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Steve McQueen to follow 12 Years A Slave with Paul Robeson film starring Harry Belafonte

The Oscar-winning director will tell the story of the performer and activist

Jess Denham
Wednesday 19 November 2014 13:22 GMT
Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen
Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen (Getty Images)

British director Steve McQueen is to follow up 12 Years A Slave with a film about black US actor, singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson.

The Oscar winner shared initial plans for his “dream” movie about an “incredible human being” at the Hidden Heroes Awards in New York on Monday.

“His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after [2008 film] Hunger. But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice,” he said, according to the Guardian.

US actor and singer Paul Robeson giving a speech (Getty Images)

McQueen revealed that his interest in Robeson began as a young boy when a neighbour gave him a cutting about Robeson to read.

“It was about this black guy who was in Wales and was singing with these miners,” he said. “I was about 14 years old and not knowing who Paul Robeson was, this black American Wales, it seemed strange. So then, of course, I just found out that this man was an incredible human being.”

Robeson, the son of an escape slave, trained as a lawyer but left after suffering severe racism. He achieved global fame as an actor and singer and campaigned for better pay and working conditions for South Wales miners. He died in 1976.

McQueen has studied Robeson’s life before, for his 2012 six-hour video artwork End Credits. He did not hint at a likely release date for the new film but confirmed that Harry Belafonte will star in an as yet unknown role. Belafonte, 87, was a friend and contemporary of Robeson.

“We’re very fortunate that we’re on a roll together to make this dream a reality,” said McQueen. “Miracles do happen. With Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte, things have come full circle.”

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