Oscar Contenders: '12 Years a Slave'

Oscar-nominated director Steve McQueen and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor talk about preparing for the film.
3:00 | 01/23/14

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Transcript for Oscar Contenders: '12 Years a Slave'
As award season eats up, 12 years a slave has already scored a golden globe for best motion picture. Now it's up for a total of nine academy awards, including best film and best director. If Steve Mcqueen wins, he'll make history as the first black director to take home an Oscar. And tonight, he's taking us inside the making of his ground breaking film. Here's ABC's Chris Connell lee with the first of our series Oscar confidential. Parker? Action. Is they shot in 108-degree heat on centuries old Louisiana plantations where such atrocities actually took place. The makers of 12 years a phrase coined a phrase, to capture the eerie alchemy of their work. We really felt we were dancing with ghosts. We were right there in the place where is these things happened. And we felt the place was alive with the sort of energy of that. It was perfumed with a scent of the past. He looked around. There was a plantation. The hearts where the slaves lived. It was in the soil, the blood, the Earth. So you're in the presence of a time and a place, but at the same time, a lot of beauty. Just five months since it was first shone to an audience "12 years a slave" directed by Steve Mcqueen is already being called a defining film about slavery. A best picture nominee about a subject disgracefully overlooked throughout much of Hollywood history. For me, it was a hole in the cannon of history. Serial comic vengeance fantasy "Django unchained." And now 44-year-old Mcqueen wanted to tell a story from a new perspective. But now? For me, it was about a free man, a free african-american and gets kidnapped into slavery. A lot of people didn't know that there were three black men and women living in the north. The story of an african brought to America had been done in "Roots" very effectively, but this is the story of an actual American that's kidnapped and dragged into slavery. Much of "12 years a slave's" narrative and dialogue come from the biography of Andrew Northup. From the start, mcgeen knew who he wanted to play Solomon Northup. When they offered you this, you said no. Yeah, I took a moment. I had never seen a film from inside this experience, from ins inside the slave experience. And I felt the responsibility of it and I needed to kind of have, you know, a kind of moment to work out just how to get there. Why did you have to get there? He reminds me of harry belafonte. Sid ney Portier. He has that dignity in him. And he carries it in an environment which is to be humane. And to me, he's the only one that has that quality. Crushed by intolerable circumstances, he fights for more than freedom. He's having a battle with his soul. He's trying to hold it together. It's difficult for someone to hang on to their mind. Their battle climaxes with the slave of the young slave patsy, the role for which Mcqueen chose hundreds of actors, played by Lupita ns a -- n'gando. There were days I thought would never find someone. I wanted a breeze on the back of your hand. I'm asking the world for somebody that doesn't exist. But we found it. Oh, we found it. I ain't got no comfort in this life. She held her own. I remember the first day of rehears rehearsal. She came into rehearsal. You could see these guys. Okay, I've got to get my together. Tmcqueen used a long take captured by one camera, to capture the intensity that marks his film from "Hunger" to the sex addiction of "Shame." Let them do what they want to do. Then we try to trace that. In order to keep that pressure on. Trip. I will not. I put a cut in there. The pressure would have been defused. A 35-day fuse meant external pressures, too. Alleviated in part by brad Pitt. In one eight-minute scene can be gleaned from this comically inappropriate and unauthorized Italian poster. Brad was fundamental in making this movie. You know, without him there would not be "12 years a slave." At its New York premier descendants of Solomon Northrup's was there. I'm a third generation great -- Great, great, great granddaughter. They're all different races, you know? They're all direct descendants of this man. You know, that's what it's all about. There is such a passion and a love in this story. And it is that love that I think allows him to go through it. Its stature already suggests that "12 years a slave" may become part of the film cannon it was meant to redress. If this movie winds up getting taught in schools. If generations of schoolchildren watch this, how will that make you feel? Very happy. You know? I just want to be useful. That's a definite. I just want to be useful. That's all I want to be. It's one of those things where I just want to go out with two guns blazing. Nothing to lose. I'm Chris Connelly for

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