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Wed Nov 19, 2014, 02:07 PM

Steve McQueen to make film about Paul Robeson [View all]

A spot of happy news.


The Oscar-winning director of 12 Years a Slave reveals that his next project will take as its subject the American civil rights activist, singer and actor

The artist and director Steve McQueen has revealed that his next film will be about the black American actor, singer and activist Paul Robeson.

McQueen, whose last film 12 Years a Slave won an Oscar for best picture, described the movie as his dream project.

“His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger,” McQueen said, referring to his debut movie, about the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. “But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice.”

McQueen was speaking on stage in New York at the Hidden Heroes awards, organised by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, named in honour of one of three young civil rights activists murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964.

The director told the audience that he first discovered Robeson at the age of 14. A neighbour called Mr Milton used to give McQueen books and articles he thought might be of interest, and one day put a cutting about Robeson through his parents’ letterbox.


During the McCarthy era in the US, Robeson was denounced as a communist, blacklisted from film studios and concert venues, and refused a passport to travel abroad. Though it was reinstated in 1958, his career – along with his mental health – had been brutally curtailed.


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