Steve McQueen Will Follow ’12 Years a Slave’ With a Film About Activist Paul Robeson
After winning the Academy Award for Best Picture for his incredible drama ‘12 Years a Slave,’ we’ve been wondering what director Steve McQueen’s next film project might be. With a Best Picture Oscar in tow, the guy could do just about anything he wants, but it seems like he’s been (wisely) taking his time. And it’s kind of a relief to know that he’s in no rush. But now McQueen has announced his next project: a film about the life of activist, actor, singer, and man of many talents Paul Robeson.
‘Hunger’ and ‘Shame’ certainly proved that McQueen has strong and fascinating dramatic talents, but when you’ve got that gold Oscar statue, things become a little more possible. Speaking at the Hidden Heroes awards in New York City (via The Film Stage), McQueen revealed that his next project will be about the life of activist Paul Robeson—it’s actually been a passion project of his for many years:
His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger, but I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice.
He certainly does now, and he’ll have some help from Harry Belafonte, a longtime friend of Robeson’s, who’s been brought on board to assist with the project—although as of right now, it’s unclear in what capacity Belafonte will serve. McQueen discussed his fascination with Robeson, whom he first discovered in an article about the activist’s passing in 1976:
It was about this black guy who was in Wales and was singing with these miners. I was about 14 years old, and not knowing who Paul Robeson was, this black American in Wales, it seemed strange. So then, of course, I just found out that this man was an incredible human being.
Robeson’s life is compelling: his father was an escaped slave, and his mother was a Quaker. He was a talented football player in college, and went on to become a well-known actor and international singing success. Robeson was targeted by the government due to his affiliation with communism and his anti-imperialism views, and he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. All of this, of course, would make for an excellent McQueen film.
McQueen previously covered Robeson’s life during the 2012 art installation “End Credits,” and now he’ll have his chance to really bring Robeson’s story to life.