Kirsty Young talks to the director Steve McQueen in a programme first broadcast in 2014.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
BBC sounds music radio, podcasts, Lauren Laverne here we're taking our summer break. So until we're back on air, we're showcasing a few programs from our archive. As usual, the music's been shortened for rights reasons. This week's guest is the artist and filmmaker steve. Mcqueen kirsty young cast him away back in twenty fourteen, the the my castaway this week is the artist and director steve mcqueen these days. His talents are well recognized. His art has won the turner. Rise and his most recent movie, twelve years, a slave scooped, an academy award abaft and a golden globe for best picture. He wasn't always, as lord
at school in west london. He was at one point shoved to one side in the belief that the best he could hope for was to and his living as a manual labor. Instead, he chose art portraying the extremes of what human beings put themselves and others through what he is called dancing with ghosts, long was reaching the top of two professions. He's also managed to meet the divergent demands of his parents. His father wanted him to get a trade His mother, on the other hand, urged him to do what you want to do. He says I want to make films that are essential. We're going to die and we have got a lot of time on this planet. Life goes very quickly, so we might as well make films that people will go to see because they need it or wanted, and I think Steve queen. There is a really interesting and wonderful phrase, films that essential, what's essential to you in a movie truth, whatever? That is a true of course. You smell it in a decision
them universality to it. That's the kind of films I'm interested in this kind of autumn interested and an oscar winning film directors. We know, then, for twelve years, a slave at the scene, time that twelve years a slave was released. You also made an artwork cold lynching tree in that depicted a tree in new orleans that had served as a gallo, four slaves it seems to me that it was very important that both of those things were happening at once and that the the art is everything you know I described use. I was introducing you as an artist and movie making them, but actually it's all the one thing you're putting things out there and it all has equality. Does it? Yes, absolutely this news with the deviation of film art. Do it for me beings being soon, as we know, first of being at the golden, an artist lens of his napping or so or filmmakers that it is his eyes one thing I mean film being as if some was the novel and an art. Fine, not being poetry, is the same thing but thing in different ways.
One is narrative, linear and the other one is abstracts and fragmented. It's all about ideas for me and but the ideas ask for the form. You know you lit by the idea of what it wants to be, what it wants, what the heart wants represent itself, and sometimes he wants to video. You know for the broad. Sometimes you want I'm not workers as within film, whenever summers must be the narrative each of them in the eighty six year, history of the academy awards. It was much commented upon that you were the first black director whose movie best picture, but is it was important to you Is it just important to other people? Don't want him, There is nothing I don't think about it. We can't do best of no consequence. To me I mean so what is most Davis's speaking of miles Davis. Then we're not going to hear him first book, but we are going to hear some music and tell me about your first track of the morning. Then what is this, and why particularly, have you chosen this track?
The first track is iraq with you by Michael Jackson, I think is one that we might add. This brand new stereo, you know in the late seventies, early eighties. What did it look like? Oh man, it was just as beautiful a silver record plan with the bureau matters speak We have that. Oh, my god. This is amazing and of course we my dad will lift indian the sunday will blair out Jim reeds and, of course, when that went away. My analyst Why does my book is one Michael Jackson, album wives,
I coulter drama gave it up, gave it to him and when they are out, we will play this record. Oh my god. We would start to sweat and, of course, that time, Michael Jackson, being the sort of black superstar, it was just a damn great times tat s. A big party that was Michael Jackson,
and work with you. I wonder steve mcqueen if you ve come down yet from that huge, almost ludicrous wave of hype that surrounds winning academy awards. It was in it was in march of this year, and you know it storm of interest in you d when it subsides. What does life like? Why hasn't it play. We just landed right now suppose outcome in mind to salute them. Have you the ground condemn yeah listed above twelve years, a slave, of course. That tells us story of solomon northup? He he was a free black man who was captured. And taken to the southern states where he then literally spent twelve, as a slave. It was you partner, the historian and cultural critic, bianca sitka, who announced the book, I heard that she wouldn't let you read it until she read every page. What, when you began, reading solomon, forceps words and
were precisely his words? He had written that book. Can you remember the sensation of wow? I couldn't believe it. I mean I was at the same time and being amaze, but I was angry myself how not know this book, I don't know it and how? How wasn't Sullivan nay known throughout the world and that's why I had to make this an interference. I mean you know. Ninety seven years after, but was made go in it who live in amsterdam and frank what this book I've been started, and it was amazing to me that, that, and obviously I knew her didn't know his and me I wanted men will know about admitting horrific and beautiful. The film is both These things in it was shot with such majesty, but that that of.
