Based on a true story, the biopic of Solomon Northup – a free man sold into slavery in 19th century America – has been the toast of the critics since its release earlier this year and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Directed by Steve McQueen and produced by Pitt’s production company, the film was a hot favourite to take home the evening’s top prize, beating off competition from the likes of American Hustle, Gravity, Philomena, The Wolf of Wall Street and Her.
Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt and the producers and cast of 12 Years appeared on stage to collect the award. The first to step up to the microphone, Brad Pitt thanked the Academy for “this incredible honour you bestowed on our film. I know I speak for everyone standing behind me that it’s been an absolute privilege working on Solomon’s story.”
He then introduced the “indomitable Mr Steve McQueen,” who thanked the Academy, his “wonderful cast and crew” and “Brad Pitt, without who this film would not have been made.”
McQueen finished, visibly overcome with emotion, by telling the audience, “Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I’m dedicating this award to all the people who’ve endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.”
12 Years a Slave was nominated in multiple categories at the 86th Academy Awards, including best actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), best supporting actor (Michael Fassbender), best director (Steve McQueen) and saw Lupita Nyong’o take home best supporting actress.