The tree where Solomon sees several men being lynched was actually used for lynching, and is surrounded by the graves of murdered slaves.
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In order to better portray an alcoholic, Michael Fassbender had his makeup artist paint his mustache with alcohol so that the other actors would react naturally to the smell, as they would to a man who had been drinking heavily.
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Director Sir Steve McQueen had been toying with the idea of writing a script about slavery, featuring a black man who had been born free and was later forced into slavery, but McQueen was struggling with the script until his wife found Solomon Northup's biography and gave it to him. Shocked that he had never heard of Northup before, he decided to adapt the book instead.
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At first, Chiwetel Ejiofor turned down Sir Steve McQueen's offer to play the leading role of Solomon Northup, but then realized he had to get over his initial fear of taking on what McQueen thought would be the role of the actor's lifetime. Ejiofor prepared for his role by immersing himself in the Louisiana plantation culture and learning how to play the violin.
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Before filming their more brutal scenes together, Lupita Nyong'o and Michael Fassbender performed a ritual of "making nice." According to Nyong'o, "We wouldn't say anything to each other, just a look in the eye and a grasping of hands. Our characters are in such opposition, but we as actors needed each other in order to be able to go the distance."
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Sir Steve McQueen's daughter told him to hire Sarah Paulson after viewing her audition tape, because she found her scary.
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Tibeats mocks the black men by singing a hopeful song, urging them to run away lest they be caught by the "patty roller." This word, also spelled "patter roller" among other variants, was slang for patrolman. The Patrols, also called the Regulators, were semi-official secret police who kept slaves in line in antebellum times. These groups also served as a model for the post-war terror society Ku Klux Klan.
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Sir Steve McQueen disclosed on The Colbert Report (2005) that when Solomon Northup's autobiography, "12 Years a Slave," was first published in 1853, it sold terribly due to other, more popular books released around the same time. In fact, when the book was released, it sold more than 30,000 copies, making it a bestseller in its own right. He also said that the interest that the film has generated has put the book back on the bestseller list.
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In the movie, Ford purchased Solomon Northup and Eliza for $1000 and $700 respectively. Calculating inflation between 1841 and 2014, the equivalent dollar amount would be $27,000 and $19,000, respectively.
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Sarah Paulson was originally unable to accept the role of Mary Epps, due to scheduling conflicts with the second season of American Horror Story (2011). When series creator Ryan Murphy found out about this he rearranged the show's production schedule so that Paulson could work on both projects.
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Michael Kenneth Williams had an emotional breakdown while filming what eventually became a deleted scene in the movie, as he related on the The Arsenio Hall Show (2013). The stress of recreating such painful material caused him to collapse to the ground after a take, where he screamed and cried for an extended period as one of the stunt coordinators comforted him.
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On location, shooting in Louisiana took only thirty-five days with one camera, which prompted amazed laughter from an audience of Directors Guild peers, including interviewer Kathryn Bigelow, for the startlingly efficient direction of Sir Steve McQueen.
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In an October 2013 interview with NPR, Sir Steve McQueen mentioned that Solomon Northup's 1853 book reminded him of "The Diary of Anne Frank" from nearly a century later. McQueen noted that he lives in Amsterdam and that Anne Frank is a national hero in his home country; when Northup's book resonated the same way with him, he then resolved he would not rest until he had turned it into a movie.
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Feature film debut for actress Lupita Nyong'o. She went on to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the film.
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In Italy, promotional posters for the film featured Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender, instead of leading actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. When the media broke the story, with many organizations and other sources discussing the "racist" posters, the studio explained that Pitt and Fassbender are better known in Italy than Ejiofor.
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In reference to the whipping scene, Lupita Nyong'o said: "It's all about the crack of the whip. You hear it. And you feel it. I felt the wind of it every single time. I didn't need much more. That was one technical thing, and definitely it took some finessing because obviously I can't see what's happening. I can't see the whip. I can only react to the sound and the wind of it, yeah? So it was hard, but that day was as real as it could have possibly been for me, because in preparing for it, all I could do was be present."
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Paul Giamatti, who played slave trader Freeman, also played 1st U.S. vice president / 2nd U.S. president John Adams in the HBO TV-series "John Adams". President John Adams was the only founding father to become president who never owned a slave in his life.
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Along with Gravity (2013), this is the first film to tie for Best Picture at the Producer Guild Awards.
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This is the third film collaboration of Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. They previously appeared together in Inglourious Basterds (2009) and The Counselor (2013). This is also the third collaboration between Michael Fassbender and Sir Steve McQueen, after Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011).
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Vera Farmiga auditioned for Mistress Epps but Sarah Paulson was cast. Farmiga admitted that she wanted the role so much, but was happy for Paulson.
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This is not the first time that Solomon's story has been told on film. In 1984 director Gordon Parks premiered a made-for-television version entitled "Solomon Northup's Odyssey".
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Brad Pitt, who played a cameo role as Bass, was originally approached for the Michael Fassbender part but turned it down.
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After Around the World in 80 Days (1956) this was only the second Best Picture Oscar winner with Arabic numerals in the title, rather than Roman numerals or a spelled-out number.
