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DP/30: Chiwetel Ejiofor on 12 Years A Slave

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5 Responses to “DP/30: Chiwetel Ejiofor on 12 Years A Slave”

  1. EtGuild2 says:

    Interesting stuff, and what a classy guy. My biggest problem with “Twelve Years,” which I still really liked, was McQueen’s refusal to abandon what’s becoming a physical vs spiritual/emotional art thesis. It leaves Chiwetel hamstrung at times (and it seems like he’s okay with McQueen’s approach given his love for Hunger), as he’s so passive throughout most of the movie that he’s overshadowed in the most impactful scenes. You’ve got slam-bang moments for 3 separate actresses, and a showcase for Fassbender, but if I had to pick Ejiofor’s big moment I’d be at a loss.

    Also, I’m not sure how I feel about the departure from real life, in which Northup became a pseudo-overseer on Eps’ farm who abused fellow slaves without yelling out biblical condemnations to his master. It would have made for a much more complex narrative that was true to reality, and I can’t shake the feeling that it was cop-out made out of fear for audience reaction. I realize the junket’s over, but I’m amazed the question of why Northup’s last four years as a slave were dramatically changed wasn’t asked. It becomes “8 Years a Slave and Four Years of Studio Alteration.”

    Shades of the terrible, almost comedic farce of “Argo’s” ending, only not as reprehensible.

  2. lazarus says:

    You’re at a loss? How about the final scene, where all of that repressed emotion is finally released? Or if you want to be less Oscar Clip about it, what about that long, unbroken take of Solomon meditating on his predicament and surroundings, finally training his gaze on the audience itself? That’s probably the most powerful scene in the whole film.

  3. EtGuild2 says:

    The family scene is touching, yes. I vaguely recall what you’re talking about secondly, but it just didn’t stand out for me in comparison to Lupita, Oduye and others. McQueen makes his protagonist understated, underselling the last four years of Solomon’s narrative, while also making stuff up (Patsey never asked Solomon to kill her–it’s either a dreadful or intentional misreading of his biography) that enhances supporting characters, a stylistic choice that goes hand in hand with his engoing exploration of observing physical versus spiritual anguish.

    It’s his choice, I just found it to be a disappointing break with the source material.

  4. Geoff says:

    You know Ejiofor as an actor really faced the same predicament that most other actors have in these kind of rolls – Kingsley in Schindler’s List, Adrian Brody in The Pianist, even Fox in Django Unchained – in that you kind of HAVE to underplay it if you want to come off as authentic. People who survived in those type of situations had to keep it on the DL and play quiet….there are rarely opportunities for big emotional moments or speeches.

    That said, the long take of him standing in the woods facing his reality does the job.

  5. EtGuild2 says:

    Between the attempted (and hopefully aborted) “It’s a Wonderful Life 2”, “The Purge 2” “Insidious 3,” another “Jungle Book” remake and now “Alice In Wonderland 2,” it’s been a really, really depressing week for movie announcements.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

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