12 Years a Slave took home the top prize at the 86th Academy Awards — capping off a momentous awards season.
Directed by Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave also took home statuettes for best supporting actress (Lupita Nyong’o) and best adapted screenplay (John Ridley).
“It’s been an absolute privilege to work on Solomon [Northup]’s story,” producer Brad Pitt said when he took the stage to accept the award, praising the “indomitable” McQueen, who was a bumbling ball of nerves when he approached the microphone. McQueen took the moment to thank Pitt, without whose support “the film would never have been made.” McQueen endearingly stumbled through his speech, aided by a piece of paper, requesting an additional minute to thank his long list of supporters — including his mother and children.
“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup,” McQueen said. He concluded his speech, “I dedicate this award to all people who have endured slavery, and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today”
Just 24 hours earlier, the Fox Searchlight film was a big winner at the Indie Spirit Awards, recognized for five major awards including best feature, best supporting female for Nyong’o and best screenplay for Ridley. 12 Years has been recognized with the top feature honor at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the Producers Guild Awards and the Satellite Awards, as well as the USC Scripter Award.
12 Years a Slave, set years before the Civil War, follows the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Subjected to the cruelty of one owner (Michael Fassbender), he finds kindness from another, as he struggles to survive and maintain his dignity. In the 12th year of the disheartening ordeal, a chance meeting with an abolitionist from Canada changes Solomon’s life.
Since its Nov. 8 release in the U.S., the critically acclaimed film also has been a commercial success, generating more than $50 million at the domestic box office and $140 million worldwide.
At The Hollywood Reporter‘s Piaget Lounge at the Indie Spirit Awards on Saturday, the producers of 12 Years a Slave said they believed in the film so strongly they “made [it] part of our mandate,” Pitt said.
“The actors, directors that we believe in and we think are pushing the medium and more difficult material that might need that little extra push, that’s been priority No. 1 for us, and this was quite evident from early on that [it] … was special to me, very special,” Pitt said of making the film. “I loved this film and we were going to get it done. It wasn’t without its hurdles.”
The Oscars, held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, were hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.