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.
Now that the Cannes Film Festival has announced Steven Spielberg as jury president and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby as the curtain raiser, speculation as to what the 66th running of the event holds in store will continue to mount until the mid-April press conference that officially unveils the lineup. Gatsby was pretty much a no-brainer what with its local May 15 release date falling on the day the fest kicks off and its story based on the classic novel F. Scott Fitzgerald completed in Valescure, less than 100 kilometers from the Palais. Folks are excited since arguably the most memorable Cannes opening night in the past 12 years — we were there — was with Luhrmann’s 2001 Moulin Rouge. (It’s also a nice dovetail for fest chief Thierry Frémaux: The first film he ever selected for Cannes was Moulin Rouge.) But, we can put to rest speculation about another movie with a subject close to the South of France gracing the Croisette: We understand that Grace Of Monaco, the biopic about the actress-turned-princess played by Nicole Kidman, directed by Olivier Dahan and recently acquired by The Weinstein Company, will not be making a Cannes run. Further, we’ve confirmed that Lars von Trier — a persona non grata at the 2011 fest for his Nazi-flavored comments — will not be ready with Nymphomaniac, the four-hour sex-o-rama that sold like hotcakes in Berlin. We also understand that J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness, once thought a possibility for an Out Of Competition slot, is not coming. And, despite Pedro Almodovar’s almost given place on the Croisette, we’ve heard his I’m So Excited is also unlikely to appear at the Palais.
But let’s forget about what’s not going and focus on all the films we might see. We’re consistently hearing that this year will include “the usual suspects” in official selection. The Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis is a strong possibility – CBS Films just acquired the pic which screened on the Sony lot in late February, although Frémaux said he had not yet seen the film as of his trip to the Oscars last month. Llewyn Davis doesn’t have a release date in the U.S. yet, and its French release, via StudioCanal, is in December, but it’s worth recalling that the Coens’ No Country For Old Men bowed in Cannes in 2007 and wasn’t released Stateside until November that year before going on to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Also ripe is Sofia Coppola’s young Hollywood robbers tale The Bling Ring, for which upstart distributor A24 has set a June 14 U.S. release. Pathé is releasing in France on June 5, just a couple weeks after the fest wraps. The addition of Coppola to the roster could help calm the naysayers last year who complained there were no female directors in the main lineup. Another female director who could make the cut is Kelly Reichardt with Night Moves, starring Dakota Fanning, Peter Sarsgaard and Jesse Eisenberg, about environmentalists who plot to blow up a dam.
EXCLUSIVE: CAA has signed Chiwetel Ejiofor, shortly after the British actor starred as the principal character in the Steve McQueen-directed Twelve Years A Slave, opposite Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt.
Ejiofor, for my money one of the best actors around, has credits that include Dirty Pretty Things, Love Actually, Children Of Men, American Gangster, Salt and Inside Man. His next acting turn comes in the BBC production of the Stephen Poliakoff-directed Dancing On The Edge. He also wrote and directed the short film Slapper and is adapting the William Kamkwamba book The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind.
With the move, he ends a long run at ICM Partners. Ejiofor continues to be repped in the U.K. by Alex Irwin of Markham, Froggatt and Irwin and Jenne Casarotto of Casarotto, Ramsay & Associates, and attorney Robert Wallerstein.
Michael Kenneth Williams has been added to the cast of Twelve Years A Slave. The actor joins Michael Fassbender, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Brad Pitt in the Steve McQueen-directed film. Raising Hope‘s Garret Dillahunt, Paul Dano and SNL’s Taran Killam are also in Twelve Years. Williams, best known for playing Chalky White on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and Omar Little on The Wire, will play “Robert,” a mutinous slave in Twelve Years. The film is an adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1853 book about a free black man who is drugged and dragged to the South to be sold into slavery. New Regency is backing the film. River Road and Plan B are producing. Twelve Years A Slave is filming in New Orleans. Williams is repped by The Collective and attorney Elsa Ramo.
EXCLUSIVE: Raising Hope‘s Garret Dillahunt has been set by director Steve McQueen for Twelve Years A Slave. He joins Chiwitel Ejifior, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Paul Dano and Taran Killam. Filming is about to get underway in New Orleans. Dillahunt will portray Armsby, a fellow field hand who works alongside Solomon Northup, a free black man who’s brought South against his will and sold into slavery. New Regency is backing the film and River Road and Plan B are producing. Dillahunt is repped by UTA and D2 Management.
EXCLUSIVE: Saturday Night Live cast member Taran Killam will spend his hiatus doing a prominent movie. He’ll join the cast of Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years A Slave, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Paul Dano. The film shoots this summer in New Orleans for New Regency. Bill Pohlad’s River Road and Plan B are producing. Killam will play a traveling showman who abducts a free black man (Ejiofor) and brings him South, where he is sold into slavery and endures a brutal 12 years. Killam joined SNL two years ago. With Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and perhaps Jason Sudeikis exiting, Killam has an opportunity to become the show’s next breakout star. He is repped by CAA and Principato-Young.
Related: ‘SNL’ Bids Farewell To Kristen Wiig
EXCLUSIVE: Paul Dano has joined the cast of Twelve Years A Slave, the Steve McQueen-directed adaptation of Solomon Northup’s novel about a free black man who, promised a job playing violin in the circus, is drugged and dragged to Louisiana and sold into slavery. Dano will play one of the slave owners who brutalize him. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt also star for New Regency.
Dano stars in and is executive producer of Ruby Sparks, the Fox Searchlight film that was directed by Little Miss Sunshine’s Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, with script by Zoe Kazan. That film opens July 25, and he follows with Looper and For Ellen. He’s repped by CAA and Anonymous Content.
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.