Director Steve McQueen to do Biopic About Singer Paul Robeson
Director Steve McQueen to do Biopic About Paul Robeson
After the success of 12 Years A Slave, anticipation has naturally been high for director Steve McQueen’s next project. And now, after announcing several television endeavors, it seems the British filmmaker has finally settled on a subject for his next feature, a topic that has fascinated him since childhood: the life of actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson.
According to The Guardian, McQueen initially wanted to work on this story as the follow-up to his debut film, Hunger. But as McQueen explains, “I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice.” With a Best Picture Oscar now under his belt, he finally has the resources to tackle Robeson’s story, and he’ll be doing so with the help of singer and activist Harry Belafonte (aka the “King of Calypso”), who considered Robeson a close friend and mentor.
Perhaps best known for his iconic performance of “Ol’ Man River” in 1936’s Show Boat, Paul Robeson was a bit of a Renaissance man. Born in 1898, the son of an escaped slave, he became the third black student ever enrolled at Rutgers College. He went on to receive a law degree from Columbia Law School while simultaneously playing in the NFL and performing in professional musicals.
After renouncing a career in law due to racism within the system, he became a major player in the Harlem Renaissance and a renowned stage and film actor. He toured Europe as a performer during the late 1920s before becoming more politically active in the 1930s. He campaigned against racism and social injustice while supporting loyalist soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, anti-Nazi campaigns, and Welsh miners. After World War II, Robeson was hounded under policies of McCarthyism and blacklisted in the 1950s.
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