Steve McQueen To Direct Paul Robeson Biopic

Steve McQueen. (Photo: Thierry Bal)
Steve McQueenPhoto via: Variety

Steve McQueen
Photo via: Variety

Turner Prize-winning British artist Steve McQueen will direct a biopic on American actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson, reports the Guardian.

“His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger,” McQueen said, referring to his first feature, focused on IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. “But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice,” he added. Harry Belafonte is reportedly involved, though his role has not been specified. No word on who will play Robeson.

McQueen brought home an Oscar in 2013 for his 12 Years a Slave, about Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, the film was based on Northup’s memoir (see Oscar Puts Steve McQueen Beyond Contemporary Art).

The son of a runaway slave, Robeson protested racism and injustice, leading to blacklisting during the McCarthy era, when he was branded a Communist. The government at one point declined to grant him a passport. McQueen’s video End Credits consists of footage of redacted documents related to the FBI’s harassment of Robeson; a voice-over reads excerpts.

McQueen shows with Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. His previous works have often been video projects. He also created a sculptural installation as the UK’s war artist in which he displayed prototype postage stamps with head shots of British soldiers killed in Iraq. The Royal Mail declined his proposal to print the stamps.

McQueen’s second feature, Shame, starred Michael Fassbender as a sex addict. Fassbender also starred in Hunger.

McQueen was speaking at the Hidden Heroes awards, which are put on in New York by the Andrew Goodman Foundation, which memorializes a civil rights activist murdered in Mississippi in 1964 by the KKK.

For more on the artist, see Steve McQueen Saddened by Ongoing Racial Tensions, Steve McQueen Returns to Artmaking, and A Busy Steve McQueen Withdraws from the Hugo Boss Prize Shortlist.

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