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It’s been months since Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years A Slave took home the Best Picture award, but it seems like some are still smarting from being overlooked during awards season.

Recently, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom screenwriter William Nicholson had some interesting things to say about why his film failed to gain critical and commercial success.

“I think it worked superbly. I’m incredible proud of this film,” he told the crowd at this year’s Hay Festival. “Unfortunately it didn’t get the kind of acclaim that I wanted. It didn’t get Oscars.”

Nicholson reportedly spent 15 years working to bring Mandela’s life to the big screen, but the British writer said the biopic failed to score at the box office because the South African icon died prior to its release.

“Mandela died as I was in the royal premiere with Will and Kate,” he said. “We were deluged with Mandela stud and after a week we all thought, please take it away, we’ve heard enough about Mandela.”

Nicholson also blamed the film’s lackluster performance on McQueen’s movie. He argued American audiences were “too exhausted” by 12 Years A Slave to watch a film that dealt with apartheid.

“[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.”

McQueen’s award-winning film 12 Years A Slave netted more than $170 million worldwide, while Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom earned just under $9 million, far short of its $35 million budget.

What do you think of Nicholson’s comments? Were audiences “too exhausted” to see Mandela? 

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  • Wanda

    He is wrong. The film was not very good and Idris Elba was a terrible casting choice to play Mr. Mandela.

    • Primmest Plum

      He really was. When I heard Elba was set to play Mandela I was truly thrown.

  • Elizabeth Jones

    Dear White People,
    Please do me a favor and retire the term “white guilt.” There’s no such thing. Give us a permanent break from a term only use when whites feel on the defensive whenever the topic of race comes up and they don’t want to be blame for something they had nothing to do with. If whites truly felt “guilty” about racism, Jim Crow would not have had an extensive negative impact on African American lives and the mere discussion of reparations would not ignite such rage amongst most white people. Don’t get me started on fallacies surrounding blacks and affirmative action and the loaded, equally bullshit term reverse racism. Just … stop … it.
    Second, the Mandela film didn’t get the critical acclaim from the almighty Oscars simply because you lacked the MACHINE needed to hustle your way into the Oscar race. In case you’ve forgotten, Hollywood is a BUSINESS! 12 Years A Slave was a great film, but what also helped it was the fact that its producers (one of them being Brad Pitt) had the MACHINE behind them to really capitalize off the film’s critical praise by pushing it through extensive promotion to the public and within Hollywood’s elite narrow circles.
    Sorry about the fact that a black man couldn’t help you secure Oscar glory. And damn it! He died around the perfect time too! What a great way to finally hold that little gold trophy! Kind of like what Jamie Foxx experience throughout the awards season after Ray Charles died prior to Ray’s film premiere.
    To hell with the fact that Jamie deserved the Oscar and Ray passed away months before the movie ever premiered. To hell with the fact that I thought you made Mandela simply to tell a compelling story. To hell with the art of filmmaking. No, no. Thank you Mr. White Man for letting us know it was all about material gain in the end.

  • ♎Lauren♎

    Cut the crap!

  • smiles

    That’s a funny comment. white people do not now, nor did they feel any guilt in the past about slavery and/or apartheid. The movie Mandela did not exhibit any guilty feelings on the part of whites, nor did 12 years a slave. If the audience was exhausted, it was because movie goers were tired of looking at very extreme examples of white supremacy and self-aggrandizement at the expense of a group of people who had no power whatsoever to protect themselves.