September 8, 2013

Brad Pitt may be one of Hollywood’s recognizable faces but it’s his work off-camera that’s keeping his career ticking at an alarming rate.

“12 Years a Slave,” the 19th century drama from director Steve McQueen, has garnered Oscar buzz after receiving not one but two standing ovations in less than a week, the latest at the Toronto Film Festival on Friday.

“It’s pretty special,” Brad Pitt said of the strong reaction to the drama, which the actor not only co-starred in but also produced through his Plan B banner.

“It’s one of those rare moments where story, performance and storytelling come together at the level,” he added from the Variety Studio. “We’re very proud of it.”

Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave” is based on the novel by John Ridley and tells the true story of Solomon Northrop, a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 1840s.

“Ultimately what it’s reminding us is our responsibility to take care of each other,” he said of the film’s civil themes.

Producer Jeremy Kleiner, co-president of Plan B, initially reached out to McQueen, along with Pitt and Plan B’s Dede Gardner, after the director’s first feature “Hunger” and asked him what he’d like to do next.

“The fact that there hadn’t been more films about slavery didn’t make sense for him,” Kleiner said, which led to McQueen’s wife stumbling upon the book.

“Our early mandate was to work with directors and storytellers we found complex and (who) might need a little help getting over the hill,” Pitt said of his company.

Gardner, who helped oversee production on the shoot, said the goal for Plan B and Fox Searchlight was always simple: to make it bullet-proof.

“From the beginning the idea was to get the movie far enough down the field to make it undeniable, to get it to a point where no one could poke holes in it,” she said.

So far, they’ve managed to do just that.

Read more.

September 8, 2013

Brad Pitt wants to bring more awareness to human trafficking.

The scruffy blond-haired star was at the Princess of Wales Theatre Friday for the TIFF red carpet premiere of biopic 12 Years a Slave, the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who was sold into slavery during the pre-Civil War era in the U.S.

“Why aren’t there more films about American slavery?” Pitt asked reporters at the screening.

“It’s such a part of our history and part of our DNA, something you can’t deny and in some ways, though we think we understand it and settled it, maybe we haven’t.”

Pitt plays Samuel Bass, a Canadian carpenter in the film, alongside Michael Fassbender — who plays Edwin Epps, a cruel plantation owner — and Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford, a Baptist preacher and a slave owner.

And while Pitt said as “brutal” as the content is, it’s a “beautiful film.”

“The thing this film does is remind us of our humanity and our responsibility to each other,” he said. “In no other time in the history of this world have there been more people enslaved than today at this time. That’s an incomparable stat.”

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September 8, 2013

TORONTO — The upcoming film “12 Years a Slave” is a harrowing look at slavery, but its stars, including Brad Pitt, say it’s a subject that needs to be explored more on the big screen.

Pitt, whose Plan B company produced the film about a free man sold into slavery, was at its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. Pitt said he was first drawn to the film because of its British director, Steve McQueen, known for such films as “Hunger” and “Shame.”

“We started talking to him about what he most wanted to do next and he asked the question, asked the question that no American asked, why aren’t there more films about slavery?” Pitt recalled on Friday night. “And that’s what he wanted to do. And that’s where it started and that’s what led us here tonight.”

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• x063 September 06 – Twelve Years a Slave – Toronto, Canada.
• x001 September 06 – Twelve Years a Slave (Portrait) – Toronto, Canada. Thanks Gabriella.

September 8, 2013

With his hair hanging below his shoulder, Brad Pitt sat on the stage of the Palm Theater after the screening of “12 Years a Slave.” There had been low-register buzz earlier in the day that Pitt, whose company Plan B produced the searing drama, would be in the mountain town for the world premiere. Set to open in the fall, “12 Years a Slave” is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who in 1843 was kidnapped while traveling and sold into slavery.

“First of all, I’ve seen this film a couple of times now and I find it a little difficult to speak afterwards,” said Pitt. “It might be more productive if we just had a group walk around the block.” Nearby sat McQueen and his astounding cast: Northup’s portrayer Chiwetel Ejifor; Michael Fassbender, who plays slave owner Edwin Epps; and Lupita Nyong’o, making a searing debut as Patsey.
Pitt is right. McQueen, a celebrated British artist turned filmmaker, has made a film that is as brilliantly crafted as it is relentless in depicting slavery.

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• x006 August 30 – Twelve Years a Slave (Q&A) – Telluride, CO.
• x009 August 31 – Twelve Years a Slave (Q&A) – Telluride, CO.
• x005 August 31 – Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Party) – Telluride, CO.

August 7, 2013

Fox Searchlight recently moved up the theatrical debut of Steve McQueen’s highly-anticipated drama 12 Years A Slave, from December 27 to October 18.

It’ll open in a limited roll-out and will then expand nationwide in successive weeks.

The R-rated slave narrative, McQueen’s 3rd feature, boasts a rather impressive cast of actors, including: Chiwetel Ejiofor (as Solomon Northup, the star of the film and whose story it tells), Michael Fassbender, Ruth Negga, Adepero Oduye, Alfre Woodard, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scoot McNairy, Garret Dillahunt, Brad Pitt, Michael K. Williams, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson and others.

I expect it to be an awards season favorite, especially in key roles, both in front of and behind the camera, and TIFF has proven to be an early testing ground for Oscar-caliber films. So reviews of the film after its TIFF premiere will be closely-watched.

Read more. Thanks Beetlebug.

July 16, 2013

Northup’s startling story begins when he is lured to Washington, D.C. in 1841 by the promise of a job and is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He’s transported to Louisiana where he’s put to work at hard labor.

Northup is forced to suffer all sorts of indignities as a slave, but he vows to return to the north and his family and once again be free. The story is also about his struggle to retain his dignity.

Pitt plays an abolitionist carpenter from Canada who goes to work on the plantation and learns of Northup’s plight. He works to free Solomon from his cruel owner played by Fassbender.

During his years in slavery, Northup worked on several different plantations. he was able to get word to his family, who petitioned the governor of New York to seek his freedom under an 1840 state law empowering the state to repatriate free African-American New Yorkers who faced Solomon’s fate.

He wrote his book in 1853 after he was freed, and the story helped fan abolitionist fires. Northup also became an abolitionist an helped slaves escape the South as part of the Underground Railroad. He died between 1863 and 1875 Records of his death were lost, but he is still survived by a number of heirs.

Read more.