Monday 26 February 2018

Steve McQueen on best pictures for 12 Years A Slave 2014

We ended up at Madonna's party, dancing. It was fabulous

Steve McQueen photographed by Pal Hansen
Steve McQueen photographed by Pal Hansen

Steve McQueen

'I don't know anybody who hasn't dreamed of winning an Oscar as a kid, whether you're in the movie business or not. It's like holding a hairbrush and pretending you're a pop star.

Once I became a working artist, I was just dreaming about doing the best work I could. I was chatting to somebody at the Toronto film festival about the Oscar campaign - I was new to all this, and didn't know what to expect. The guy just said, 'This movie is more important than you'. That's when the significance hit me. Winning was recognition of slavery, and of the people who survived it.

The actual night was fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. My father had passed away eight years before, and he was huge in my mind. My mother and sister were there, although my mum was at the back of the room. I remember thinking: 'Why's she at the back? She should be closer.' Some things never change.

Earlier that evening, I was up for best film director but didn't win. I wasn't pissed off - though, of course, it wouldn't have been as happy a night if we'd not won best film. When we did, the Pharrell song 'Happy' came on, and I was so, so happy. We went out to a restaurant with all the people involved and ended up at Madonna's party, dancing away. That was as fabulous as you can imagine. I had one hour's sleep and flew home.

I'm not thinking about winning more - that's just ridiculous. An Oscar is not a measuring stick for what is good or bad. But it does mean people are more likely to invest in these movies. Winning had a huge impact on the money 12 Years a Slave made (€167m so far), and opened a lot of doors for black cinema. Already there have been films with more black protagonists. I know our film helped. There was always the idea that a film with black people would not travel -unless there was a superstar in it like Will Smith. Now people realise films like this can make money, and not just in the United States.'

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