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Steve McQueen On The Violence In ‘12 Years A Slave’: “Either I Was Going To Make A Film About Slavery Or I Wasn’t”: Video

By | Friday January 17, 2014 @ 10:00pm PST

The Oscar-nominated director of 12 Years A Slave was on The Arsenio Hall Show tonight addressing his critics and weighing in on why he believes Hollywood had never created “a real portrayal of slavery.” Steve McQueen says his film is about survival and love, and he credits Barack Obama for “allowing artists and filmmakers to have the authority” to tell the slaves’ story. Here’s the clip:

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Steve McQueen, BBC Developing Drama Series On The Black Experience In Britain

2013 Governors Awards: Steve McQueenBritish director Steve McQueen is headed to the BBC. The 12 Years A Slave helmer is working on a “major drama,” according to BBC Controller Ben Stephenson, who told Deadline, “It is incredibly exciting to be working with the hugely talented British director who has rapidly become one of the finest directors in the world.” The news was first reported by The Daily Mail‘s Baz Bamigboye, who says the director told him the West London-set series would explore the black experience in Britain as seen by a group of friends and their families from 1968 to today. McQueen noted, “I don’t think there has been a serious drama series in Britain with black people from all walks of life as the main protagonists.” The series, described as “epic” in scope, is being developed with Rainmark Films (Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight) and will air on either BBC One or BBC Two, although it is expected to take at least another year. This would be the director’s first drama series. 12 Years A Slave has been earning prizes this awards season and is nominated for multiple Golden Globes and BAFTAs.

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NY Film Critics Circle Apologizes For Steve McQueen Heckling; Latest Outburst In Classless Oscar Campaign Season

By | Tuesday January 7, 2014 @ 12:52pm PST
Mike Fleming

a_190x190EXCLUSIVE: The New York Film Critics Circle has issued a formal apology for the behavior of at least one of its member critics at last night’s awards ceremony when director Steve McQueen accepted his prize for 12 Years A Slave. Our sister publication Variety identified the heckler as CityArts editor and well-known cantankerous contrarian critic Armond White, who, per Ramin Setoodeh’s report, said some remarkably inelegant foul-mouthed things to McQueen after the filmmaker was introduced in an impassioned speech by Harry Belafonte. The apology was issued to McQueen and the film’s distributor, Fox Searchlight, by NYCC chair Joshua Rothkopf.

Related: New York Film Critics Circle Awards: ‘American Hustle’ Best Film

Here is the missive:

It truly was a wonderful night: We felt like we were in the presence of
something truly historic, with Mr. Belafonte’s exquisite presentation and Mr.
McQueen’s elegant words of acceptance.

Unfortunately, the moment was slightly marred, and I’d like to address that

On behalf of the New York Film Critics Circle, I apologize sincerely for the
crass bit of heckling Mr. McQueen encountered. I’m mortified to learn that this
was from one of our own members. We are taking disciplinary action.

I’m especially pained that this occurred in your case. Rarely do we receive
thank-you notes, as Steve sent us after the vote. Moreover, his speech showed a
deep understanding of the history of our award winners: an honored group in
which he stands as an equal.

Please forward our apology on to him.

Thank you, your talent and your team for making the night a special one,
Joshua Rothkopf, 2013 Chair, NYFCC

This kind of classless behavior seems to be in full swing this Oscar season, maybe because there are so many publications covering every heartbeat of a wide-open race. Read More »

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No Shockers Among DGA Awards Film Nominees: Cuaron, Greengrass, McQueen, Russell, Scorsese

Pete Hammond

Today’s eagerly awaited DGA nominations are out and there are no surprises in the bunch. Gravity’s martin scorseseAlfonso Cuaron, Captain Phillips’  Paul Greengrass, 12 Years A Slave’s Steve McQueen, American Hustle’s David O. Russell and The Wolf Of Wall Street‘s Martin Scorsese were all odds-on favorites to make the five — and they did. Some might have questioned Scorsese’s chances since the film has become a lightning rod for controversy and was the last major release of the year, meaning the 15,000-member guild voters would have to see it in time to cast their ballot. But c’mon, he’s Martin Scorsese. There would be no denying this achievement among his fellow directors. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the guild and 10 other nominations with 3 wins in 3 different categories (The Departed in film, Boardwalk Empire in TV and George Harrison: Living In The Material World in documentary). He’s a god to this guild. Greengrass, McQueen and Cuaron are all first-timers here, while Russell was nominated for 2010′s The Fighter. However, Russell was passed over for a nomination last year for Silver Linings Playbook but  went on to receive an Oscar nod for that film anyway.

