What Caused The ’12 Years A Slave’ Oscars Beef?

We investigate why '12 Years a Slave' director Steve McQueen wasn't talking to writer John Ridley at the Oscars.

At the 2014 Oscars12 Years a Slave” was the big winner in multiple categories… But given the cold shoulder two members of the production team gave each other, it’s a surprise the movie even got as far as being made. So what happened between director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley?

The rift was first noticeable when Ridley neglected to mention McQueen in his acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay. Granted, Ridley did thank the cast and crew in general; but he also mentioned nearly every other major player by name. This wouldn’t be the first time a name was skipped in an Oscar speech, though, so its not a smoking gun.

Then this Vine from the ceremony surfaced and started making its way around the Internet:

Embedded from vine.co.

That’s Ridley walking down the aisle to accept his Oscar and purposely walking right by McQueen, who doesn’t even look at Ridley. This is followed by McQueen’s weird fingertip clap, of course, but that’s an entirely different issue. And we could write this off as Ridley not being affectionate, but he straight up hugs another dude right after walking past McQueen.

Then — not glimpsed in the Vine — when the entire production team went up on stage to accept Best Picture, Ridley stood further back than anyone else on the team, flashing a peace sign with his fingers but otherwise looking relatively stoic. Again, not a glaring sign of things gone wrong (he could have just felt crowded on stage) but all this body language certainly points to an unhappy Ridley.

Looking back a little further, the night before at the Independent Spirit Awards both McQueen and Ridley won for their categories; but again neglected to thank each other. At the time, this didn’t seem like a glaring omission, but with the pair refusing to look at each other two nights in a row, something must be up.

So what is up, Ridley and McQueen? Both are seasoned professionals, having worked in Hollywood for decades apiece. To create a rift so strong they wouldn’t bury the hatchet for winning nearly every major award at the Oscars must have taken a lot of doing.

According to Hollywood gossip-monger Nikki Finke, that dispute has to do with screenplay credit:

Since John Ridley has sole screenplay credit on “12 Years a Slave,” other than a “based on” for subject Solomon Northup, one could imagine that McQueen felt he deserved a credit after his intense work on the movie, while Ridley differed. That, though, is all speculation.

Whatever caused the rift, hopefully they can figure things out in time to make a sequel. Just kidding.

Writer/Editor at MTV News. You can follow him on Twitter, but not in real life because that would be weird.
@azalben