'12 Years A Slave' Wins Oscar's Best Picture

Mar 3, 2014
Originally published on March 3, 2014 10:11 am



At the Oscars, it was looking like a big night for the space thriller "Gravity." The film took one Oscar after another, seven in all - most not the headline awards, but "Gravity" did win for Best Director. By the end of the night, though, a movie some critics thought was too painful to win Best Picture did just that. The night belonged to "12 Years a Slave."

Here's NPR's Mandalit del Barco.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: When "12 Years a Slave" won for Best Picture, director Steve McQueen brought the cast onstage and jumped up and down in ecstasy. Backstage, he explained.

STEVE MCQUEEN: You know, emotions, physicality just takes over. So, you know, Van Halen - "Jump."


BARCO: McQueen is the first black filmmaker to take home the Best Picture Oscar. In his acceptance speech, he paid tribute the man whose story the movie told, a free man sold into slavery in the 1840s.

MCQUEEN: Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live. This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup.

BARCO: Solomon Northup's book is now a New York Times bestseller. Writer John Ridley adapted it into the screenplay, and picked up an Oscar. Lupita Nyong'o, won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of an enslaved woman named Patsey.

LUPITA NYONG'O: It doesn't escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else's. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.

BARCO: Nyong'o, Hollywood's newest It Girl, got a standing ovation.

NYONG'O: When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you're from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.


BARCO: In another milestone, Alfonso Cuaron became the first Mexican director to win an Oscar for his film "Gravity." It picked up a total of seven awards. During the ceremony and backstage, he praised the work of his leading lady, Sandra Bullock.

ALFONSO CUARON: Sandy, you're "Gravity." You are the soul, the heart of the film. You're the most amazing collaborator and one of the best people I've ever met.

BARCO: Cate Blanchett won her Best Actress Oscar for starring in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine." She made a point of praising women in film.

CATE BLANCHETT: Those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and, in fact, they earn money.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY: To that I say all right, all right, all right.


BARCO: With his signature mantra, this year's Best Actor, Matthew McConaughey, charmed the crowd

MCCONAUGHEY: To my father, who I know he's up there right now with a big pot of gumbo. He's got a lemon merengue pie over there. He's probably in his underwear, and he's got a cold can Miller Lite, and he's dancing right now.


BARCO: His costar in the film "Dallas Buyer's Club," Jared Leto, thanked his mother for his Best Supporting Actor award. And he made this dedication.

JARED LETO: This is for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to AIDS, and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love. Tonight, I stand here in front of the world with you and for you. Thank you so much, and good night.


BARCO: During the ceremony, host Ellen DeGeneres provided comic relief, ordering pizzas for the audience and snapping a selfie with A-listers.

ELLEN DEGENERES: Bradley, will you come down? I want you in it. Jennifer, come in, also. Brad, get in here.

BARCO: The group photo made history with the most retweets, almost two million by the end of the show alone.

Backstage, Jared Leto passed around his Oscar statuette to eager reporters. By the time we caught up with him outside, someone in his entourage handed us a tiny gold replica.

Chocolate? I got a chocolate Oscar.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You got a chocolate Oscar.


BARCO: Sweet.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.