“12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen will collaborate with Tupac Shakur‘s estate for an upcoming feature-length documentary. Deadline reported yesterday (May 9) that the Oscar-winning British filmmaker will direct the project through a new deal between the estate and Amaru Entertainment, the company founded by the rapper’s late mother Afeni Shakur.
Tupac’s aunt, Gloria Cox, will executive produce with Jeanne Elfant Festa of White Horse Pictures, the production company responsible for several music documentaries, including “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week–The Touring Years.” White Horse’s Nigel Sinclair and Nicholas Ferrall also feature as producers alongside Jayson Jackson (“What Happened, Miss Simone?”) and estate trustee Tom Whalley. Deadline did not report a release date.
“I am extremely moved and excited to be exploring the life and times of this legendary artist,” McQueen told Deadline. “I attended [New York University] film school in 1993 and can remember the unfolding hip-hop world and mine overlapping with Tupac’s through a mutual friend in a small way. Few, if any, shined brighter than Tupac Shakur. I look forward to working closely with his family to tell the unvarnished story of this talented man.”
The still-untitled project comes nearly 14 years after Amaru Entertainment released “Tupac: Resurrection.” The Afeni Shakur-produced documentary incorporated rare archival footage and the MC’s own narration, recorded before his 1996 killing in a drive-by shooting. “Tupac: Resurrection” earned a “Best Documentary (Feature)” nomination at the 44th Annual Academy Awards.
The dazzling Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o samples the fall couture collections and talks to Plum Sykes about fame, family, and her four new acting projects.
It’s the Monday morning of Paris Couture Week, and Lupita Nyong’o appears, right on time, from the elevator of Le Bristol hotel. Never mind that she’s come direct from a trip to her native Kenya, which she just happened to combine with an elephant-saving mission. Or that her flight landed only a few hours ago. Or that all her bags were lost en route. She is wearing a dramatically sculpted scarlet Dior minidress, her short hair is teased into a halo and held off her face with an Alice band, and her beautiful skin gleams with health. As she bounces into the lobby, her mirrored, blue-tinted Dior sunglasses reflect a roomful of transfixed admirers.
“Hello-ooo!” she says, her voice deep and warm, as she breaks into a gigantic smile. She removes her sunglasses to reveal wide, dark eyes, sprinkled with glittery silver eye shadow. Her eyebrows are precision-plucked—no Cara Delevingne strays for her. “Really, I’m not tired,” insists Lupita. She’s beaming with excitement. This is her first Paris Couture.
There are few actresses as instantly recognizable as 32-year-old Lupita Nyong’o, who took on the role of the slave girl Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slavewhile a student at Yale—and went on to win an Oscar in 2014. In one fell swoop Lupita conquered Hollywood, seduced the fashion world, and found herself shouldering the dreams of an entire continent.
A few minutes later we are crawling through traffic, heading to the Dior show at the Musée Rodin. Settling herself patiently in the back of the car, Lupita tells me, “I didn’t know the power of couture until I tried on a couture dress. It made me cry.”
Lupita has an old-school attitude to fashion. She calls pants “slacks.” When I joke about this with her, she responds, “What can I say? I’m a Pisces. I have the soul of an 80-year-old woman inside me.” Long before the world was awed by her movie debut and her Oscar speech, for which she wore an exquisite baby-blue Prada chiffon gown, Lupita was properly turned out. Her first memory of fashion was at age five, wearing her “very eighties red cord miniskirt with suspender straps. Presentation is extremely important in Kenya. You dress formally. You can’t just wear flip-flops. My mother always had her own style. She wore A-line, tea-length flowery dresses, very well fitting. Her nails were always perfectly done.” As a girl in Nairobi, Lupita recalls, “salons were a big feature in my life. We would go every two weeks to get our hair braided, washed, or treated. That’s where I read American, British, and a few African magazines.Then I would design my own clothes. In Kenya it’s much cheaper to get clothes made than to buy them. We would have everything run up by a tailor, or my aunt Kitty, who is very creative, would sew things for me.”
It may seem an unlikely combination, but politics were as ever-present in the Nyong’o household as style. Lupita’s father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, now a senator, was for a long period an opposition politician under the repressive Moi regime. He spent three years in self-imposed exile with his family in Mexico, where Lupita was born.
