“Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom” Director Vents About Lackluster Sales, Did Lupita Nyong’o Steal His Thunder?

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William Nicholson director of Mandela Long Walk to Freedom is upset that his film did not do as well as 12 Years a Slave.


Reported by April Taylor

William Nicholson, the screenwriter for the film titled Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom, starring Idris Elba, is making headlines for controversial remarks he made at the British literary convention, The Hay festival. Nicholson believes his film did not receive the critical acclaim and awards it should have because the Steve McQueen film 12 Years A Slave “sucked up all the guilt about black people that was available.”

Speaking about his film, Nicholson said: “I think it worked superbly. But 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 bit heartbreaking.”  He also stated that Mandela’s death also detracted from the success of the film due to people being inundated with ‘Mandela stuff,’ as he put it.  Nicholson’s heartbreak may be due in part to the fact that he spent 15 years writing the script for Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom.

Nicholson also made statements about how boring Mandela’s speeches were and that he had to rewrite some of them.  With all of the negative and condescending comments, one wonders if he was even the right person to have made the film. While Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom only received a single Oscar nomination for best original song, 12 Years A Slave won best film, best adapted screenplay, and best supporting actress.  The film was also nominated in six additional categories.

Despite breaking box office records in South Africa, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom only earned $100,306 during its opening weekend at theaters in the United States.  However, 12 Years A Slave managed to earn $923,715 even though it was only released in a limited number of theaters during it’s first weekend. Not only did 12 Years A Slave make nine times more than Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, it also exposed the world to the talents of Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o, who was voted People Magazine’s World’s Most Beautiful Woman — a title that has also been given to singer Beyoncé. One can’t help but wonder if the emergence of the talented Nyong’o also attribute to stealing Nicholson’s “thunder.”