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Mandela Scriptwriter Blames 12 Years a Slave for His Movie’s Failure

William Nicholson
Eamonn McCabe--Getty Images British playwright, novelist and screenwriter William Nicholson at his home near Lewes, East Sussex, 13th December 2012.

Screenwriter William Nicholson says that his film Mandela failed to win awards because Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave "sucked up all the guilt about black people"

Well, this is one way to spin defeat.

At a literary festival in England over the weekend, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom scriptwriter William Nicholson told the audience that his film failed to make a splash and win awards because 12 Years a Slave “sucked up all the guilt about black people that was available.” Unlike 12 Years — which earned rave reviews and took home three Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay — Mandela received mixed reviews and only one Oscar nod for Best Original Song. (“Let It Go” from Frozen ultimately picked up the prize.)

Yet Nicholson — who previously co-wrote the scripts for Gladiator and Elizabeth: The Golden Age — doesn’t think Mandela‘s lukewarm reception was warranted. “I think it worked superbly,” he said of his film. But “[Americans] were so exhausted feeling guilty about slavery that I don’t think there was much left over to be nice about our film. So our film didn’t do as well as we’d hoped, which was a bit heartbreaking.”


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