Steve McQueen is planning a film about the life of American singer and actor Paul Robeson.
The Londoner, whose 12 Years A Slave won three Oscars including best picture, said he had been interested in the story since reading as a teenager about Robeson's support for the Welsh miners.
Robeson regularly visited the South Wales valleys and in 1940 starred in The Proud Valley about a black American miner who finds work in Wales.
McQueen said he had wanted to make a film about the singer's "life and legacy" after his first feature film, Hunger, but "didn't have the power" to do it.
Speaking in New York at a civil rights awards, he said a neighbour had given him a newspaper cutting about the singer while he was at school.
He said: "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."
McQueen told the Guardian he had discussed his plans with veteran star Harry Belafonte who had been a friend of Robeson until his death in 1976.
He said: "We get on like a house on fire. I never thought I'd make a new friend, and a man who is 87 years old, but I'm very happy, he's a beautiful man."
McQueen, who now lives in Amsterdam, is the first black director to win a best picture Oscar.
The former Turner Prize winner, who had a stint as an official war artist before moving into cinema, is also working on a BBC drama about the lives of black Londoners.