In his directorial feature debut Jimi: All Is By My Side, John Ridley attempts the seemingly impossible. By zeroing in on the year before guitar giant Jimi Hendrix (played with grace by Outkast’s Andre Benjamin) skyrocketed into fame, Ridley — who just won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for 12 Years a Slave — tells the man’s story without the aid of his legendary music. (Hendrix’s estate refused, like it did with past directors such as Paul Greengrass and the Hughes brothers, to grant rights to the music.) Asked how Ridley will battle the reflexive disappointment Hendrix fans might feel about the prospect of a biopic without “Hey Joe” or “Purple Haze,” he says you simply don’t. “If there are folks who just want the music, there are record stores and they should absolutely go out and do that,” said Ridley in anticipation of the U.S. premiere Wednesday night at SXSW. “You can’t battle folks who come in with a certain mind-set about a film. There’s always going to be folks, like look at 12 Years, I wish I could go to a lot of folks and say, ‘I’m not trying to preach to you about history, I’m not trying to indict you if you happen to be white, I’m not trying to victimize if you’re black, it’s a beautiful story.'” READ FULL STORY
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Since his Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley has been busy enough to tune out superfluous drama. He’s been in Austin since shooting the pilot American Crime for ABC, and promoting the U.S. premiere of the Hendrix biopic Jimi: All Is By My Side at SXSW. But he knows that failing to thank 12 Years director Steve McQueen in his acceptance speech, and the seemingly chilly body language between the two of them on the big night, sparked countless stories of behind-the-scenes beef.
“I do regret it,” says Ridley of his omission. “But just 24 hours earlier at the Spirit Awards I sincerely went on and on about Steve and my work with him. You know, the guy changed my life. At the Oscars you have 30 seconds to talk and it’s like the oxygen drops out of the room. I know [when I heard my name called] I hugged my wife twice, I know David O. Russell, again this person people think I have beef with, was the first guy to hug me, I know Meryl Streep reached out and touched my arm.”
Ridley’s real regret of the night is a more personal one. He took great pains in his brief and eloquent minute on stage to thank a script coordinator named Gayle for her early support of his work (“she was gracious enough to read everything I wrote and when she thought it was ready she’d put smiley faces at the end and I knew that it was job done,” he said). “That was my wife you know,” he says today. (Ridley and his wife Gayle met over 20 years ago working on the set of Martin Lawrence’s sitcom Martin.) “I don’t think most people got that. Wow, I screwed up. Well, I know she got it. I didn’t want to be the guy when you’re getting played off by the music ‘Oh and my wife and I love her.’ I wanted to start there and thank someone who believed in me from the beginning. I wanted the bulk of that 30 seconds to go to my wife and whatever I had remaining was going to Solomon Northup who deserves it.”
Explaining the impulse to trump up tension between himself and McQueen, Ridley blames media’s dependence on easy narratives. “I will say about 12 Years , from the jump, man, from the moment somebody said ‘Stop the year, this is the Best Picture’ the story became ‘It’s torture porn. Why are Brits doing this? This movie is only geared at liberal whites.’ In the end, I said to somebody else ‘At the very least we weren’t Zero Dark Thirty. Nobody set up a congressional investigation. This year it’s who hugged and kissed who and who didn’t.”
Haven’t caught Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave in theaters yet? You may be in luck.
Steve McQueen’s riveting drama has been in theaters for 20 weeks, but after Sunday’s big win, Fox Searchlight is planning to push it out to over 1,000 theaters this weekend.
It’s an unconventional move — especially considering the fact that the film will be available on DVD starting Tuesday — but there could be a market still hoping for the theatrical experience now that the Academy has anointed the film the best of the year (in addition to its wins for Best Supporting Actress and Best Screenplay). READ FULL STORY
Shoulda trusted the coin.
About two weeks ago, sitting in the office of EW assistant managing editor Sean Smith, we were discussing EW’s official Oscar predictions and mulling the reaction I was getting from many voters: Gravity was taking the lead in the tightest Best Picture race in years, and those who favored 12 Years a Slave seemed soft in their support.
For months, ever since the historical drama premiered at the Toronto film festival, it was at the top of my predictions list — a crushing, emotionally resonant film that addressed how we perceive and treat those who appear to be different from ourselves. But it was also an uncompromising film, full of brutality that was often difficult to watch, and we all know the Academy Awards have compromised a lot in the past.
So I switched our pick toward Gravity, which was garnering a groundswell of support in other categories, and seemed to be the popular, more accessible favorite. The graphics people were alerted to make a last-minute adjustment, and I stayed with that through the final round of guessing. It was close enough to give me a stomachache. (Believe it or not, the predictions truly are made based on our best assessment of voters. There’s no advocacy or favoritism. The cold, hard pragmatism of wanting to be right guides those choices.)
The call was made: Gravity it would be, by a hair. But then I flipped a quarter, and Sean called it: Tails, it would be 12 Years a Slave.
