“12 Years a Slave” continued its audience momentum with an enthusiastic launch Friday at the Toronto Fest, following its big buzz at Telluride.
Hundreds of fans, five deep, lined up behind the barricades on King Street in front of the Princess of Wales Theater, all with their cell-phone cameras ready. The big lure was no doubt Brad Pitt, though Michael Fassbender got a big round of huzzahs when he appeared.
Director Steve McQueen (pictured above with Michael Fassbender) got prolonged applause when he came onstage, even before the film started. Also brought onstage were producers Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner (all of Plan B) and Anthony Katagas, scripter John Ridley, composer Hans Zimmer, and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch (the three thesps garnering the most pre-screening applause), Lupita Nyong’o, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano (with a cane), Paul Giamatti and Sarah Paulson.
The audience was into the Fox Searchlight-New Regency film. At one point, lead character Solomon Northrup finds a rare person who’s compassionate to his plight. When the character said he’s from Canada, the line got a smattering of applause.
After the pic wrapped, it got a standing ovation and the team answered a few questions. Kleiner praised McQueen as a “fearless individual, fearless artist” who was incredulous that there haven’t been more films dealing with slavery. Pitt said, “If I never get to participate in a film again, this is it for me. It was a privilege.”
Asked about the cast, McQueen made a distinction between actors and artists and said he loved working with people who are “exciting, thrilling, dangerous and brave.”
When the moderator said that it was a wrap, several people in the audience shouted “No!” and many more groaned.