The Nyong’os returned to Nairobi when Lupita was one. The following years she remembers as “scary, but I was at an age where you couldn’t fully understand what was happening.” Her father was at times detained in jail, once for an entire month, and the family “had to destroy a lot of his documents. I wasn’t allowed to go to school. We were basically locked up in the house. The curtains were shut all the time, and we were just burning papers.” She says the experience made her resilient. “I was definitely exposed to some extreme situations. Tragedy is something that I have known and that I have tried to accept as part of life. But I don’t dwell on it. . . . OK! I need to powder my nose!”
We have arrived at the Dior show, and Lupita, her beautiful nose suitably blotted with custom-blended Lancôme Miracle Cushion (she is the newest face of Lancôme), strides confidently across the lawn toward a vast glasshouse that has been splashed with Pointillism-style dots. Photographers snap pictures constantly as she is escorted by a gaggle of worshipful Dior publicists to the front row.
The sublime collection makes me want to throw out every single piece of clothing I own. As Lupita walks backstage afterward to meet Dior designer Raf Simons, she says, “I loved the breeziness of everything, the coats thrown over the dresses.” Her favorite piece is a demure, New Look–inspired green-and-pink print, A-line silk pleated coat. It’s the kind of thing a very, very chic Sunday-school teacher might have worn circa 1952. “I can work a pleat,” adds Lupita. (At Cannes this year she did just that, twirling up the red carpet in an emerald-green Gucci dressthat was a swirl of hundreds of pleats.) Backstage, while the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and the singer Grimes look patiently on, Lupita is greeted with excitement by Simons. He thinks Lupita is “so radiant and seems to take such pleasure in playing with fashion.” Next, the actress Emily Blunt, chic in white, grasps Lupita’s hand. “I am so thrilled to meet you,” she declares. “I am a huge fan.”
I can’t think of another actress who has appeared in only one major role in an American film and caused quite such a stir. (Lupita also played a smaller part in last year’s Liam Neeson movie Non-Stop.) But, as she tells me that evening, her output will be dramatically upped this fall. We visit the historic restaurant Le Grand Véfour in the Palais Royal for an indulgent dinner. The maître d’ offers Lupita the honor of sitting in Napoleon’s seat—now a plush crimson velvet banquette—and she accepts gracefully. She is dressed in an asymmetric print Dior silk top, skinny black pants, and high heels (all on loan while the aforementioned lost luggage is being located). While we tuck into delicious platters of fish, sorbets, and cheeses, Lupita tells me that she has just spent four months filming a CGI character—a pirate named Maz Kanata—for J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening this December. “We needed a powerful actress to play a powerful character,” the director explains to me later. “Lupita was someone I’d known a little and was enormously fond of. More important, her performance in 12 Years a Slave blew my mind, and I was vaguely desperate to work with her.”
Acting a motion-capture character was “really bizarre and lots of fun,” Lupita says. “I really enjoyed the fact that you’re not governed by your physical presence in that kind of work. You can be a dragon. You can be anything.”
When I ask her, “How do you act ‘anything’ ?,” she says, “My training at Yale is the core of the actor that I am. Before that I was just going on instinct . . . having my imagination take over. But Yale taught me that it’s about giving yourself permission to pretend.”
An important pretending trick is to dress in the same “uniform” every day while going to and from set. If she doesn’t have to think about what she’s wearing when she’s not in costume, this allows her to focus. When she was recently filming the Mira Nair–directed Queen of Katwe, the true story of a chess master raised in a Ugandan slum, she wore an A-line skirt and blouse every single day because that’s what her character wore. “One amazing thing about filming in Uganda was that on the first day of rehearsal we were all barefoot,” she remembers. “I looked down and all the feet were my complexion. That had not happened to me before. I was reminded that I’m actually not that special. There are lots of people in the world who look like me.”
HBO is moving forward with Steve McQueen‘s drama pilot Codes Of Conduct, giving the project a six-episode limited series order. The 12 Years A Slave helmer will direct all six episodes of Codes Of Conduct, on which he had teamed with World War Z co-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan; hip-hop mogul/producer Russell Simmons, who has a deal at HBO; Oscar-winning producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman (The King’s Speech); and HBO veteran Alan Poul (The Newsroom, Six Feet Under). All six will executive produce.
Co-written by McQueen and Carnahan, Codes Of Conduct is carrying McQueen’s signature style of provocative filmmaking and is described as an exploration of a young African-American man’s experience entering New York high society, with a past that might not be what it seems. It centers on Beverly Snow (newcomer Devon Terrell), a young man from Queens as talented as he is ambiguous. His self-confidence will enable him to break into the social circles of Manhattan’s elite, testing the boundaries of access and social mobility. Paul Dano, Helena Bonham Carter and Rebecca Hall co-star.
