Steve McQueen and Harry Belafonte Join Forces for Paul Robeson Film

Steve McQueen’s next biopic is sure to cause controversy. 

Director Steve McQueen backstage at the Tracy Reese fashion show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015 at Art Beam on Sept. 7, 2014, in New York City. 
Director Steve McQueen backstage at the Tracy Reese fashion show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015 at Art Beam on Sept. 7, 2014, in New York City.  Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Steve McQueen nabbed three Oscars for his film 12 Years a Slave, which told the story of Solomon Northup and his fight for freedom after being captured and forced into slavery. McQueen’s telling of Northup’s story not only opened up a bit of history many people never knew about but also gave insight into what McQueen’s thought process is when it comes to making a film. And his next film isn’t any different.

Speaking at the Hidden Heroes Awards in New York City on Monday, McQueen revealed to the attendees that his next movie will be about Paul Robeson. Robeson was the quintessential Renaissance man, from his early start as a scholar and athlete at Rutgers University to singing his well-known song “Ol’ Man River.” Outside of the arts, Robeson was also a powerful voice during the civil rights movement. But some of his political views weren’t always welcome. During the McCarthy era, Robeson was labeled a communist and blacklisted, but that didn’t stop him from expressing his opinion.

“His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger. But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice,” McQueen said, according to The Guardian. McQueen also credits a neighbor for piquing his interest about Robeson when he passed an article to him.

“It was about this black guy who was in Wales and was singing with these miners,” McQueen recalled. “I was about 14 years old, and not knowing who Paul Robeson was, this black American in Wales, it seemed strange. So then, of course, I just found out that this man was an incredible human being.”

Not only will McQueen’s movie look into various aspects of Robeson’s life, but he’ll also have the help of Robeson’s friend, the iconic Harry Belafonte. Although Belafonte’s role in the film has yet to be discussed, the award-winning actor said only good things about McQueen.

“We get on like a house on fire,” McQueen told The Guardian. “I never thought I’d make a new friend, and a man who is 87 years old, but I’m very happy. He’s a beautiful man.”

McQueen hasn’t revealed who he has in mind to play Robeson, but he’s definitely eager to start working with Belafonte. “Miracles do happen. With Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte, things have come full circle, “McQueen stated. 

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