FILM 1498: 12 YEARS A SLAVE
TRIVIA: The tree where Solomon sees several men being lynched was actually used for lynching, and it is surrounded by the graves of murdered slaves.
In order to better portray an alcoholic, Michael Fassbender had his makeup artist paint his mustache with alcohol so that the other actors would react naturally to the smell, as they would to a man who had been drinking heavily.
Director Steve McQueen had been toying with the idea of writing a script about slavery, featuring a black man who had been born free and was later forced into slavery, but McQueen was struggling with the script until his wife found Solomon Northup's biography and gave it to him. Shocked that he had never heard of Northup before, he decided to adapt the book instead.
At first, Chiwetel Ejiofor turned down Steve McQueen's offer to play the leading role of Solomon Northup, but then realized he had to get over his initial fear of taking on what McQueen thought would be the role of the actor's lifetime. Ejiofor prepared for his role by immersing himself in the Louisiana plantation culture and learning how to use and play the violin.
Steve McQueen's daughter told him to hire Sarah Paulson, after viewing her audition tape, because she found her scary.
On location, shooting in Louisiana took only thirty-five days with one camera, which prompted amazed laughter from an audience of Directors Guild peers, including interviewer Kathryn Bigelow, for the startlingly efficient direction of Steve McQueen.
Brad Pitt responded to criticism that his casting in a brief heroic role was self-indulgent, given that he was one of the producers of the film. Pitt claimed that he did not insist on being cast in the part, and that it was simply easier to secure funding for the picture if he was in it.
Four years after he was freed, Solomon Northrup of "12 Years a Slave" disappeared. To this day, historians still do not know what happened to him.
12 Years a Slave (2013) is the first film from a black director to win the Academy Award for Best Picture; second film in a row, following Argo (2012), to win Best Picture and a screenplay Oscar without the Best Director Oscar; fifth film with a numbered-title to win Best Picture, following It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), The Godfather: Part II (1974) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956); twelfth movie to win Best Picture with only three Oscars, a list that includes Casablanca (1942), Midnight Cowboy (1969), The Godfather (1972), Rocky (1976), Crash (2004) and Argo (2012).