the hotel was magnified well. The fact the member is, I am not interest- is in manipulating people complete opposite. I'm interested in. A truth now. The funny thing is that the most horrific things sometimes happen in the most beautiful places. For example in the film the beating of patsy I wasn't making. them. Therefore I wasn't gonna tell my dp shown bob. It shone within whippings, innkeeper docklands on that. Could you miss skewed angle in a bit? No, I cannot put a filter on life. It is about, and not blinking is easy to make me look ugly because it makes it compulsory. Audience is worse when you may tell the truth and that you have it music, Steve maquinna. Your second one tell me about this: oh ok light
raspberry brave by prince, know his joy. I mean those he's pretty fast growing up because it was as if change brought and the beatles had a baby. and the song is beautiful. It's sexy, it's fun it will not being young again fantastic joy What
that was prince and raspberry buried stephen can, it would be, I wouldn't be doing my job properly. If I didn't ask you to repeat what you just told me during the playing of that record, tell me what happened after the academy awards this year well off. of yosemite, and I went to Madonna's after body every year. Has this sort of us component, which is an amazing, goes no press, there's no phone of cameras allowed to everyone's themselves and pull macartney bone meal given art, is I mean everyone was there and then I'm there with my mother- and it was this that we have a great time and an incomes prince and princess walk in anybody's cain and his wonderful, perfect round afro and these these bodyguards bills. I guess framing him either side of these two identical beautiful women and his eyes,
this is bad women, amazing, a great site printing. We welcome that raises an amazing you didn't didn't, say too much because as an attractive, well done and the location an awkwardly and he goes and introduce yourselves so a beat due to his age? He wants me just myself to one of the women at a mechanism. Hello is a long shot, Oh my god, with scientists came down he's doing with girls. It was amazing. Zerlina. Has hollywood baby You said on that night in your could accept in speech for best movie. Oscar that your life has always been of strong women tell me about your mother. Oh she's, great, I mean she's she's, strong I mean she's, she's strong and goodness issues without her I wouldn't be sitting in talking to you now obliged to us is a lot of black women are there who asked him to my mother and I just whatever I'm very lucky a millimetre that she always told me do what you want to do. You were born in
in sixty nine in shepherds bush and then you move to dealing with your family? That am I right in thinking that was a house that she had bought. Without Haven't your dad yeah yeah. I did that. Go not well. The situation is this: my mother, They get out of other scenario, and and basically mummy moved wheeling, it was a middle class living baby. So Environment was amazing. The possibilities were huge because you could do you use imagination, because this massive massive part, we could make stuff up you're the space makes the vote when you're living in a situation where you in concrete and estonian, this data, done wisely estate. What is there I'm? What
in the home environment mean what will your mom and dad interested in art or the pictures on the wall? No, I think, might my father was more of a person to get a trade work was about making money, and that was it. I remember thinking through to enterprise with my friend, John and him saying to John John John was all about doing. This is all about. Me sort of hope which symphony gets excited with the new voice. It was all about, even today It wasn't really buying it. Amendment we re proud and when you were doing up at those in those early stages. Who were you did you have probably not role models cause? We don't think of people that, when with children heroes. Who did you look out and think? Well, that's cool I'd like to do that. No, no, I can draw play got lost in drawing rose you I've kind of funny. I imagine the first people I read
I looked up to in the way over is really a huge fan of the specials, I'm in bed scene on top of the pops and the way they look you know terry whole being legs is gonna bust, a kitten and these two that guy's note really jumping round and having fun, and I'm just so cool termites data but other parties
