While Hunger and Shame ushered in his uncompromising, commanding voice to the world of cinema, last year’s 12 Years a Slave catapulted director Steve McQueen to new heights. Since its release, we’ve learned of an HBO series he’ll be heading up, but today finally brings news of his fourth feature. Speaking at the Hidden Heroes awards in New York City (and picked up by The Guardian), he announced he’ll next be directing a drama centered on the life of Paul Robeson.
McQueen reveals Robeson has long since been a subject of fascination, ever since he first read an article about the singer, actor and civil rights activist, who passed away in 1976. “It was about this black guy who was in Wales and was singing with these miners,” McQueen said. “I was about 14 years old, and not knowing who Paul Robeson was, this black American in Wales, it seemed strange. So then, of course, I just found out that this man was an incredible human being.”
Referring to it as “his dream project,” the director adds, “His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger, but I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice.” Now able to do so, he’s also recruited Harry Belafonte, a friend of Robeson’s, to assist with the film, although the exact nature of the collaboration are currently unknown. McQueen last captured Robeson’s life with his 2012 art installation End Credits, which tracked documents that highlighted FBI’s surveillance and persecution of the activist, who was blacklisted from certain Hollywood studios and even denied a passport.
As we await casting details (Chiwetel Ejiofor, anyone?), check out PBS’ two-hour American Masters documentary on the figure below.
Who would you like to see cast in McQueen’s next feature?