*”12 Years a Slave” may have received a string of honors and recognition, but at least one person was not as taken with the film.
To hear William Nicholson tell it, the Steve McQueen helmed film isn’t as good as “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” Nicholson, a screenwriter for the Nelson Mandela biopic, stated his case for “Mandela” recently at the Hay Festival in Wales. According to him, “12 Years” is the reason “Mandela” “didn’t get the kind of acclaim that I wanted.”
“I’m incredibly proud of this film. Unfortunately it didn’t get the kind of acclaim that I wanted,” Nicholson told the Daily Telegraph. “It didn’t get Oscars. ’12 Years a Slave’ came out in America and that sucked up all the guilt about black people that was available.”
Despite the South African fight against apartheid and black America’s struggle with slavery being two different experiences that share similarities, Nicholson’s opinion about “12 Years” didn’t change. So much so that he believed that moviegoers are incapable of having too much sympathy for “Mandela” and “12 Years” at the same time.
“They [the audience] were so exhausted feeling guilty about slavery that I don’t think there was much left over to be nice about our film. So our film didn’t do as well as we’d hoped, which was a bit heart-breaking,” he said. “I really thought it was going to win lots of awards, partly because it’s a good story but also because I thought I’d done a really good job and the director had done a really good job. So it has been very tough for me. Some things work and some things don’t. You just have to soldier on.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Nicholson even goes so far as to criticize his own film with claims that Nelson Mandela’s death had a negative affect on the biopic’s success.
“Mandela died as I was in the royal premiere with Will and Kate. Suddenly the word came through that he died. We were deluged with Mandela stuff and after a week we all thought, please, take it away, we’ve heard enough about Mandela.” he said while taking shots at Mandela himself. “All but one of the speeches were made up by me because his own speeches are so boring. I know it sounds outrageous to say a thing like that, but when he came out of prison he made a speech and, God, you fell asleep.”