'12 Years a Slave' stars react to Oscar buzz
05:00 AM, Sep 09, 2013
TORONTO If there’s one consensus opinion here at the International Film Festival, it’s that 12 Years a Slave has a lock on major Oscar nominations.
But co-stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, who won acclaim for 2006’s Children of Men, and Michael Fassbender, who has collaborated with director Steve McQueen on Hunger and Shame, hope audiences aren’t affected by the hype.
Fassbender calls the praise from critics “icing on the cake. But the cake is the cake.” Ejiofor nods, adding that it’s a bit early for that talk.
“I love the film,” says Ejiofor, who plays Solomon Northup, a free black man kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery in the South. “I think it’s a really strong piece of work. But I also want people to come to it without all the buzz and the hype and this and that. It’s a story of a man going through an extraordinary circumstance. And I do feel it needs to be engaged with in its own quiet, reflective way.”
Fassbender, who plays a psychotic cotton plantation owner, saw 12 Years (out in limited release Oct. 18) for the first time at last month’s Telluride (Colo.) Film Festival. “I have a tradition of waiting until the last minute, sort of the premiere with Steve’s stuff,” he says, clad in track pants and a T-shirt Monday at the Shangri-La Hotel. “I really feel it’s a masterwork. I just felt so proud to be a part of it.”
The pair’s dynamic is warm and respectful during a conversation that dives into themes of slavery, personhood and Solomon’s descent into a world dominated by brute violence. Both have been booked back-to-back since arriving here, and they’ll continue on to New York for more press.
Over coffee and tea, Ejiofor chuckles when Fassbender calls the festival experience relaxing. “I had a blast last night,” Fassbender insists. A brotherly vibe takes over the table as they dissect the lighter moments in Fassbender’s interviews. “You had a blast? A blast?” asks Ejiofor.
“Literally,” says Fassbender with a grin.