Twelve Years a Slave will be released in North America on December 27, 2013, domestic distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures has announced. Directed by Steve McQueen, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay with John Ridley (whose Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is by My Side should come out later this year), Twelve Years a Slave features an extensive cast: McQueen collaborator Michael Fassbender (Hunger, Shame), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Garret Dillahunt, Sarah Paulson, Scoot McNairy, Ruth Negga, Dwight Henry, Michael Kenneth Williams, Kelsey Scott, 2013 Best Actress Academy Award nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), and veteran Alfre Woodard (Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee for Cross Creek back in early 1984).
Based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 autobiography, Twelve Years a Slave recounts the fate of New York-born free man Northup, who was abducted in Washington, D.C., in 1841, to be sold into slavery at a plantation in the Deep South where he labored for twelve years. Twelve Years a Slave reportedly had a $20m budget — which should make it eligible for both the 2013 Gotham Awards and the 2013 Spirit Awards.
Although the slavery theme makes Twelve Years a Slave sound similar to last year’s Django Unchained, the similarities should end there. Not only the plots of both films are quite different, but Steve McQueen is a filmmaker with a radically different sensibility than Quentin Tarantino’s.
Django Unchained earned Tarantino this year’s Best Original Screenplay Academy Award, in addition to the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Christoph Waltz. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx co-star in Tarantino’s film.
Of note, an American Playhouse TV drama directed by Gordon Parks, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey was aired in 1984. Avery Brooks (Spenser: For Hire, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) played Solomon Northup, while the supporting cast included John Saxon, Joe Seneca, Michael Tolan, Lee Bryant, Petronia Paley, and Rhetta Greene.
Twelve Years a Slave joins Oscar 2013 race
Twelve Years a Slave will open alongside The Weinstein Company’s Grace of Monaco, featuring another real-life figure, Grace Kelly (The Country Girl, To Catch a Thief). Directed by Olivier Dahan, whose La Vie en Rose earned Marion Cotillard the Best Actress Academy Award six years ago, Grace of Monaco stars Nicole Kidman as Kelly aka Princess of Monaco.
Also crammed into the last days in December are Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin, a revamped version of the 1940s’ Japanese samurai classic, starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, and Tadanobu Asano; Kenneth Branagh’s thriller Jack Ryan, starring Star Trek’s Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, and Keira Knightley, and not to be confused with Tom Cruise’s late December 2012 thriller Jack Reacher; and another remake, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller (who also directed) in the old Danny Kaye role, and supported by Kristen Wiig (apparently in the old Virginia Mayo role), Adam Scott, and Patton Oswalt (probably not in the old Fay Bainter role).
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Quvenzhané Wallis, Kelsey Scott Twelve Years a Slave photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures.