Steve McQueen believes Black Panther and Moonlight would never have been made were it not for the success of his Oscar-winning movie 12 Years A Slave.
The critically lauded real-life story of Solomon Northup, a free African-American who is kidnapped and sold into slavery earned $187.7 million from a budget of around $20 million and made him the first black filmmaker to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Since its 2013 release, several hit movies have been made by black directors with predominantly black casts, including Black Panther, Moonlight, and Selma – and the Brit believes his film helped convince Hollywood producers that movies made by black directors could be profitable.
“Don’t forget it was made before (the activist movement protesting police racism and brutality) Black Lives Matter,” he tells U.K. newspaper The Times. “That movie made $131 million outside the United States. That’s when Hollywood woke up to the fact that, ‘Oh wow, we can make money out of this.’ That movie was directly responsible for Selma, Moonlight and Black Panther.”
His latest project, Widows, starring Viola Davis, Colin Farrell and Daniel Kaluuya, is a heist flick based on a 1980s British TV drama about four women who set out to carry out a job their criminal husbands were planning before their death.
It has been hailed for its feminist themes and Steve, 49, has high hopes it will contribute to discussions about sexism that have been a hot topic since the launch of the #MeToo anti-sexual harassment campaign.
“Nothing’s changed,” he says of attitudes to women in the film industry and beyond. “It’s bittersweet. If this movie can be an object within that conversation, fine with me. It’s about four women from different classes and racial backgrounds who come together to take power, and that’s what’s going to happen. In some ways it’s fundamentally American.”