Codes Of Conduct follows the model employed by HBO’s buzzy drama True Detective, which also started as a limited series. The cable network also has upcoming miniseries True Justice. HBO’s 2015 drama series slate includes new entries Westworld, from JJ Abrams, Jonah Nolan and Jerry Weintraub; Untitled Rock ‘n’ Roll project, from Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter; and Ballers, from Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg and Steve Levinson.
According to Variety.com, the 2014 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award for Best Film went to 12 Years a Slave. In his speech, helmer-producer Steve McQueen said that there were “21 million people living in slavery as we sit here now.” McQueen was joined at the event by fellow producers Anthony Katagas, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner.
The leading actor award went to Chiwetel Ejiofor for his performance in 12 Years a Slave. He paid tribute to McQueen, and said that the award really belonged to the director. “It’s yours. I’m going to keep it, but it is yours,” he said. Although 12 Years A Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o lost out to Jennifer Lawrence for Best Supporting Actress, the award for Supporting Actor was picked up by Barkhad Abdi for Captain Phillips. He thanked the performers who played the other pirates in the film. “We came from nothing and I got this (the BAFTA),” he said.
Fox Searchlight plans to add about 500 theaters this weekend for director Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slaveafter Sunday night’s Best Motion Picture – Drama win at the Golden Globe Awards, with a goal of reaching 1,000 runs in the next two weeks. After getting such nods from the Globes and Oscar nominations, a studio often ups its runs of the film when it can using those awards and nominations as a marketing tool. New ads touting the nominations and wins are traditionally done and then blasted out into the marketplace. Award nominations and wins, especially for the Oscars, means cash at the box office.
The Golden Globe and expected Oscar nominations for picture, acting and directing categories for Slave is marketing you can’t buy. The critically-acclaimed film, having received a bevy of nominations from BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), just opened in the UK on 208 screens to quickly grab the No. 1 spot with a strong $4.2M take over the weekend. Internationally, it has yet to debut in Germany, France, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Japan among others. Domestically, it has grossed $38.9M since being released in a limited run October 18. “What we’re looking at is what we call a two-step. We will be adding theaters both this weekend and next weekend, going back into some of the art theaters that we were in before,” said Frank Rodriguez, head of distribution for Fox Searchlight. “Based on the Golden Globe win and expectations for it do well with the Oscar nominations on Thursday, we will pop it up over the next couple of weeks and hope to get to into 1,000 theaters by Jan. 24th.”
After what was turning into a shut out of awards for black actors and African-American themed projects, Fox Searchlight’s 12 Years A Slave won the last and most-coveted Golden Globe of the night – Best Motion Picture – Drama. Director Steve McQueen accepted on behalf of the producers and cast, graciously speaking as the actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Paulson and others gathered on stage during the surprise win. The only other Golden Globe related to a black-themed project went to U2 for its Original Song in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.
Perhaps African Americans will fare better at the Oscars – Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 16th.
Brad Pitt didn’t say much during the question-and-answer session that followed the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of “12 Years a Slave” on Friday night, just a short comment on why he produced and co-starred in the Steve McQueen period drama.
But, like his turn as an abolitionist-minded maverick amid a group of brutal slaveowners, Pitt spoke volumes as he stood on the stage with cast and filmmakers. “If I never get to participate in a film again,” he said, his voice trailing off as if to imply this would be enough, “this is it for me,” he finally finished.
It’s a sentiment you could imagine the lead cast members — Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o and of course Chiwetel Eijiofor, standing out amid the standouts — sharing with Pitt. And it’s a sentiment you could imagine the audience feeling. Festivals come and go; movies rise and fade. But once in a great while there’s a film that feels almost instantly, in the room, like it’s going to endure, and change plenty of things along the way. And “12 Years” offers that feeling.
Most narrowly, that’s true on Oscar level. By 9 p.m. Friday night, just six days into September, the film had already become a top contender for various acting, writing and directing prizes, as well as the big prize. You could say that’s premature. But you probably wouldn’t if you sat in the room. (Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan certainly didn’t hold back.)
It’s equally true on a social level. “12 Years” tells the fact-based story of Solomon Northup (Eijiofor), a free man who in 1841 was kidnapped and sold into slavery, and his travails — at once horrifying and surprising, no matter how much you think you’re ready for them — when he is trafficked to a series of Southern plantations for more than a decade.