its glory. That was the specials and too much too young, and I said in my introduction that that you were it was a time at school. Before you know the drawing was really recognised as being something that you could go on and pursue when you were pretty much written off. You were put in this class where you know you can do manual labor is there is actually a year in the third year I was. I was three c two and there was a three c one, which was for people who are sort of them fairly brighton, and then there was a 3x about that leaves with people going to oxford and cambridge, but that will that there was a three wide would just kind of self explanatory. It would be like dumb people who didn't think of very bright at all, and I was in 3c to so. I was what is manual labor, situation, and that was it. That was my future tied up when I was thirteen years old and of what You are you dyslexic, yeah, yeah, you're, very dyslexic, believe,
very dyslexic. I dont know what I could read. Well, you can be mildly dislike. You like, I could read slower, Ivan heart, I'm spelling sometimes so. I've addictive what is its severe. But is one there's things where I'm aware of, and I've sort of compensating the way of how to do things. Tat would have you know, deal with it and Tom timed it. It's a ban and often oftentimes, is is there really is we'll help? What was going through your head? Can you remember when you were in that class and you were pretty much being told Y know manual labor the thing that's a decent waited to live your life and on having like I don't know. I don't know that after the rationing come out with that they would never do, of course, have understandably, even in my soften when I wanted to do
it's one of those things where you just have to as a feeling and art was one of the things art was my salvation. My foundation course in jessica lovato. The first time I could breathe ideas am stupid ideas, daydreaming falling asleep, not going in. Sometimes you know. Finding a book knows what you got was that wow possibilities? Sharing this wonderful friend of mine, it was from language called indigo. This goes through life drawings. Classic every night enemy was justice. Robot I would just sort of ok, I'm going indicators, individual people who We should encourage you I'm just wonderful. It was discovery. Freedom have you kept any of those pieces from like the lifeline classes and sovereignty so my man after my mother's love, Somersworth,
you want to sign those in frame them unthinking. Do I do think? What did you dared say about you couldn't chelsea school of thought and pursuing that? I listen. Why don't you im happy. If I was, I was mechanical work for london transport. I think he would have been happier. You know when you, when you grow opposite way or all sort of institutionalized in the way. You obviously don't think so. Things are possible for field children and possibly, let's have some music scene, can tell me about your fourth disc of the day, miles: Davis, blue and green and wow. I remember, being first giving a to set of kind of blue by a guy called Adam Thorpe, and he said: oh, I dunno jazz is enameled, so don't let me know jazz very well off take this is the exact introduction. listen to this album and- and it was just- I can't tell you and this estate em out. I mean this is now forgive me for not now be mobile.
I die. This is to be paid at my friend, absolutely I'm just beautiful Yeah the the. Yeah the yeah
miles Davis and blew in green, I'm wondering stevenson what what was the first ever film you made first piece of film is travelling from goes, was hot college back home to break and well you will it goldsmiths Amelia. I imagine of part of the process must be breaking you down in order that you can build yourself back up as a nice is. How did you respond to? That was wonderful. I was wonderful because what happened to you, told you free do you want to do- is call your first response reaction, skippy fantastic, oh my god. This is amazing, but of course, after a while, you have a bit of a nervous breakdown because you've never had that freedom of thought and then somehow you learn through your own devices to build itself up to make my language in order to sort of produce too, to sort of navigate yourself within and in an inadequate. You want to do with an odd and it's crazy, wonderful and what gary, indeed
what you believed he wants to do than that. That point was with your discovery and love of film and with all you learned, goldsmiths was to go to film schooling. You got yourself to film school in new york and then it didn't it didn't work after four months. You left Those were definitely nemo. Yeomanry Emma use recommended to from school and we didn't work. You know I came from a space in the outskirts of the gospel of experimenting on finding of developing. Covering I go to my you and it was a place which was very narrow and then, of course it was taking you. So if you know how to make felt my way but it felt like almost like a chinese sort of the circus we come out. He do the splits and everything, but and again everyone the same. I, But lie in bed funds when mom in a sensational having tears come out your eyes and bollinger is I I said la Lamont I have to leave after I have to come back. Deal it. What I'm thinking when you tell me, but that is is house