BenAffleck_DirectorsGuildAward_GettyImagesGenerally there is a strong correlation between the DGA and the Oscars. Only seven times has the winner of the DGA Award not gone on to win the Oscar . But the most recent time, last year, was also among the most infamous: Ben Affleck still went on to win the DGA Best Director award for Argo even after the Academy’s much smaller — and quirkier — Directors Branch threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings and snubbed Affleck in its nominations. Life Of Pi’s Ang Lee went on to win the Oscar after losing to Affleck at the DGA, while Argo took Best Picture. In addition to Lee the only agreement the Academy’s Directors Branch had with the DGA was Steven Spielberg’s nomination for Lincoln. It was one of the worst years ever since the DGA Awards were founded in 1948  in terms of a match-up between the guild’s list and Oscar (which also nominated Behn Zeitlin of Beasts Of The Southern Wild and Amour’s Michael Haneke in addition to Russell). I don’t expect the same thing to happen this year.  This is a very strong lineup that includes all the likely frontrunners to grab an Academy Directorial nod as well. But as we all learned last year Oscar often has surprises up its sleeve. We’ll see. Read More »

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OSCARS Q&A: Steve McQueen On ‘12 Years A Slave’ – “It Was As Real As It Got”

By | Friday December 27, 2013 @ 7:45am PST
Pete Hammond

For having covered such dark material in all three of his feature films—Hunger (2008), Shame (2011)AwardsLine.LogoBW and this year’s 12 Years A Slave — Steve McQueen will be the first to admit he’s actually a happy, jovial guy. And with all the recent accolades pouring in, he’s got a lot to smile about. Already a winner as best director from New York, Washington D.C. and Boston critics groups, McQueen also nabbed a Golden Globe nomination and is courting Oscar. His harrowing look at slavery, a subject Hollywood rarely explores, has defied any expectations that some of the violent scenes depicted in the film would affect its reception at the box office.

Related: OSCARS: A Crowded Field Vying For Directing & Writing Noms

12 Years A SlaveAwardsLine: Hollywood has not really tapped into slavery as much as, say, the Holocaust. People are responding to it because it is, oddly enough, a new subject for them in movies.
Steve McQueen: I suppose you’re quite right. Also, what’s interesting about this being a new subject is that it’s about our shit history. Even if I’m British, it’s my shit history too. The screen becomes a mirror that reflects this unfortunate recent past. But that past is strangely about love. What I mean is that through all the unfortunate situations that have happened, the slaves survived what limited choices they had and they brought up their children. And through that comes someone like me. The fact that I’m sitting here talking to you is because of my ancestors’ sacrifices. And I don’t take that for granted.

Related: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Leads London Critics’ Circle Nominations
Read More »

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Steve McQueen To Receive Palm Springs’ Director Of The Year Award

By | Thursday November 21, 2013 @ 6:37am PST

Palm Springs, CA (November 21, 2013) – The 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) will present Steve McQueen with the Director of the Year Award for 12 Years a Slave at its annual Awards Gala. The Gala will also present awards to previously announced honorees Sandra Bullock, Bruce Dern and Matthew McConaughey. Presented by Cartier and hosted by Mary Hart, the Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 4 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 3-13, 2014.

Read More »

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‘12 Years A Slave’ Director Steve McQueen Sets Provocative Drama Project At HBO

EXCLUSIVE: Steve McQueen, director of the Oscar-buzzed slavery feature 12 Years A Slave, is making his first foray into television with another project featuring a black protagonist. McQueen has teamed with World War Z co-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan, hip-hop mogul/producer Russell Simmons and Oscar-winning producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman (The King’s Speech) on the drama project, which is in development at HBO. Co-written by McQueen and Carnahan and to be directed by McQueen, the untitled drama is carrying McQueen’s signature style of provocative filmmaking and is described as an exploration of a young African-American man’s experience entering New York high society, with a past that may not be what it seems. We hear the project, described by some as “Six Degrees Of Separation meets Shame“, Russell Simmons Harriet Tubmanis being fast tracked, with casting choices already being explored for a potential shoot before McQueen starts his next movie. McQueen, Carnahan and Simmons executive produce with Canning and Sherman. Canning and Sherman produced McQueen’s second feature, Shame, with Canning also serving as an executive producer on McQueen’s feature debut, Hunger, which won the Camera d’Or in Cannes. McQueen’s third feature, 12 Years A Slave, got … Read More »

