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In an appearance at the Hidden Heroes Awards, McQueen spoke, (as reported by The Guardian) about doing his “dream project,” a film about the life of Paul Robeson. Known for his realistic and powerful portrayals of figures from various backgrounds (Hunger, 12 Years a Slave), McQueen’s newest idea certainly has some strong promise. Hoping to make the film profiling Robeson for quite some time, McQueen stated, “His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger… But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice.” McQueen has been interested in Robeson since he was a young man, when a neighbor lent him an article regarding Robeson singing with miners in Wales.
Paul Robeson was a black actor and singer whose storied life lead him from the hallowed halls of Colombia Law School, to leaving the law profession due to racism in 1923. A stage actor during the Harlem Renaissance, Robeson landed his first movie, a silent, Body and Soul. Landing roles in which he could more accurately reflect African-American culture, Robeson rose to international fame as Bosambo in Sanders of the River. Turning his talents towards political activism during the rise of fascism in Spain during the 30s, Robeson would continue to fight for human rights – leading him to be labelled a “communist” by the McCarthy era Hollywood blacklisting. Destroying his mental health and his career, Robeson never fully recovered from being labelled a communist, and his health deteriorated. He retired from singing and acting in 1963 and died 13-years later at the age of 77.
With such a broad legacy from which to pull inspiration, McQueen will surely have his hands full with his next project. Working alongside his newest friend, and one of Robeson’s contemporaries, Harry Belafonte, McQueen hopes to develop a film that is as true to life as possible. Unable to provide production details or who he plans to cast as Robeson, McQueen left his audience in high anticipation of his upcoming project.