The name Steve McQueen once brought visions to mind of a 1968 Mustang in San Francisco or motorcycle escape from a World War II POW camp, and while those images of "The King of Cool" still remain, they are now joined by the work of English filmmaker of the same name. The English McQueen only has two previously released feature films, but a career of prestige as an artist in many senses of the word. He was made the Official War Artist for Iraq in association with the Imperial War Museum in 2003 and has been awarded both OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) and CBE (Commander in the Order of the British Empire), in 2002 and 2011 respectively. Though predominately known for his photography and film work, McQueen also works in instillation art, the most notable being "Blues Before Sunrise," which featured two weeks in which all of the 275 street lamps of Vondelpark, Amsterdam were colored blue.
For a man as accomplished as he is, McQueen's first two feature films were hardly mainstream or easily accessible. Hunger (2008) follows the final days of imprisoned Irish Republican Bobby Sands (played by Michael Fassbender), who gave his own life in an unbelievable show of dedication in a hunger strike. Paired with a career-changing performance from Fassbender, Hunger is breathtakingly shot by McQueen's regular director of photography, Sean Bobbitt. Despite his sophomore feature also bringing McQueen to the United States (although utilizing an English cast), Shame (2011) was actually less accessible due to an NC-17 rating.
This year, however, may be the year that McQueen's undeniable critical achievements as a director is given the opportunity for a mainstream box office success. The first trailer for 12 Years a Slave has hit the web, along with the film's one-sheet poster, slated for an October 18 release. Based on the non-fiction account of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man pre-Civil War upstate New York who is ubducted and sold to slavery, 12 Years a Slave was adapted by screenwriter John Ridley. Though this is the first time McQueen has directed something he has not also written, all of the other familiar elements seem to be in place. Most notable is the return of Fassbender in a co-starring role, as well as cinematographer Bobbitt. In addition to McQueen's usual players, 12 Years a Slave boasts an all-star cast that features Brad Pitt, Paul Dano and Paul Giamatti.