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Telluride: ‘12 Years A Slave’ Ignites The Festival, But Fox Searchlight Plans To Take It Slow

Pete Hammond

Telluride has been buzzing since last night’s first screening of Steve McQueen‘s excellent slavery drama, 12 Years A Slave. One site which shall remain nameless was so overcome that the writer already just about declared the Oscar race over and done. “Guess we don’t have to go to Toronto now,” said a publicist here with another contender. One blogger stopped me on the street today after I saw the film and asked, “So do you agree with us (bloggers) the actor race is done?” he said in referring to star Chewitel Ejiofor‘s towering and dignified performance as the slave Solomon Northup, who lived to tell his harrowing tale and write a book about it in 1853. As I said yesterday, hyperbole is a big part of any festival like this and intelligent moviegoers are so thirsty for Oscar-quality adult movie fare they might have a tendency to go overboard with praise. But it’s a disservice to a very fine but challenging film like 12 Years A Slave to build up such high expectations no movie could possibly live up to it.

As I exited the packed 650-seat Herzog Theatre, I ran into Fox Searchlight co-President Nancy Utley, who was there gauging reaction to her film, which they open in LA and NY on October 18 and then roll out slowly. She agreed it is a film that should be “discovered” but, obviously happy with the ecstatic reaction so far at its first two screenings, added that this film needs special handling. “It’s a movie that will depend on critical reaction and awards play to really tell people that despite tough subject matter it’s a film they must see,” she said.

Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘12 Years A Slave’

By | Monday July 15, 2013 @ 4:34pm PDT

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars for director Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) in the true story of Solomon Northup, a free-born black man who was kidnapped, drugged, and sold into slavery in 1841 before regaining his freedom 12 years later. Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhane Wallis, Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Scoot McNairy, Garrett Dillahunt, Alfre Woodard, Dwight Henry, and Michael K. Williams also star in the drama which Fox Searchlight will open October 18 with an eye on awards season. Watch the first 12 Years A Slave trailer:

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Oscars: ‘Fruitvale Station’ Kicks Off Strongest Group Of African-American Contenders In Years

Pete Hammond

Last month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences took great strides in order to bring more diversity to its membership. Now will that effort affect the actual Oscar race itself? Certainly this year distributors, particularly The Weinstein Company and Fox Searchlight, are going to be giving the Academy every opportunity to put some diversity into that race, especially in terms of a major African- American presence. Beginning with this Friday’s platformed Weinstein release of the widely acclaimed Sundance and Cannes award winner, Fruitvale Station there is a highly promising lineup of films that seriously depict the Black experience to be released in the second half of 2013. And I am not talking about Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.

This group of movies, which also includes the increasingly-controversial The Butler (8/16- Weinstein), 12 Years A Slave (10/18- Searchlight), Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom (11/29 – Weinstein), Black Nativity (11/27 – Searchlight), Blue Caprice starring Isaiah Washington (IFC – 9/13), the recently -released documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom (Radius-TWC) and (far less likely) even the long-delayed Winnie Mandela  (Image Entertainment) starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard now being released in September,  provide a bountiful opportunity to let the Academy show off its new spirit of diversity, not that they have been completely dormant in that area in recent years. Of course 2012′s Beasts Of The Southern Wild made the most recent Best Picture cut and won its 9 year old star Quvenzhane Wallis a Best Actress nomination. And  Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar winning Original Screenplay for another 2012 Best Pic nominee, Django Unchained  had a unique take on slavery. Two years ago the box office success of The Help  propelled it towards a Best Picture nomination and acting nods for Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, the latter winning for Best Supporting Actress.  And just four years ago Precious won a couple of key Oscars for Supporting Actress Monique and screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher as well as Best Picture and Directing (for Lee Daniels) nominations. Read More »

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New Regency Moves ‘12 Years A Slave’ Up To An October 18 Platform Bow

By | Thursday June 27, 2013 @ 8:39am PDT
Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The release date chess game of the Oscar-bait autumn films continues. After some exuberant test screenings, Fox Searchlight is moving the Steve McQueen-directed Twelve Years A Slave to a limited platform release that will begin October 18. The original plan for the film backed by New Regency and River Road was to start the limited platform release in late December. They felt it could thrive in the fall, instead of waiting for winter. With a cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Brad Pitt, the film is based on the true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom in the pre-Civil War America. Ejoifor plays Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery. He faces cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner played by Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindness. In the 12th year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Pitt) forever alters his life. Read More »

