Saturday, July 14, 2012

Interview for the Cheltenham Music Festival — Part II: Adaptations and His Role in 12 Years a Slave

We’ve said in the past that a minute-long interview with Benedict often yields as much material (or more) as 10 minutes with most other actors. So this interview — roughly six and a half minutes long — is something of an embarrassment of riches.

Asked how important it is for the audience to know the original text of an adaptation for the screen, he says, from around 4:16:

I think one of the points of adaptation is to bring audiences to an awareness of the original text, rather than actually … I think you’ve lost the objective if you’re doing an adaptation and they have to have read it beforehand. We don’t live in an era where people can suffer the patience of a footnote referring back to a book … One of the great joys I’ve experienced is if I’ve been doing a classical novel or even a modern novel, or a relatively modern novel, I’m thrilled when I hear that friends’ children are picking up that book for the first time, or adults are revisiting it … I think it’s more important to recognise the true, original intentions of a book when you’re doing an adaptation and hope that people get back to the original.”

Then he discusses his latest project, 12 Years a Slave, from 5:19 (after talking about his “ridiculous haircut’ for his role):

It’s a true story of a character called Solomon Allstrup … played by Chiwetel Ejiofor and I’ve got this extraordinary character who’s very paternal and tries to patronise and educate and nurture his flock, but is still … When the chips are down, he raises his true colours up. And you see he’s just, again, a man who’s involved in the nature of the slave trade, or as it was then in Virginia, `cause this was after the abolition of the slave trade — the international slave trade. But that created a market whereby everyone’s value is increased because it was illegal to trade to people who’d actually buy slaves and breed them and, in the case of my character, sell them at the drop of a hat in order to make the books balance. So it’s an interesting one — he seems to be a good man and he is struggling to be a good man. But he is a good man doing a very bad thing, which is using human beings as unpaid labour to manufacture his products.”

Our friend dreadpiratewestley says of this section:  “I think it’s worth noting that in the Cheltenham interview, Benedict gets Solomon Northrup’s name wrong (he says Allstrup). Just goes to show that mouth and mind are running at different speeds and that as intelligent and endearing as he is, he’s still adorably bad with names sometimes (Andrew Lincoln for Andrew Scott on the BAFTA red carpet, anyone?)!

True — we suppose that, like his consulting-detective alter-ego, there is so much knowledge and insight crammed into that brain, that it’s not at all surprising that some things fall between the cracks!