but he, like you know, you know you, you are the goose that lays the golden egg within the hollywood structure, in which, if you make a movie that works, what the hollywood structure wants you to do is make that moving another five times. So I d seen you managed to thrive professionally. If you want to keep making movies that are distributed in the people, see easy. easy. I dont need money, we don't need money or free you do we want to get me to make an offer. You is money, maybe that need it, you don't want it. There's nothing I didn't it does no enticement. When you sit with those steely I'd hungry executives, some show you must have done. Sat and meetings was hollywood people. When you look back at them,
We're looking back at me now with a very certain look in your eye. What do you see in their eyes fear? I point that this thing they must be very scared of you because you can deliver, but you don't want them. I just think that you know it's difficult for them to trust, because they want to show that they want to show that nothing in life is sure. Let's have some more music, Steve mcqueen and your fifth tell me about your fifth choice of this morning. Yeah tricky, I just think, only came out phenomenon he again from all the arts to be rivers untold. Until now was trying things out was experimenting and, of course they will facilitated by the replica We believe in you. Let's go for, it is about believe again which will then move industry and trust, and I think, when you trust
people are, you believe, in people we are facing people. This is what happened genius. Ass. We might say that was tricky and him his round the corner. Let's talk for little moment, Steve mcqueen, about this phrase that you used and it keeps coming back into my head both when I, when I look at you and when I watch a movie switches dancing with ghosts, decide
here that there's a moment when you you touch a bit of history or a bit of reality and it's weird, a sort of visceral Magic is, is spun, does is that phase? You remember saying, because I remember anything is nothing. We will Definitely doing an ongoing, deafening doing that in too is a slave within varmus about what happened that that those particular places at that time? Hunger told the story. of the ira. Hunger strike Bobby sands is with hunger. Everyone who involvement in the film at a history involving did he protests and and and and hunger strikes, an xbox fathers runkles were in on both sides of the m of the bars and they were. The dam was amazing because it was the thought it could. They got to do something about it back to making the movie again, you are so this is the past and the present in and, of course, in cinema was so beautiful about it. Isn't
get something? You know you you you you you! You have a situation of the audience looking at the piece on art which is projected, but you have that thing that third, that third dimension, such quite often and communities that are tied to these places, were traumatic and terrible. Things have happened. I'm thinking of bell I am thinking of america's deep south for very understandable reasons want to move on from their history when the world to see them differently. Have you ever when you ve been in belfast, while the southern states of america making your movies had had an anti. mr reception from from the local some people around? You say you know that this is. This is not who we are, and this is not where we are. Why you coming back to do this? One is law about who we are now is about where we are now and. For me, slavery was something that no one to talk about, and I our first q, nay, we were promoting this film in florida, half an hour from where travel martin was,
This is a young boy who was shot shot up next and this woman stand up. She stood up and said. I thank you for making this movie. I shouldn't shares with everyone here we know. father, I fiscal listing is by nobody spoke about it, really, my father. In an end, these was poisoned for teaching is how to read, and the movie was a platform to allow people to have those conversations been buried very deep inside and nausicaa forward. We're gonna monasticism go back, and so do you know make that foundation and I move on and then be stronger and stand tulip testimonies exceeding queen about this year. Your six choice of the morning, oh my goodness, this is beautiful, again, klingle golden versions, bach, I'm just say what we say about this big music is, it is a truth.