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Fox Searchlight Dates ’12 Years A Slave’

By | Tuesday April 2, 2013 @ 11:01am PDT

The Steve McQueen-directed Twelve Years A Slave is set for a limited platform release beginning December 27, Fox Searchlight announced today. Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Brad Pitt star in the film from Regency Enterprises and River Road that’s based on the true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom in the pre-Civil War America. It centers on Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York who is abducted and sold into slavery. Solomon faces cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner played by Fassbender) as well as unexpected kindness. In the 12th year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Pitt) will forever alter his life. The all-star cast also includes Oscar-nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard, Paul Giamatti, and Lupita Nyong’o. John Ridley penned the screenplay that’s based on the book by Northrup. McQueen and Pitt also produce along with DeDe Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Bill Pohlad, Arnon Milchan, and Anthony Katagas.

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New Regency In Talks To Co-Finance, Distribute ‘Twelve Years A Slave’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: New Regency is in talks to co-finance and distribute (through its output deal with 20th Century Fox) the Steve McQueen-directed Twelve Years A Slave, an adaptation of the Solomon Northup memoir originally published in 1853. Chiwetel Ejiofor will play Northup, and Michael Fassbender will reunite with Shame director McQueen. Fassbender will play a plantation owner. Brad Pitt will play a Northern lawyer who helps free Northup and he and his Plan B banner will produce the film.

Northup was born free but after signing on with two men claiming to be circus promoters who wanted him for his violin skills, Northup was drugged and awoke in a slave pen in DC. He was forced to claim he had been born a slave in Georgia and was transported to Louisiana where he suffered the indignity of slavey and was often beaten brutally. After confiding in a white carpenter from Canada who came to the property to do a job, and who believed Northup’s story, Northup was able to get word to his wife back in New York, who was finally able to start the legal process that allowed Northup to regain the freedom that had been stolen from him.

The cast has been circling the $20 million movie since McQueen decided to direct it when his film Shame began garnering critical acclaim … Read More »

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Hot Trailer: ‘Shame’ Red Band

By | Tuesday November 29, 2011 @ 4:12pm PST

Fox Searchlight today posted on Facebook another trailer for Steve McQueen’s Shame. The movie starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan opens Friday; it was nominated earlier in the day by the Spirit Awards for Best International Film.

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‘Shame’ Slapped With NC-17 As Predicted

By | Tuesday October 25, 2011 @ 7:21pm PDT
Mike Fleming

The MPAA has given an NC-17 rating to the Steve McQueen-directed Shame, which is exactly what Deadline told you would happen back when we broke the story that Fox Searchlight had acquired it at the start of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. The rating was dealt for “some explicit sexual content,” which basically means that Michael Fassbender goes Full Monty through much of the film. McQueen expected this rating, and the deal stipulated that the winning distributor would not be permitted to change a frame of a film that everybody knew would be NC-17. Fox Searchlight will wear that rating like a badge, despite the limitations that come with trying to market NC-17. Nobody feels this is a gimmick, and Shame is getting great critical response and gives Fassbender a real shot at an Oscar nomination. This might be the closest thing to Last Tango in Paris or Midnight Cowboy that we’ve seen in quite a long time.

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Hot Trailer: ‘Shame’

By | Friday October 14, 2011 @ 8:13am PDT
Mike Fleming

UK-based Momentum Pictures has put up a trailer for Shame, the controversial, NC-17 Steve McQueen-directed drama that stars Michael Fassbender as a man caught in a spiral of promiscuity. Carey Mulligan plays his sister. Both are being mentioned for awards for a film that Fox Searchlight acquired for US distribution at the start of the Toronto Film Festival. The picture has been widely acclaimed on the festival circuit.

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Toronto: Distribution Deal For Luc Besson’s ‘The Lady’ Puts Michelle Yeoh And David Thewlis In Oscar Race

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The Oscar race just got a little more interesting. EuropaCorp has made a U.S. distribution deal with Cohen Media Group for the Luc Besson-directed The Lady, the story of Burmese pro-democracy activist and political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. Upstart Cohen Media Group plans to release the film for an Oscar-qualifying platform release late this year to capitalize on strong performances by Michelle Yeoh, who plays Suu Kyi, and David Thewlis, who plays her Oxford professor husband Michael Aris. The film will get a wider release in early 2012. Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest by the repressive Burmese military-controlled government. Leaders cruelly barred her husband and two sons from visiting her, thinking that it would drive her to leave. Because she knew that once gone she would never be permitted re-entry, Suu Kyi sacrificed everything to stay and become an iconic symbol of democracy and human rights. Her husband and sons bolstered her spirit and campaigned for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 1991. The distribution deals came quickly after the film premiered Monday evening at Roy Thomson Hall, where Besson, Yeoh and Thewlis received a rousing standing ovation. The deal was brokered by EuropaCorp Group CEO Christophe Lambert and Cohen Media Group CEO Charles S. Cohen.

