Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Steve McQueen, the British director with the edgy actor's name, makes the year's dirtiest non-porn movie

THERE'S an exciting figure in movies named Steve McQueen, but he did not star in "The Great Escape," he isn't dead, isn't white, and isn't even a Yank.

THERE'S an exciting figure in movies named Steve McQueen, but he did not star in "The Great Escape," he isn't dead, isn't white, and isn't even a Yank.

The new Steve McQueen is a London-born and -based filmmaker who won major acclaim for his first feature, "Hunger," in 2008, about an Irish Republican Army hunger strike, and has caused a stir with his second feature "Shame," a frank (rated NC-17) and visually distinctive look at the life of a sex addict.

It stars Michael Fassbender (who played Bobby Sands in "Hunger") as a man whose joyless, compulsive surrender to impersonal sex is graphically recounted.

Anyone who's seen "Hunger" knows that McQueen does not flinch from stark, candid examination of the human body, an attribute that prompted the MPAA to slap "Shame" with the NC-17 label.

Filmmakers always say they don't care about the NC-17 rating, typically a commercial obstacle to finding an audience (it can limit advertising), but McQueen actually sounds sincere.

"I didn't even know what NC-17 was before someone told me. And it wouldn't have made any difference. If we are going to portray human behavior in a meaningful way, and if we are honest as a filmmaker and as an artist, we can't be making decisions based on what the movie is going to be rated."

He does, however, have the usual complaint that filmmakers have about the MPAA's particular sensitivity to graphic sex, as opposed to graphic violence.

"The film has sex in it. Is that really a shocker? It's not like it's something you've never done. Everyone has sex eventually. On the other hand, it's a very rare thing to hold a gun in one's hand and shoot someone in the head, and that's something you see [in movies] all the time."

McQueen also pointed out that while pornography is a subject of "Shame," the movie is in no way pornographic.

"This is a movie about an addiction that takes over a man's life, it's not about a man being promiscuous," McQueen said.

"Shame" is a sex movie in the same way that "Hunger" was a movie for foodies - don't go expecting to be titillated.

And do go expecting a movie that conforms to commercial rhythms or pacing. McQueen made his bones as a non-narrative video artist, is heavily influenced by Andy Warhol, and likes long, uninterrupted takes.

"It's not a trick or a gimmick or some kind of gesture. It's what is necessary for a particular scene," McQueen said. "I like the idea of the audience being there, really dealing with things in real time."

McQueen said he doesn't yet consider himself a full-time movie director, hasn't made the leap to Hollywood, but movie website says otherwise. McQueen did confirm that his next movie will be "Twelve Years a Slave," based on the Solomon Northup autobiography of a free man and musician captured and sold into slavery in the pre-Civil War South.

It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Fassbender and now Brad Pitt.

If you're making movies with Brad Pitt, your name is Steve McQueen and you're as talented as this guy, prepare for a career in Hollywood.