For having covered such dark material in all three of his feature films—Hunger (2008), Shame (2011) and this year’s 12 Years A Slave — Steve McQueen will be the first to admit he’s actually a happy, jovial guy. And with all the recent accolades pouring in, he’s got a lot to smile about. Already a winner as best director from New York, Washington D.C. and Boston critics groups, McQueen also nabbed a Golden Globe nomination and is courting Oscar. His harrowing look at slavery, a subject Hollywood rarely explores, has defied any expectations that some of the violent scenes depicted in the film would affect its reception at the box office.
AwardsLine: Hollywood has not really tapped into slavery as much as, say, the Holocaust. People are responding to it because it is, oddly enough, a new subject for them in movies.
Steve McQueen: I suppose you’re quite right. Also, what’s interesting about this being a new subject is that it’s about our shit history. Even if I’m British, it’s my shit history too. The screen becomes a mirror that reflects this unfortunate recent past. But that past is strangely about love. What I mean is that through all the unfortunate situations that have happened, the slaves survived what limited choices they had and they brought up their children. And through that comes someone like me. The fact that I’m sitting here talking to you is because of my ancestors’ sacrifices. And I don’t take that for granted.