The industry in abuzz about the upcoming, Oct. 18, release of Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed, gripping tale ‘12 Years a Slave.’
The highly-anticipated film features an all-star cast that includes: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Garrett Dillahunt, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry, Michael K. Williams, and Brad Pitt.
The movie, based on a true story, is a riveting account of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped from New York and sold into brutal slavery in mid-1850s Louisiana, and the inspiring story of his desperate struggle to return home to his family.
I recently caught up with Chiwetel Ejiofor in New York to talk about his starring, much-talked-about role.
DD: How did you become involved with this film?
CE: I had a conversation with Steve (McQueen). He sent me a script. I was amazed by the story. It’s an extraordinary tale. I didn’t know the story. I was surprised when I read the autobiography.
DD: This is a huge story to tell.
CE: I’m struck by the responsibility of telling a story so deep inside the slave experience.
DD: So, what were your thoughts about how to approach the role of Solomon Northup?
CE: I decided to attempt to tell the story and then it became a privilege to bring Solomon’s story to life.
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH and CHIWETEL EJIOFOR
DD: You didn’t know about Northup’s story, but you did know about slavery, right?
CE: I supposed I knew about the wider idea of slavery. Yes, I was very aware about it. I remember going on a tour in Savannah, Georgia. There were two tours, I went on the Black tour. I remember there were some boats. I asked what they were for. They said, ‘that’s for the Igbos.’ I don’t think they knew I was an Igbo.
DD: Any story about slavery is emotional.
CE: I’m very committed to this experience. Slavery is an international story.
DD: How did you go about developing Solomon Northrup?
CE: First, I saw a man. At first I didn’t see Solomon. It was only after I read the bio that it struck me that this is about Solomon, this individual who has a different way of looking at the world.
DD: What did you think about him as a man?
CE: He had an unbreakable spirit and a lack of hatred. He recognized that he’s in a battle for freedom and a battle for his mind. He focused on staying sane.
DD: Of course you never met him, but how did you try to connect with the character?
CE: I focused on his personality. My touchstone was trying to just get close to Solomon. It was a rewarding path to go down.
MICHAEL FASSBENDER, LUPITA NYONG'O
and CHIWETEL EJIOFOR
DD: You’ve been in some great movies.
CE: This is a remarkable experience. It’s the greatest working experience I’ve had. Steve is a great man to work with. Everyone wants to give 100 percent. He demands it and encourages it.
DD: Talk about playing some of the scenes. Some of them had to be worse to play than others. They were horrific.
CE: It happened a few times that I relished the moments. I felt more connected, but I was going down the rabbit hole. One of the toughest was the hanging scene where it’s aborted and he’s left hanging.
’12 Years A Slave’ opens in theaters nationwide on October 18.