Chiwetel Ejiofor: Making "12 Years A Slave" Was "Joyful" Experience

The actor takes Peter Travers through the making of the critically-acclaimed slave film.
15:04 | 11/01/13

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Transcript for Chiwetel Ejiofor: Making "12 Years A Slave" Was "Joyful" Experience
I thought I told -- to -- -- put on -- Mass from about it feasible in place. In the united get a keg -- -- And so what days. You -- something I did as instructed. If there's something wrong it's wrong with the instruction. Yeah. Black bastard. -- clubs. Hi everybody I'm Peter Travers and welcome to popcorn -- we tell you what is happening at the movies and there's an extraordinary happening -- some -- right now called twelve years away. It's -- it's provocative it's based on the true story. There's so much to say about it and lucky for us we have this star of that movie. She would tell GO four with us to tell what thank -- yet much. So my work is done. Just. -- that now really is -- so difficult. -- start the conversation because people didn't know nothing of sound in north or don't know. About the -- -- what happened so what's the -- because let's say the beginning is the word yet soon. -- Solomon Northup was -- the free Bourne man living in. In communal and Saratoga. And you and and -- the 1840 and they 421. This is where this story begins is that. He was musician pretty middle class guy him. And finally. Few kids and a wife and he was invites kids to play it -- -- Washington by these two guys. What happened then was that he was kind of drugs and and -- -- in -- in Washington and was. His name was changed and was sent to to New Orleans where he spent two the next twelve years in Louisiana as as a slave. He managed to when he got out of that situation he wrote about it in -- C 53 and -- that's whereas the the autobiography. Some of that comes from which is the basis of of this film twelve is excellent it's incredible to me that I didn't know anything about this and that. Living here -- in America most of us really don't -- I mean I -- -- I mean for me it was also extraordinary even being. Broad was that I I got you know when I first read the screenplay I thought that Steve. McQueen and and and -- really must have done a voice seismic change to the book in order to to create a screenplay. When I am because I felt otherwise I would not that he would have known this story it's so extraordinary so kind of exceptional and of them when I read the book I realize that they -- that they that this is -- true. It's pat down obviously the book is much that is quite long but the it's had done was to make it to -- a -- film -- but it is Solomon's story and it isn't amazing to me that it isn't. You know one of the -- -- known stories it's a real it's a real gift in a way to. Just have now salute -- -- uncover and and to reclaim the story it is really an exceptional. From human dignity in the human soul. I think one of the real accomplishments of this -- what -- we are whenever we know about history or don't know about it. Is it puts us in there it puts us in there as free men. And says. Here's what -- be luck. Yeah because that's the difference he wasn't born into this yet he was living a kind of good life you know with a wife and -- And then boom we're all made slaves when we watch this -- -- where he would experience. That's exactly what I felt when I read the book whenever the screenplay you know I felt that it was something that was so deeply most of -- and I felt the back and applied to see anybody from any background. The that you you see historian -- him you knew you slipped down the rabbit hole with him and you. Experience this thing side by side with him. Unit and that's certainly how I -- when I read the book at some point it stopped being kind of -- exercise of Reading something and I felt I was inside. The experience and I felt about would be so powerful for a an audience for -- -- -- succumbing to the justice for this project. Steve McQueen as a director doesn't do a lot of material with you that isn't on your -- it's like. -- And look at this through your -- we all have to feel what sounds -- I think that it's you know it was a real. It was a real privilege to them to two just to walk with him a little bit to try and experience even a tiny fraction of -- His experiences was in and so. In a way that was nothing in this sense the people look at something that must have been hard to do but an innocence it was. Clinton complex -- -- -- it was it was it wisdom it was it was it was it was. Joyful and I was. And I felt that I wouldn't want to to tell the story so deeply. That it -- Let us and I just a privilege to even in that scene everyone who sees the movie is so struck -- where he is basically strung up and -- but not really it waiting for the master to come home. From the plantation and say whether we're gonna continue with it or -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- All -- you know -- all that's happening is Steve McQueen coming to you and saying. Get she would tell martini and and make sure that he's back in his air conditioned trailer -- that are what's happening there and they. He's not but that's not -- -- -- also involved Hamas or he would have -- out of my -- to -- the him. But really in -- way -- you're always trying to incoming stories like this I think as an actor you're trying to legitimize you'll you'll position. In telling somebody else's story especially somebody -- went through something so extraordinary and and I feel like in a way moments like that if you can get as close to that as possible as an -- if you can feel. The uncomfortable in this of that experience unit that the violence of life and death in and the develops a safety and that the but you feel it as much as you tan and it somehow. Brings you close to that person and you feel allowed to participate and two to two to tell the story as best -- -- You don't come. From the United States Europe. Lived in London yeah but Nigeria where your parents are from that's so they came what was your experience American's life. Well I always mean for life just kind of knowledge about slavery always them. Revolved around the kind of the sort of international. Dialogue in enemy. It was. By definition international is the slaves came from from Africa and I and obviously my background. Being Nigerian and Tebow and the hundreds of thousands of egos that was taken out of my during the -- have been in -- something that I was well and those who grew up in London. On the west Indian community in the west Indian slave trade and Britain's involvement in that was something that them but I also -- about growing up and and then the connection with the American slave trade and and that's the sort of knowledge of that in the growing momentum in I was born in the U -- came to Oakland. AM unit that there was something that I. Was a well in this kind of international understanding in this you -- this story. To me spoke to. Not only the slave trade in America and that and it's deeply American historians. It took -- 95% of the people involved in this. And it's an American story in that way but I felt it was it was a correct that there was an international. Element of the story and because it speaks in -- universal themes of human dignity. And humans -- since. And -- the international nature of the slave -- affect the African -- for a in its totality -- something that I felt connected to and a that it was. It was. Most important -- and that way. Did you always want to be an -- did was this something and child to that you said this is what I -- this is how can express. I did always wanted to act and then -- and Psycho on. On state -- it what it was exactly that. Some -- made that. Happen anyway I just I think it was did began with just the mid -- just reading -- at school -- whatever -- Wednesday and human Boortz and has. And suddenly inspired by something that I was reading -- them. Going off to to this this and trying to petition for something and being a teenager and and then having that moment on stage and feeling. This extraordinary way of expressing -- these stories and expressing yourself from the kind of duality and and to -- it was then sort of became my passion. How did you family of all I know you lost your dad that auto accident right you were what -- eleven. Yeah so that's what you have that -- this my taxis your tactic well but that's like a member and a sad and very soft awful thing you'd have to see it every day when. When I looked at you you have to say yeah this is when that happens the show I mean that some you know you you carry. Thankfully he knew these memories of -- people before you and them and in your life and and even if they are not present to you still hold them very -- -- Sort of mind what he thinks you're dead would think of a movie electoral abuses. Well I mean I think he would he would find it. -- in and I think in the and it's been in the depth -- range of Solomon's experiences and and and I think. -- he would be very. Connect. When the talk is coming because there's so many involved Brad Pitt not only acting in it but being one of the producers being pushing through his company -- get me yeah. A young actress like -- Peta who is so really really every so everything is coming out of this and then people scream. -- like that's the ultimate judgment on a movie so that's the thing I don't know how you deal -- -- Well. You know coming festival you know bribe it's been amazing for this crisis of this -- -- I think we commitment from without -- that -- his support is and his involvement. And he is a terrific actor but his apologies. And his company has been incredible. And as you say is I'm an actress like -- -- on those. A revelation in this film extraordinary acts in the first. Film unit. And the same time he knew when you always want people to come to film and come to experience like this. Without ruled that way without -- of this the -- in the Academy Awards ideas in and they had as things come into it meant that that it's that it is in its own way. They considered reflection on the man's life and -- an extraordinary man. And -- of the other stuff is is an amazing obviously and excites me yeah. But I don't have little visions in your -- holding the -- Among the fact that I need to -- -- singing in the mirror over the singing in the Friday afternoon that the group who really didn't screaming when it. I -- you know I. -- and again I mean I have. -- that the deepest aspirations of the half of this far -- away when he meant by just being able to. Giving -- them by being able to to tell. The story of this this really -- -- the other. Position that hearing now is that people who have been in my position who haven't gotten to see -- stage but who had seen you -- some movies they're gonna. Find those movies now I'll. And see it so legacy take what this -- and say. -- I see him before and you know this strange thing is. I think they're gonna remember that they saw you in love actually hit committed couples get. -- polar opposite to twelve -- where you're marrying Keira Knightley and life is all good business. -- a couple of hiccups with a couple ahead if but still enough film about him. The idea you know I loved that experience in that film and and -- with some great friends. And every every -- comes -- Christmas time every year. People you. We do that -- does not go Latin dance that's just one of them the other one is kinky boots. Which is where you're not wearing heels today. To -- -- you immerse yourself in that where you just had to walk around and that's. Yeah -- remember them being -- Difficult in still -- -- -- walking -- doing -- is is is not easy four and a half inches and tried. When it's straightforward battle. You know that was an amazing time in Annan who you know and the musicals here in Europe and that's. Doing extraordinarily well in did you go I haven't gone yet -- -- constantly trying to kind of too much we always and on me asking guests to do snippet of some song. That means something -- your dad wrote songs to it and yet. Is there a little bit of something that he wrote you can do what he wrote in in Eva says I don't. I think it regretted that the but. My behavior that is embarrassed really isn't there -- you know but he he and he wrote a lot of songs about them. About the craziness of Newton one of them quoted to Anchorage. And them and it's it's kind of beautiful towns and took home and he due to. -- -- Style. About the sensitive hustle and bustle and the craziness of existing and I remember being on Boston. In Nigeria when -- -- kid. And that we set on the bus we might -- uncle. And I -- -- about fourteen and the bus was stuck in traffic in Lagos and and then people -- -- -- and my -- so you know just about craziness that was going on. And -- and then my uncle told them that I was -- it was just a wonderful moment of that. Song and the reality of that in Nigeria and and that's connected to -- to the music. Clinton in your head. And you can't give me one little -- of that song -- in bad. Well that's the -- I'm and that's -- phrase it's just recently awarded to his company. And it's a pleasure to -- -- fingers until March thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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