The cast and crew of 12 Years a Slave were celebrating their historic wins on Oscar night, but two key players didn’t really share the love. Television viewers noticed the palpable tension between the film’s director Steve McQueen and writer John Ridley. Both men made trips to the podium to accept awards, but each failed to thank the other when making acknowledgments.
Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke reveals that the omissions weren’t on accident. In fact, Ridley and McQueen have been beefing for some time over the writing credits on 12 Years a Slave. “My sources attributing John Ridley-Steve McQueen cold shoulder at Oscars tonight to dispute over screenplay credit,” tweeted Finke.
The backstory of the dispute goes back several years, when Ridley was first tapped by McQueen to write the screenplay based on Solomon Northup’s memoirs. “There was no development money whatsoever for this project, so I said I’d take it on as a spec project, which means I’ll write it for free,” Ridley told the Guardian, adding that it was McQueen’s passion for the project that made him take the chance. He continues that he worked on the screenplay for four years with no pay, and was only given his fee by the studio, Fox Searchlight, on the first day of production.
Sometime during filming, McQueen reportedly asked Ridley and Fox Searchlight for a co-writing credit, claiming his ideas “helped shape the final screenplay.” Ridley refused and the studio backed him up, and the two men have reportedly been at odds ever since.
Ridley denies the rift, telling Page Six: “Listen, without Steve McQueen I wouldn’t have this Oscar tonight. I owe a lot to the genius of Steve McQueen, and I am forever grateful to have had the chance to work with him.”
Asked if omitting McQueen’s name onstage was intentional, Ridley said, “Of course not. I had less than two minutes to thank everybody, and I was so caught up in the emotion of the moment when I was onstage.”
Ridley, who has written dozens of screenplays in Hollywood over the past two decades, had a similar falling out with director David O. Russell over their collaboration on the film Three Kings. Russell reportedly made major changes to Ridley’s script during filming and took his name off the film. In retribution, Ridley refused to give necessary permission for the script to be published as a book. “I’m shocked that he’s blocking the book,” Russell responded at the time. “I think he’s doing it because he’s embarrassed by how little of his screenplay ended up in my movie.”
Ironically, Ridley did acknowledge Russell, whose American Hustle was up for a slew of Academy Awards, on his way up to the stage, implying that the beef between those two has fizzled.