Will Brad Pitt’s ’12 Years a Slave’ Oscar chances get ruined by studio in-fighting?


This year’s Argo is 12 Years a Slave. I mean that as both a cautionary tale and a compliment. At this time last year, Argo had already pulled ahead in all of the Oscar pools and people were already expecting it to sweep Best Picture and Best Director, plus most people figured it would get a few acting nominations. While Argo did go on to pick up the overwhelming majority of the Best Picture awards (even the Best Picture Oscar), there was a minor backlash against the film, which had time to fester because Argo had peaked so quickly in the Oscar season. Ben Affleck didn’t even get nominated for a Best Director Oscar and there was a significant whisper campaign against some of the discrepancies and outright lies in the film. Argo came out a winner, but there was and is a small asterisk against the film too.

As I said, I’m worried that 12 Years a Slave will follow a similar trajectory. Right now, at this moment, 12 Years is the film to beat for Best Picture. Everyone loves it. Everyone thinks it’s a modern classic. Everyone is praising the cast, the director (Steve McQueen) and the producers, especially Brad Pitt, for having the courage to greenlight this film. So, that’s when the whisper campaigns come in. Much like Argo, there are some people questioning the historical accuracy of 12 Years a Slavego here to read about it. Apparently, some historians think Solomon Northup might not have written that memoir, that perhaps it was ghostwritten by an abolitionist. To be fair to the film, though, they had America’s Favorite Historian Henry Louis Gates as a paid consultant on the film, and Gates has already come out in defense of the historical accuracy.

So, what’s next? Studio in-fighting! This might seem boring right now, but this might significantly affect the Oscar race:

Despite the long-standing relationship between Brad Pitt and Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey, there is a tense confrontation underway between the studio and Pitt’s Plan B production company over awards contender 12 Years a Slave, according to industry sources.

The dispute arises from Paramount’s belief that executives at Plan B breached the company’s deal with the studio by failing to offer Paramount a chance to finance and distribute the movie from director Steve McQueen. In April 2012, a few weeks before filming began, New Regency agreed to co-finance and distribute the picture via Fox Searchlight.

Grey and Paramount declined to comment. Plan B executive Dede Gardner did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did CAA, which represents Pitt and had worked to arrange financing for the film.

12 Years is off to a strong start at the box office, in limited release, having grossed $3.4 million so far. Based on the memoir by Solomon Northup and starring an ensemble that includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Pitt, the film has shot to the top of most Oscar projectors’ best picture lists.

The idea for 12 Years a Slave was first discussed in 2008, when Plan B executives Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner met with McQueen shortly before the director’s first film, Hunger, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Pitt subsequently discussed the project with McQueen in London, and the director began working on a script with writer John Ridley.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Pitt is free to accept roles in films at other studios and take a producing credit without cutting in Paramount. But the studio’s position is that Pitt’s company must give Paramount an opportunity to come in on projects that Plan B develops. Paramount is said to be contemplating what steps to take, if any, in the wake of this alleged breach. Grey is said to believe that he was deliberately misled about the project, not by Pitt but by Plan B executives.

Grey co-founded Plan B with Pitt and the star’s then-wife, Jennifer Aniston, in 2002. Pitt became sole owner in 2006. The company has had a deal at Paramount since 2005.

A source with knowledge of the situation speculates that Plan B may have bypassed Paramount because 12 Years was coming together just as tensions between the banner and the studio were at a fever pitch over the troubled production of Plan B’s World War Z. Eventually the third act of the zombie film had to be reconceived and reshot. While the picture eventually grossed $540 million worldwide and Paramount escaped the write-down that some industry observers had predicted, the film did not generate the profit that a studio would desire from a costly tentpole.

[From THR]

It’s likely that this will be the biggest story we hear of this situation – now that the story is out there and everyone knows Paramount and Plan B are in a tiff, executives from both sides will figure out some sort of equitable solution quietly and the Oscar campaign will continue posthaste. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve seen from Brad Pitt over the past year, it’s that he’s a true hustler, and he’s also quite the undercover mogul. The fact that World War Z was so surprisingly successful (it’s the biggest hit of Brad’s career), and the fact that 12 Years a Slave is already such a major Oscar contender is no fluke. Brad’s the man. He’ll take care of this.



Photos courtesy of production stills, THR, WENN.

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77 Responses to “Will Brad Pitt’s ’12 Years a Slave’ Oscar chances get ruined by studio in-fighting?”

