Steve McQueen says his next film will be about Paul Robeson.
The Guardian reported that the British director revealed the news to an audience at the Hidden Heroes awards in New York organized by the Andrew Goodman Foundation on Monday.
McQueen described the Robeson movie as his dream project and something that he had longed to do, but, until now, never had the power to realize. “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.
Robeson, who died in 1976, was trained as a lawyer, but left the profession after facing racism. He went on to become a well-regarded actor, singer and civil rights activist who achieved worldwide fame and particularly made an impact in the U.K. campaigning for better pay and conditions for the miners of South Wales.
McQueen revealed to the audience that he first discovered Robeson at the age of 14, when a neighbor of his would give him books and articles that he felt the young McQueen would find interesting. One of these articles was about Robeson. “It was about this black guy who was in Wales and was singing with these miners,” said McQueen. “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.”
Robeson has featured as a subject of McQueen’s artwork before (2012’s End Credits), but the planned film will focus solely on him. McQueen didn’t divulge when the film will likely come out, but he did reveal that Harry Belafonte, who awarded the 12 Years A Slave director with the Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Media Hero award, will star in an as yet unspecified role.
Belafonte was a friend and contemporary of Robeson. On his collaboration with Belafonte on the Robeson film, McQueen said: “We’re very fortunate that we’re on a roll together to make this dream a reality. Miracles do happen. With Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte, things have come full circle.”