Steve McQueen’s films have always been tough depictions of man’s struggles with being human. After three mentally and physically challenging films, the highly acclaimed filmmaker is hinting that he wants a change of pace. Steven McQueen recently told Rolling Stone that he wants to make his next film a musical. The filmmaker insisted to the publication that he was not kidding and that he does not have any desire to put himself through that kind of mental anguish again for a film for a while.
Before McQueen burst onto the scene with the critically adored Hunger in 2008, the London, England native wrote, directed and produced many provocative short films that were screened at many prominent art galleries. His films were often shot in black-and-white 16mm and were stark, minimalistic shorts. The filmmaker has citied the influence of Andy Warhol and French New Wave as being his primary spark of inspiration during his early years. One of McQueen’s short films, Deadpan, even features an homage to the famous Buster Keaton stunt in which a house collapses around a person, in this case McQueen, who is left unharmed because he is standing in the place of a missing window.
In 2008, Steve McQueen premiered his debut feature film, Hunger, at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is about the 1981 Irish hunger strike and features the first collaboration between McQueen and Michael Fassbender. In the film, Fassbender starred as the IRA volunteer Bobby Sands who led the hunger strike and participated in the no-wash protest in hopes of regaining political status after it was revoked by the British government in 1976. The film retells the events at Maze Prison, leading up to Sands’ eventual death from the strike.
Steve McQueen’s next film, Shame, was about as far away from the musical he wants to make now as a filmmaker can get. The film starred Michael Fassbender as Brandon, a successful and handsome business executive who suffers from sexual addiction. Brandon’s life is turned upside-down when his estranged sister, played by Carey Mulligan, comes to stay with him at his high-rise New York apartment. Shame follows Brandon as he struggles to deal with the past he purposely left behind and the person he has become because of it. The film was released with an NC-17 rating due to its explicit sexual content. Shame went onto be another critical success for McQueen and made a respectable return at the box office despite its rating and content.
This year, McQueen released his greatest success to date with 12 Years A Slave. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, the film is the heavy favorite to win the best picture of the year. The adaptation of Solomon Northup’s memoir tells how he was kidnapped as a free man and sold into a slavery during the 1850s. The film follows Northup as he struggles to stay alive and find his place in a world he does not understand. Chiwetel Ejiofer stars as Solomon and comes under the rule of several slave owners throughout the course of the film including one played by McQueen mainstay, Michael Fassbender.
The acclaimed auteur’s trilogy of oppression has led the filmmaker to search for something more uplifting. While the three films are undoubtedly accomplished pieces of work, the switch should test the director’s ability to try an entirely different tone. Steve McQueen’s want to make a musical may lead to one of the most exciting departures seen from a filmmaker in a long while.
By Benjamin Murray