The Lady becomes the second Toronto title to become an instant entry into upcoming awards season, after Fox Searchlight acquired the NC-17 Steve McQueen-directed Shame with plans to campaign for Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

After establishing himself as France’s answer to Steven Spielberg directing hits like La Femme Nikita and The Professional and co-writing and producing action films like Taken, Besson has become very selective in the projects he directs. While he has always had a soft spot for strong female protagonists, it has always been in action settings. The Lady is a decided departure and certainly his most personal film to date. Besson made it to refocus the world’s attention on an activist whose continuing plight gets easily forgotten in a turbulent world, even though she won that Nobel Peace Prize and U2′s Bono and The Edge wrote the song Walk On about her sacrifice (which got U2′s album banned in Burma). Read More »

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Toronto: Where Are The Film Deals?

Mike Fleming

Just as it did last year, the 2011 Toronto Film Festival has gotten off to a slow start on the acquisitions front. I spoke with many buyers after last night’s onslaught of acquisition title premieres, and the common feeling was these distributors need to fill slots in their schedules and they want to fall in love, but haven’t quite gotten there yet with most of these films. They had some reservations on just about all of the films they saw. These films will clearly find distribution homes, but the reaction means that deals will drag out because those distributors aren’t going to be posting large minimum guarantees, the way they did in Cannes.

Even the big sale of the festival so far, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 sex drama Shame, wasn’t a huge commitment for all the press hoopla that followed Deadline’s reveal that the film had sold to Fox Searchlight. I am hearing the deal was a mid-six figure minimum guarantee around $400,000, and a P&A commitment around $1.5 million. That sounds about right, because the filmmakers were most concerned with entering this year’s Oscar race to capitalize on the performances by Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and ensuring that not a frame of the picture was changed. But it doesn’t sound like a wide release picture.

As for the wide release titles, they are going to sell, but it will be a struggle for sellers to get the dollars they want. I saw one of those titles that sit atop buyer lists last night. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was scripted by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Lasse Hallstrom and stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked, the latter playing a wealthy sheik who pays a fisheries scientist to stock a stream with trout. The film is sophisticated, funny, timely and utterly charming, and I would be surprised if it isn’t snapped up by Monday or sooner. That film got the best reaction from the buyers I spoke with. The pace of auctioning has been complicated by the volume of premieres last night, including Rampart, Take This Waltz, The Oranges, the hockey comedy Goon and the Morgan Spurlock-directed documentary Comic-Con: A Fan’s Hope. Buyers had to make choices, and some were seeing films like Salmon this morning. I expect a flurry of deals toward the end of the festival, which is how it played out last year.

Since there’s little going on so far, you have time to notice things. Here are a few things I’ve noticed: Read More »

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Toronto: Fox Searchlight Acquires ‘Shame’

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Fox Searchlight toppers Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula have confirmed the acquisition of Shame at Toronto. Searchlight’s official release is after the jump.

EXCLUSIVE: In the first major deal of the Toronto Film Festival, Fox Searchlight has acquired Shame, the Steve McQueen-directed NC-17 drama that was the talk of Telluride. Bidding came down to Searchlight and The Weinstein Company. The film is said to showcase a tour de force performance by Michael Fassbender, who plays a New Yorker unable to manage his sex life when his wayward younger sister (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment, and his world spirals out of control. Searchlight had been the frontrunner in the bidding. The film is a provocative purchase for a number of reasons: It is unabashedly NC-17, features graphic sex scenes and nudity — one source said “think dungeon sex” — and McQueen has final cut and will not change a frame. It will be a controversial release for Searchlight, whose parent company has already weathered plenty of scandal lately. Also, the deal calls for a late-year release and Best Actor campaign for Fassbender; Searchlight will already be waging a campaign in the same category for George Clooney in the Alexander Payne-directed The Descendants. Hanway brokered the Shame deal. Read More »

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