How Awards Season Paved the Way for Steve McQueen’s Paul Robeson Biopic

The “12 Years a Slave” director met new collaborator Harry Belafonte at the New York Film Critics awards

It seems that awards season itself played a small part in the formation of a Paul Robeson biopic that “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen announced as his next film on Tuesday.

McQueen disclosed that Robeson’s fellow iconic singer/actor Harry Belafonte will be involved in the film in an unspecified capacity, and it was the director’s “12 Years a Slave” campaign trail that led him to the legendary singer — the two met at the New York Film Critics awards.

McQueen revealed his plans at an event in New York that was covered by The Guardian.

“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,” said McQueen, who certainly has the juice now following “12 Years a Slave’s” Best Picture win.

The British director got hooked on the cinematic potential of Robeson’s story after reading a newspaper article about the singer’s support of Welsh miners.

While Robeson may be best known for singing “Ol’ Man River” and starring in “Othello,” he’ll also be remembered as a political activist. He died in 1976 at the age of 77.

McQueen is coming off an Oscar nomination for directing “12 Years a Slave,” which won him Best Picture as one of the film’s producers. His follow-up film is no doubt highly anticipated by film fans worldwide.