh wait, you haven't seen the film, right? So maybe you're a garden variety eggplant hater who can't stand the truth?

    Then again, it's highly possible that you're mad because you can't find any reasons to define why this film should be considered as grand cinema. Anyway, please come back and tell us what's really on your mind.

  • M | October 14, 2013 10:53 PM

    Yer an absolute moron, ya know that?

  • K | October 14, 2013 10:09 PMReply

    What a lovely interview. I love these kind of interviews. I mean you got two leads, and the director. All you need is the writer, and bam!

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