'12 Years a Slave's John Ridley Talks Steve McQueen & Clears Up That Oscars Slight
In the days following the Oscars, rumors of a feud between 12 Years A Slave screenwriter John Ridley and the film's director, Steve McQueen were spread. We wrote about it here, noting rumors of a past "feud" between Ridley and American Hustle director David O. Russell over writing credit. That, combined with the negative impression Ridley's body language gave viewers on his walk up to the stage to accept his Best Adapted Screenplay award, presented an interesting — if wobbly — groundwork for positing what might have been going on behind the scenes.
We still don't know the ins and outs of the way these two esteemed and talented men feel about each other or their working relationship, but what we do know, however, is what Ridley has since told Entertainment Weekly, regarding the omission of McQueen from his Oscars acceptance speech:
I do regret it. But just 24 hours earlier at the Spirit Awards I sincerely went on and on about Steve and my work with him. You know, the guy changed my life. At the Oscars you have 30 seconds to talk and it’s like the oxygen drops out of the room. I know [when I heard my name called] I hugged my wife twice, I know David O. Russell, again this person people think I have beef with, was the first guy to hug me, I know Meryl Streep reached out and touched my arm.
He goes on to discuss how he wanted to use half of his small allotted speech time to talk about his wife — Gayle Ridley, a script coordinator, who supported him throughout the process — and half to talk about Solomon Northrup, author of the source material and the man who lived the story.
Rumors happen, reading into body language and/or perceived slights definitely happen, and feuds have a habit of catching the eye. As I said in my initial write-up of the possibility of a conflict, "this could all, of course, be in our collective minds — some desire by the audience to dredge up conflict in a night that went pretty much as predicted."
Below you can see the Independent Spirit Awards speech Ridley cites, in which he tearfully thanks the cast, crew, and McQueen, calling the opportunity to work with him a very fortunate one.