Tags: chiwetel ejiofor | 12 years a slave | violence

Chiwetel Ejiofor, '12 Years a Slave' Star, Defends Film's Violence

Image: Chiwetel Ejiofor, '12 Years a Slave' Star, Defends Film's Violence

By Michael Mullins   |   Monday, 21 Oct 2013 02:09 PM

Chiwetel Ejiofor, the British actor who has the lead role in the upcoming film "12 Years a Slave," defended the movie's violent scenes during its recent premiere at the BFI London Film Festival.

"It's a strange handicap if you can't talk about violence in a film about slavery. You are not going to do justice to any of the people involved," Ejiofor told reporters at a press conference on Friday, the BBC reported.

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"I read into the script that there were obviously going to be these struggles and I wanted to embrace that," Ejiofor added. "As an actor you have to slip down the rabbit hole and see what happens because there was no other way of telling the story."

The movie is based on the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York who was sold into slavery in 1941 after being kidnapped.

"I felt a sort of responsibility of telling the story of which I had never seen in cinema," Ejiofor, 36, told a BBC reporter on the red carpet outside the BFI premiere. "I just had to try and tell Solomon Northup's story, this incredible man, and not really worry about the other things and try and get as close as I could and somehow in that maybe the rest would be told." 

The film's director Steve McQueen joined Ejiofor on Friday at the event.

"The book is pretty extreme. My responsibility is this: Either I'm making a film about slavery or I'm not," McQueen told reporters. "If you make a film about slavery you have to understand why people were in bondage in this way for 400 years, through mental and physical torture."

McQueen's other films include "Hunger," about the Irish hunger strike, and "Shame," about sexual addiction in New York City.

"12 Years a Slave" was first screened at Colorado's Telluride Film Festival in late August, where it received rave reviews, the BBC noted. It won the Toronto International Film Festival's People's Choice award in September.

The cast also includes Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Brad Pitt. It is considered a likely Oscar favorite, USA Today reported.

Currently playing in theaters across the U.S., "12 Years a Slave" is scheduled to premiere in Britain in January.

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