Again — shoulda trusted the coin. READ FULL STORY
In recent years, grousing about the Oscars, which used to begin and end as water cooler chatter, has turned into a trivially self-serious industry, an annual collective rant in which the Sins of the Telecast are dutifully compiled and picked over and excoriated. “The show was way too long!” “It was boring!” “The host was a bust: unfunny and, at times, offensive!” “He (or she) should never be invited back!” “The musical numbers were terrible, and the In Memoriam segment left out far too many people!” “The tribute to _____ stopped the show dead in its tracks, and so did the montages!” “They were badly done, and there were at least three too many of them!” “______’s gown was hideous!” “The acceptance speeches went on way too long!” “Except for the ones that were cut off by those egregious music cues!” “And what was up with ______? My God, he looked so old!” READ FULL STORY
Kids used to read books like Roots and Uncle Tom’s Cabin to learn about slavery in high school, but now films are being added to the curriculum: Best Picture nominee 12 Years a Slave, to be exact. Beginning later this year, public high schools may begin showing the film and distributing the book it was based on. Talk show host Montel Williams coordinated this initiative, saying in a press statement, “When Hollywood is at its best, the power of the movies can be harnessed into a powerful educational tool.”
The National School Boards Association announced their partnership with Penguin Books, New Regency, and 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen on their website this weekend. In the statement, McQueen says, “Since first reading 12 Years a Slave, it has been my dream that this book be taught in schools.”
The film follows Solomon Northup (Best Actor contender Chiwetel Ejiofor), a formerly free man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. The film chronicles his time spent as a slave, where he meets Patsey (Best Supporting Actress nominee Lupita Nyong’o) and suffers the wrath of plantation owners. It’s based on a book of the same name, a memoir by Northup himself. “Allowing students to see the tragic circumstances and messages conveyed through these works are vital to learning and reflection on our nation’s era of slavery,” said NSBA’s executive director Thomas J. Gentzel in the statement.
Distribution of the film and book will begin in September at the start of the new school year.
12 Years a Slave won Best Motion Picture at the 18th annual Satellite Awards. Oscar frontrunners Matthew McConaughey, Cate Blanchett, and Jared Leto won their acting categories — but June Squibb beat out both Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence, winning Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Nebraska. Steve McQueen won Best Director for 12 Years, and David O. Russell and Eric Singer won Best Original Screenplay for American Hustle.
Last year, the International Press Academy honored The Silver Linings Playbook with Best Motion Picture, and recognized Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in the lead-actor categories. The IPA is a media association that includes journalists and bloggers.
In the television categories, Breaking Bad was named Best Drama, and Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul took home acting honors. Orange is the New Black won for Best Comedy, with Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon winning acting prizes.
Click below for a list of all the awards. READ FULL STORY
12 Years a Slave swept the film categories at the NAACP Image Awards with four wins.
The historical epic’s prizes at Saturday’s 45th annual ceremony honoring diversity in the arts included outstanding motion picture, directing for Steve McQueen, writing for John Ridley and supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o.
“It’s been a historical year in film for all of us in this room, and I’m so proud to be a part of that history,” Nyong’o said. “It’s such an honor to be recognized for a film that has meant so much to so many people, a film that has inspired discourse long overdue.”
Going from unknown struggling drama school grad to Oscar front-runner in a year and a half would be a tempestuous experience for anyone. But for Lupita Nyong’o, who is nominated in the supporting actress category for her role as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, her Oscar campaign run has been an example of grace and gratitude. From the endless screenings and press events to the numerous awards shows and appearances, the Mexico-born Kenyan is an equal measure of confidence and humility.
“I didn’t know there was an awards season before I started this thing,” says Nyong’o during a candid chat with fellow nominee and Oscar veteran Cate Blanchett. “All of it is a first for me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s got a culture of its own.”
For Nyong’o, who happily shared a plate of sushi with Blanchett following an energetic cover shoot for this week’s Entertainment Weekly, stepping onto the set of Steve McQueen’s harrowing slave drama was an exercise in self-confidence. The actress, chosen after the British director looked at close to 1,000 women, had experience on the stage and even writing and directing her own documentary but had never worked on a movie set, except as a production assistant on the 2005 drama The Constant Gardener.
“It was very stressful,” says Nyong’o of her long days on the southern plantation. “Acting is an exercise of deep trust in yourself and an exercise in letting go: Do [all of your preparation] and then trust that when the [filming] day comes, and you’re in the room with Michael Fassbender, what you need will come through. That’s what’s magical about acting — it’s something you never do on your own.”
Nyong’o has a small role in the upcoming Liam Neeson actioner Non-Stop, but the actress is interested in creating her own destiny going forward. “I’m interested in generating work for myself,” she says. “I have trouble with this waiting-for-the-phone-to-ring lifestyle, especially after drama school, which was so creatively fulfilling.”
To read the full interview with Nyong’o and Blanchett pick up this week’s issue of EW. And for more on the actress’ head-turning role check out this exclusive clip below. READ FULL STORY
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