Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender on ’12 Years a Slave’

Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in "12 Years a Slave." Credit: Getty Images
Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in “12 Years a Slave.”
Credit: Getty Images

Chiwetel Ejiofor just assumed everyone knew the story of Solomon Northup. A free black man kidnapped into the South in 1841, his memoirs have been adapted into the new film “12 Years a Slave,” starring Ejiofor. “I thought it would just be a ubiquitous tale that everyone knew,” the actor confesses.

Though that isn’t so, the resulting film is garnering major raves and serious Oscar talk for bringing a unique look at slavery. For Ejiofor, what makes it stand out is Northup himself. “The first time I saw the script, I didn’t see Solomon in the story. I saw a man,” he recalls. “It was only when I was reading the biography that it struck me it’s about THIS man — this very specific man. This is about Solomon Northup, an individual who has a very fascinating way of looking at the world even within the context of what is happening to him.”

He says Northup, even at his lowest ebb, had unexpected reservoirs of love. “He starts off in a battle for his freedom, but he realizes he’s in a battle for his mind. Anything that is not going to help him he just cuts loose. And hatred ain’t going to help him.”

One scene that really affected Ejiofor while playing was a scene where he’s the victim of an aborted lynching, then is left hanging by the tree, balancing on his tiptoes. “In the book [Northup] talks about how he would have given more years of servitude had they moved him a few feet into the shade,” Ejiofor recalls. “I wanted to feel that connection. If I could put a tiny fraction of that (into the film), it would be an incredible thing to know and to feel and to play.”

Michael Fassbender, who plays Epps, Northup’s final and toughest plantation master, says the film shows how everyone is affected by slavery. “What was happening on the Epps plantation was affecting everybody,” he says. “It’s living hell what the slaves went through. But for the oppressors, there’s a transference of that pain. To be giving out that pain every day, to be living in that abnormal way, it has an effect on everyone.”

He says he didn’t want to play Epps as a one-dimensional monster. “We’re all human beings. We’re all made of the same thing. For me there’s a lot of fear in these characters. They’re all tortured.”

The film is the latest from filmmaker Steve McQueen, who previously directed Fassbender in “Hunger” and “Shame.” For Fassbender it was once again a very challenging experience. “He’s just got a bulls— detector. As actors we sometimes have a tendency — I’ll speak for myself — to use tricks or get comfortable in certain ways. Steve likes to disintegrate that,” he says. McQueen is an experimental filmmaker whose move to more conventional narrative films hasn’t made him too conventional. “He’s often said film is a baby in the art world. It’s only been around for 100 years. So there is no formula. There is no right and wrong. There just is.”

In fact, when Lupita Nyong’o — the young actress who plays Patsey, a slave particularly abused by Epps — came onto set, it kicked him up a notch. “I could see the hunger of a new student coming out of school. That’s such a beautiful thing to see. It made me think I needed to get my s— together.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Dogs are capable of feeling jealousy - U.S.…

By Curtis Skinner(Reuters) - Dogs are a man's best friend, and research released on Wednesday says canines want to keep it that way.Dogs are capable…

Local

G train riders brace for five-week shutdown

G train service will be suspended between Brooklyn and Queens between Friday, July 25, and Tuesday, Sept. 2.

International

Peaches Geldof's death was drugs-related, coroner rules

LONDON (Reuters) - The death of Peaches Geldof, the daughter of musician and Band Aid founder Bob Geldof, was drugs-related, a coroner ruled on Wednesday.The…

Local

Family, supporters gather in Brooklyn for Eric Garner…

Family members gathered on Wednesday for the funeral of Eric Garner, who died shortly after police put him in a banned chokehold as they arrested him.

Going Out

5 must-try dishes at Edible Manhattan's Good Beer

Rooting out the exotic amid the New York City bar scene is noble quest. But if you’d like to have it all come to you,…

Books

Art imitates life (almost) in David Shapiro's new…

David Shapiro talks about his book, "You're Not Much Use To Anyone."

Movies

Dakota Fanning's indie growing pains on 'Very Good…

Dakota Fanning on her latest "Very Good Girls."

Entertainment

Britney Spears launches new lingerie line and fans…

Women everywhere can say that they are not that innocent when Britney Spears launches her new lingerie and loungewear line. “Every woman should feel confident…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

MLB

Brandon McCarthy finds his calling on Twitter

Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy joined Twitter three year ago for the same reason many people do: to get news quickly.

Sports

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running…

Fantasy football: Johnny Manziel could give your running game a boost

Food

Recharge with a post-workout smoothie from Nicky Hilton

Some people can roll out of bed right as their alarm goes off. And that alarm isn’t set for 20 minutes before they have to…

Education

Colleges are increasingly embracing the concept of gender-neutral…

  Northwestern University recently made headlines after announcing that it would be installing two gender-neutral bathrooms in the university's student center. “These are two gender-open…

Career

How to prepare to interview for your dream…

    Congratulations! You landed a job interview at your dream company! A lot of hard work has gone into determining which companies to apply…

Style

The shirtdress is a summer must-have

  We love throwing on our boyfriend’s shirt and a pair of jeans (no matter how much he grumbles that it’s his turn to wear the…