It's like a cent smell. I don't know it. I know it is. it's some kind of personal but then again social forum? I'm going on, but play for Yeah
the I was clean, gould clean part of books, goldberg variations, you ve set, used, That you one of the things that propels you is that you can't stand injustice many
As you know, adults going about our business feel that way to most of us are not moved to do something about it or don't put ourselves in a position where we can. Is it very exhausting? Is it a great drain on you too, to follow soon, on that sensation not be able to stand injustice because it's not an easy path. You ve chosen artistically to pleasure and honour to privilege. I could do it now. I'm an arduous. I do I do think I do. I tried racing through throughout that's about it in two thousand and three, then you spent sometimes and officially appointed war. Artists the warning the war in Iraq and was that productive for you didn't? Was there aging. Did you feel satisfied
at a time when I went down iraq, an embargo was very frustrating because I was embedded regime either and it was frustrating, because I was in love to do certain things, but want ideas discovered, was that there was a commander of the troops. was amazing from all over uk. Am I failed at the time because I was doing of fulfilling them has not by failed it wasn't. It enabled didn't at up at all This is something I do. My best thing very frustrated and then I'm his situation of having an idea of the whole idea of making stamps with the servicemen on it? We're very fortunate to to to to be able to sort of reach to the families of the dead servicemen and women to ask for permission to use. Measures and then to give us images of of their loved ones who died, and so Surely they did we go about ninety three percent of the people who were there
By that time, to give us an image, Jesus and lament the royal mail and yeah that's when things went, didn't progressing. The artwork itself in two thousand six of incomes produced, it was called queen and country. You wanted them to be properly used as stance for them too. in circulation is, I won't, be password the bloodstream of other country, absolutely not through the media of radio, not for television over the internet, but through the everyday of picking up letter I love that idea of it going unpunished radar of media in recognising this person who died for this country. That was, and why do you think in the end did not happen? Let us romeo what did they'll tell you know knows I don't know why I am still waiting for an answer to the innocent
years later, let's have some music, Steve mcqueen and it's your seventh tell me about this. Kate bush was as women's work and wow. I rang her one time upgrade. Bush was lucky enough to to to to to to to speak to a couple of times and it's just just. She am looking for things searching experimenting and having the power to do that, and I imagine, especially as a woman in particular to that kind of authority over your work is pretty pretty amazing, and this is the result of again genius again. I always think of my mother,
my sister renounce these people, who are just so so so so very strong, particularly again in in in in the in the western, even the black community. They are the the backbone This is why in the skype of this. I'm exchange,
I was kate Lucian, this women's work to that feel good, listen to that seem to like you were in the moment of that they are still too much too much too much of a vote so much as out. I have to say I have found you today to be entirely affable and giving and smiling a law and great company, but a lot of people I said I was coming to talk to you today and unrecorded as island discs was. He said. What do you mean like a black man I'm used to that? Is that what it is try, saving more honestly, the black man. We think before I will in the world to make a judgment. I don't care You hear that, does it does it make you annoyed totally mouth?
talking to data being locked up somewhere, where a lot of people are to be quite frank,. I'm going to cost you away to a desert island. As, as you know, that's that's why you're here at will you survive? How will you survive stricken is how you look right now. I should tell people how will I know how local bond forgot about the music as usual. I will see us survive through memories unless the wonderful thing about life, the wonderful thing about being with sharing your life? Would someone is that you could lie in bed? well the end is talk about the past. Bessie about life, it is, is, is sharing it. Otherwise it is, is of no importance and I think that's that's. Why would pretend my wife is next to me, and I would be laughing crying and remembering people of past remembering the good times and the Jenin in school. So don't tell me about your final.
Steve mcqueen. What we gonna hear no or we're gonna hear part often I have to say where the we're gonna hear power by Kennedy. ass. He went to show my slogger in basel and had a very big retrospective them. And can you should show- and he got me he's- got on board very very well. Someone whose very I was being misunderstood and I think he's now he's he's gotta fill and you know he's experimenting. Twenty things out he's an artist is pushing the medium thank you ceases is exceptional, and this despite the song is, it is not just about laid their muskets the orbit, but is about the beauty of it is about the Yet how some people, hopefully one had wholesome, is but the vulnerable He was well he's very firm, is re famine and because
Some the lyrical content people not going through the whole song, they're gonna, get a very small part of it this morning. In the twenty first century? We need to do better than anybody ever seen. Do with the that was part of the poem If I can ye west am so Steve mcqueen, I'm going to give you some books. We always give our guests and a copy of the bible and a copy of the complete works of shakes. Here and you get to take another book along with you to this island far away. What will your book be? My? we'll be fine. It's time by james born again similitude.
The arctic circle. We would recommend This is kind of all or nothing situation. I love that you're allowed to take a luxury to and not something that can make your life alone on the island a little more palatable. What were you a luxury? Be compass bullet give me some idea location where the bloody hell. I am please elisa, consider the men of winter okay, accomplices years, then as steve, and if you had to pick just one of these eight tracks to save the waves there we can be washed away, which would be a one single track to save it'll be more. he'll, be blue. Angry at sea was steed mcqueen. Thank you very much. For letting us you, you're, desert island discs on cue
Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.