*Steve McQueen, the British director of “12 Years a Slave,” has turned his attention toward a big screen biopic of Paul Robeson.
The singer and actor rose to fame in the 1920s and eventually became involved in the civil rights movement. Later in his career, Paul was branded a communist during the McCarthy era and was blacklisted in Hollywood.
Speaking at the Hidden Heroes awards in New York, McQueen said: ”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, 45, recalled being a teenager when a neighbor gave him a newspaper clipping about Robeson and his efforts to draw attention to the hardship and suffering endured by thousands of unemployed miners and their families in South Wales – a cause he championed while performing in Show Boat in London’s West End in 1928.
“It was about this black guy who was in Wales and was singing with these miners. 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.”
McQueen also revealed that Robeson’s friend, singer/songwriter Harry Belafonte, will also be featured in the film. He said of the actor: ”We get on like a house on fire. 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.”