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The film cast includes two Oscar winners, Lupita Nyong'o and Brad Pitt and six Oscar nominees, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhané Wallis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender. Both Pitt and N'yongo won for this film, for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress respectively. Eijofor and Fassbender were also nominated for this film, for Best Actor and Supporting Actor respectively.
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Taran Killam often impersonates Brad Pitt on Saturday Night Live (1975). Though both actors appear in this film, they never met nor worked together in it. Pitt's Plan B company produced the movie, and Pitt's role was only a small one.
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12 Years a Slave (2013) is the first film from a black director to win the Academy Award for Best Picture; second film in a row, following Argo (2012), to win Best Picture and a screenplay Oscar without the Best Director Oscar; fifth film with a numbered-title to win Best Picture, following It Happened One Night (1934), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), The Godfather Part II (1974) and Around the World in 80 Days (1956); twelfth movie to win Best Picture with only three Oscars, a list that includes Casablanca (1942), Midnight Cowboy (1969), The Godfather (1972), Rocky (1976), Crash (2004) and Argo (2012).
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When Lupita Nyong'o auditioned for this film she hadn't yet found an agent.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," edited by Steven Schneider.
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This movie marks the reuniting of Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis, both from Louisiana, where the film was shot, who had been acclaimed just months before for their first acting roles when they costarred in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012). However, they do not share any scenes together.
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Of the seven titles directed by Sir Steve McQueen through July 2013, this movie is the first which does not have a one-word title.
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Paul Giamatti was playing an unscrupulous slave trader, Freeman, who cared for nothing but money. In Planet of the Apes (2001), his character, Limbo, was portrayed as the simian "orangutan" human slave trader, who exhibited the exact same character features: greedy, unscrupulous and savage.
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The film won the ADAM, UPC Audience Award at Amsterdam Film Week 2013.
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Both Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o who star in this film both later voiced animals in Disney live action remakes by Jon Favreau. Nyong'o played Raksha in The Jungle Book (2016) and Ejiofor played Scar in The Lion King (2019).
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There are several Marvel characters in this movie: Chiwetel Ejiofor - Solomon/Mordo (Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU) Benedict Cumberbatch - Ford/Dr. Strange (MCU), Michael Fassbender - Epps/Magneto (X-Men series), and Lupita Nyong'o - Patsy/Nakia (MCU).
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Brad Pitt (Bass) and Scoot McNairy (Brown) previously worked together on Killing Them Softly (2012) as Jackie & Frankie respectively.
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Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti would both later go on to act in Love & Mercy (2014), the story of Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys with Dano as Wilson and Giamatti as Eugene Landy.
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Liza J. Bennett's debut.
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Several members of the cast of 12 Years a Slave have been in Marvel Comic Movies. Chiwetel Ejiofor was Mordo in Doctor Strange (2016). Benedict Cumberbatch was Doctor Stephen Strange in Doctor Strange (2016) Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Avengers: Endgame (2019), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021 ). Paul Giamatti was Aleksei Sytsevich a.k.a The Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). Michael Fassbender was Erik Lensherr a.k.a Magneto in the X-Men movies. Lupita Nyong'o was Nakia in Black Panther (2018). Alfre Woodard was Miriam in Captain America: Civil War (2016).
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Despite playing an African-American character, Lupita Nyong'o is of Kenyan descent, which is in East Africa. Most African-Americans are of West-Central African descent.
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Four of the cast also appear in Arnold Schwarzenegger films. JD Evermore (Chapin) and Douglas M. Griffin (Sailor) both appeared in Maggie (2015), with Griffin also having a turn in Terminator Genisys (2015). Scoot McNairy (Brown) is appearing in Aftermath (2017), and Taran Killam (Hamilton) directed and appeared in Killing Gunther (2017). In addition, Garret Dillahunt (Armsby) played Cromartie in the spin off Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008).
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Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender appear together in this Best Picture winner. Cumberbatch also appeared this year in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, a prequel to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, which won Best Picture a decade before. Both of those films starred Ian McKellen, who also appeared in X-Men as Magneto. Fassbender played Magneto in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past.
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Solomon Northup disappeared four years after he was freed. To this day, historians do not know what happened to him.
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It was not until after the book was published that the real Solomon Northup learned for certain that the two men who lured him to Washington really had drugged and kidnapped him - he'd thought of it, certainly, but he always had doubts until a judge read his book and recognized them (and it was subsequently found that they had used false names and were actually a pair of known/suspected con men).
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Michael Fassbender momentarily passed out after filming the rape scene.
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Brad Pitt was criticised for casting himself in a brief heroic role. Pitt claimed that he did not insist on being cast in the part, and it was easier to secure funding for the picture if he was in it.
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In a November 2013 interview with the LA Times, Michael Fassbender (Edwin Epps) explained the sinister meaning behind a scene that occurs late in the movie: "When the slaves come back from Judge Turner's, Sir Steve McQueen was like, 'What do you think if you don't have your pants on?' I was like, 'That's great, and maybe we should have something else, like the little girl. It says so much with him holding her hand, not wearing pants: He's priming the next Patsey. So you find those little elements that add to the character and tell things without any exposition."
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Steve McQueen: [long takes] The scene where Ford buys Solomon and Eliza is an unbroken 3 minute, 1 second shot; Patsey being chained and whipped by Epps lasts 4 minutes, 46 seconds.
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Body Count: 7.
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