4 Mar '14

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OSCARS EXPOSE “12 YEARS A SLAVE” FEUD.

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12 YEARS A SLAVE FEUD

By Jeff Sneider TheWrap

Long before each came away with an Academy Award, “12 Years a Slave” director  Steve McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley were embroiled in a bitter feud  regarding credit for the film’s Oscar-winning screenplay, a fight they kept  quiet for the good of the campaign before it came to a head Sunday night at the  Dolby Theater.

Ridley turned down McQueen’s request for shared screenplay credit, TheWrap  has learned. He won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay on Sunday and did  not thank the director in his acceptance speech, striding past him on his way to  the podium but pausing to hug director David O. Russell. Some observers  interpreted McQueen’s unsmiling applause as half-hearted.

McQueen later took the microphone at the end of the evening when “12 Years a  Slave” won Best Picture, and made no mention of the writer. While McQueen lost  the Best Director award to Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”), he was one of five  producers to win Best Picture for “Slave” along with Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner,  Jeremy Kleiner and Anthony Katagas.

Also from TheWrap.com: Oscars: How  ’12 Years a Slave’ Won the Big One

Apparently, the bad blood between McQueen and Ridley has persisted for some  time. McQueen has paid respect to Ridley’s contribution in interviews, though he  has never been effusive in his praise, not that McQueen often is (outside of  Michael Fassbender). An individual familiar with the frosty situation tells  TheWrap that McQueen has iced Ridley out to the point of rudeness — he  barred people from speaking to Ridley and insisted that the writer be seated at  separate tables at awards shows late in the season, including the BAFTAs.

That’s where McQueen berated Ridley’s wife while the writer was in the  bathroom, trying to snatch up her BAFTA souvenirs and leaving her in tears,  according to two insiders who passed along details of the outburst.

“12 Years a Slave” took the top prize at the BAFTAs that night and McQueen  failed to thank Ridley during his acceptance speech. That was no oversight,  since McQueen read his prepared speech off a piece of paper. Additionally, at  the Golden Globes, McQueen didn’t thank Ridley until another producer whispered  in his ear and reminded him to pay his respects, if only to prevent the media  from speculating about the growing rift.

While some hoped McQueen and Ridley could settle their differences by Oscar  night, it was not to be, as ABC cameras caught McQueen in the middle of  what appeared to be begrudging applause when Ridley’s Oscar win was  announced.

McQueen was onboard to direct “12 Years a Slave” when he recruited Ridley,  who agreed to draft it on spec. McQueen had a hand in shaping the script  that Ridley turned in, but when he asked the writer for shared credit —  not uncommon in Hollywood — Ridley politely declined, an individual with  knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.

McQueen was nonplussed and appealed to Fox Searchlight, which ultimately  sided with Ridley. Brad Pitt, who produced “Slave” and plays a small role in the  film, was even forced to step in at one point and mediate. (It didn’t help that  Pitt was also in the midst of a PR battle with Paramount over the fact that his  company Plan B, based at the studio at the time, failed to offer it a chance to  finance and distribute “12 Years a Slave” before taking the project to New  Regency.)

McQueen begrudgingly agreed to hold his tongue for the sake of the movie.  (“12 Years a Slave” is a non-Writers Guild project and not subject to  mediation.) McQueen, Ridley, Pitt and Fox Searchlight executives all knew what  was at stake — and how easily a Best Picture win could slip through their  fingers if public discord leaked to the media.

Their silence proved to be a wise decision: The slavery drama ended up  winning three Oscars, including Best Picture, which McQueen accepted as a  producer; and adapted screenplay, which Ridley accepted on his own behalf.

Fox Searchlight and representatives for McQueen did not respond to repeated  requests for comment by TheWrap. A representative for Ridley said she could not  reach him but that the writer had thanked McQueen in previous speeches.

Coincidentally, Ridley has been in a similar situations before. He went  toe-to-toe with David O. Russell over the screenplay for “Three Kings.” Ridley  wrote the original script on spec but it was so heavily rewritten by Russell  that he only received a ‘story  by’ credit, a snub that still rubs the writer the wrong way.

No matter: McQueen and Ridley both woke up Monday morning next to a little  gold man named Oscar. As they say, winning heals everything.

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