‘Mandela’ Biopic Screenwriter: Film Failed Because ’12 Years a Slave’ Sucked Up White Guilt

Edna Owusu-Ansah June 03, 2014

Idris Elba,

Screenwriter of “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom” biopic, William Nicholson (pictured below), which stars Idris Elba (pictured left) as Nelson Mandela, is reported to have said that his film failed because of the success of “12 Years A Slave,” starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (pictured).” Nicholson claimed that all of the “guilt” associated with the oppression of Black people was “sucked up” by the critically acclaimed film, which is why his motion picture never stood a chance.

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 Nicholson spoke at the Hay Festival in Wales and shared his thoughts on why his film didn’t garner the respect from the Academy Awards selection committees and the like, according to the Telegraph:

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“’12 Years a Slave’ came out in America, and that sucked up all the guilt about Black people that was available. They 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. I really thought it was going to win lots of awards, partly because it’s a good story but also because I thought I’d done a really good job and the director had done a really good job. So it has been very tough for me. Some things work and some things don’t. You just have to soldier on.”

Sixty-six-year-old Nicholson has previously been nominated by the academy for his work William Nicholsonon “Shadowland” and “Gladiator” and labored on the script for the biopic for 15 years, handing in a staggering 33 drafts until it was approved.

During the interview, Nicholson also stated that he wrote all but one of the speeches that appeared in the film and added that Mandela’s own speeches were “not very good” by his estimation.

“All but one of the speeches were made up by me because his own speeches are so boring. I know it sounds outrageous to say a thing like that, but when he came out of prison, he made a speech, and God, you fell asleep,” he said.

“It’s sadness. In all the speeches there’s always a good line, but they’re not very good.”

“Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom” was released in January and is yet to recover its $35 million budget.

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Last Edited by:Abena Agyeman-Fisher Updated: June 3, 2014


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