A bitter feud brewing between 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley came to a frosty head during the Oscars Sunday. Ridley won for best adapted screenplay, and in accepting his award, he bypassed the director to hug director David O. Russell. Ridley did not mention McQueen in his acceptance speech, and McQueen’s empty applause at Ridley’s win would have barely disturbed the most anxious golfer.
Later that evening, when 12 Years a Slave took home the award for best picture, McQueen returned the shun, making no mention of Ridley during his acceptance speech.
How did the relationship between writer and director of one of the greatest period pieces in history turn so cold? According to rumors, the two have been at odds for quite some time over screenplay credit, and the feud has bubbled to the threshold of public rudeness and caused producer Brad Pitt to play Switzerland, but even he has proved an unsuccessful peacemaker.
McQueen allegedly wanted writing credit for the screenplay, which, according to the industry publication The Wrap, is standard Hollywood practice. Ridley is notorious, however, for denying writer credits to directors, even if the finished work includes heavy rewrites. Ridley just quashed a long-standing feud with Three Kings director over the same thing.
According to The Wrap, all parties involved agreed to remain silent about their beef for the good of movie promotion, and clearly that proved wise, considering the award darling the movie has become, but tension between the two became the whisper behind the scenes.
McQueen originally tapped Ridley to write a slave script that turned into 12 Years a Slave after McQueen’s wife discovered the book. Although McQueen had a hand in the completed screenplay, Ridley denied the director screenwriter credit.
An individual familiar with the icy situation tells The Wrap that McQueen barred people from speaking to Ridley and insisted that the writer be seated apart at award shows, including the British Academy of Film Television Arts.
At the BAFTAs, McQueen allegedly berated Ridley’s wife while the writer was in the bathroom. The director reportedly tried to snatch up her BAFTA souvenirs, leaving her in tears, according to two sources who spoke with The Wrap.
That night, 12 Years a Slave took top honors and McQueen, who read his acceptance speech off a sheet of paper, didn’t thank Ridley until another producer whispered in his ear.
While many involved in the project hoped the two would end their beef by Oscar time, it wouldn’t be so. In the age of social media and the Internet, a Vine video of Ridley side-eyeing McQueen on his walk to the podium before accepting his Oscar has been making the rounds. It also shows McQueen’s unenthusiastic applause and the two ignoring each other on a continuous loop.