Fresh off directing the critical-darling Shame, Steve McQueen is ready to move ahead with his next project: Twelve Years a Slave, an adaptation of Solomon Northrup’s famous memoir about his experiences living as an African-American man in New York (before the U.S. Civil War) – when he was suddenly kidnapped and sold into slavery, eventually being rescued nearly a dozen years later.
Three-time Golden Globe-nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, 2012) will portray Northrup in Twelve Years a Slave. Furthermore, the film also reunites McQueen with his Shame and Hunger leading man, Michael Fassbender.
Variety has confirmed that the latest addition to the cast for Twelve Years a Slave is Benedict Cumberbatch, the fan-favorite star of BBC’s Sherlock. Suffice it to say, the English actor’s popularity should only continue to grow over the next few years – between his turn in McQueen’s new project, his performance as the mystery villain in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek 2, and Cumberbatch’s dual roles in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films.
Additional members of the Twelve Years a Slave cast include Brad Pitt, Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), Adepero Oduye (Pariah), Scoot McNairy (Monsters) and Ruth Negga (The Samaritan). Onboard to produce the film are Oscar-nominee Dede Gardner (The Tree of Life) and Jeremy Kleiner (Kick-Ass) for Plan B, with McQueen directing from a screenplay he co-wrote with John Ridley (Three Kings, Red Tails).
Northrup’s original, non-fiction book details how he was misled with the promise of a job playing violin in the circus – only to instead be drugged, dragged down to Louisiana, and brutalized by his new slave owners (including Dano’s character). Fassbender will portray one of the plantation owners who purchased Northrup over the course of his torturous time as a slave, along with Cumberbatch – whose character is “won over by [Northrup’s’] engineering skills.”
Overall, Twelve Years a Slave reads as something potentially fantastic, given the shocking true-story subject matter, esteemed cast, and accomplished creative talent that are bringing Northrup’s tale to cinematic life. The film won’t be any more commercially-friendly than McQueen’s previous productions – but it could very well be his best to date (which is saying something).
Twelve Years a Slave is slated to begin principal photography later this month. We will let you know when the film snags an official theatrical release date.