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  1. QQ says:

    IDC about Brad’s Oscar, Chiwetel on the other hand BETTER be nominated for Everything this year

  2. lower-case deb says:

    Brad Pitt is still with CAA and Huvane?

  3. Katherine says:

    The answer is NO!

    12 Years will rightfully sweep the awards. This is not some movie that anyone with a brain should be trifling with. Nor should they. It is not some Argo. The story almost sounds made to stir things up and cause awards trouble and people in the industry are not gong to like that. Guarantee we’ll know the source of this “story” and Paramount will be apologizing for it.

    People need to realize that every time they repeat this – like making it a headline story here they are doing exactly what the spinners want – repeating gossip to hurt a film. And now I’ve contributed by even responding.

    They tried this with A Beautiful Mind and it backfired. Dirty pool often has the exact opposite effect intended.

  4. ANDREA1 says:

    Brad is sure a hustler and am glad its paying off for him.

  5. ANDREA1 says:

    @Katherine I agree with you.

  6. SBJ says:

    It always shocks me when I read “Steve McQueen” as the only Steve McQueen there is is, for me, the legend who tragically died in 1980.

    He (the one we are talking about here) should have something put on his name to, an initial or anything really, that’s most respectful people do when there is somebody else known with this name. It’s not like Steve McQueen was an unknown actor, even 30 years after his death…

    After all, you can’t name your brand or your web site with a name that already exists, why shouldn’t it be different in this case ?

  7. Linia says:

    So Paramount is jealous of 12YAS success and wants a piece of the cake!
    Hope Brad and Plan B puts them in their place!

  8. Maya says:

    This is why I find the Oscars so frustrating. 12 Years a Slave is an absolute masterpiece (and I don’t use that word lightly), a truly courageous and breathtaking work of art with incredible work from all involved. I think it definitely deserves to win Best Picture – and other Oscars – but now, apparently, it might not because of stupid studio politics? How ridiculous is that? Also, I think Michael Fassbender gives the best performance of his career in this film, and if he’s snubbed by the Oscars because he’s (rightly or wrongly) unwilling to campaign for it, well, that’s also pretty stupid and frustrating. As Mo’Nique said when she won for Precious, “It should be about the performance and not the politics.” Her win was a rare example of that actually happening, but unfortunately that remains the exception and not the rule.

    Okay, rant over!

  9. Elodie says:

    LOL if anything the chances are increased even more! Paramount is only popping out now that Twelve Years A Slave is a critical success, before that they didn’t lift a finger to help finance the film, and New Regency came to the rescue otherwise the film would have stayed on the shelf. Now suddenly they say “they didn’t get a chance to…”. Oh ok..!

  10. Francine says:


    Because Steve McQueen is also this man’s name. He didnt just pick it out of thin air. He’s not an actor, so there is no issue with the guilds. And, also, strangers don’t get to dictate how other people identify themselves.

  11. lisa2 says:

    Paramount would never had financed this film. It’s not like they never heard of the film. It has been what over a year and now they are saying stuff. Just makes them look bad. Beside Brad can go to any Studio and cut a deal. he and Brad Grey are friends and started Plan B.. but hey they screwed him with VF and now they are leaking this.. Sour Grapes. and sore losers

    Good for Plan B..and I don’t expect Brad to say much if anything. he didn’t get in the mud when they did that VF piece.. That is how you handle stuff like this.. There is not a fight unless you participate.. I don’t see Brad participating in public anyway.

    and Brad deserves an OSCAR just like any other producer that fights to get a film made.

  12. pwal says:

    I hope it doesn’t hurt the film’s chances; I do hope it hurts Paramount, though. Quite frankly, I just can’t buy that Pitt bypassed Paramount and Paramount just stood there and let him. All last year, Twitter was full of tweets about the filming of this movie; there were constant press releases about new additions to the cast, like when Paul Giamatti and Alfre Woodard joined the cast. I think that, at the time, maybe Paramount wasn’t impressed with the marquee value of the new additions, but now that the press is about the collective, they want to act brand new.

    And I can’t help thinking that Paramount would’ve cocked up the promotion of this film, wanting Pitt to promote it like WWZ, and frankly, that wouldn’t have worked. Pitt allowing the actors, director, Skip Gates, and hopefully, the re-release of the book will keep the focus on Solomon’s story and the institution of slavery. Sure, there is deflection and defensiveness on message boards, but imagine if PItt became the sole face of the movie, or if Spike Lee directed it, or if more well-known Black and White Actors inhabited the roles- the discussion would’ve derailed much earlier and there would’ve been no chance to reset it.

  13. Renee says:

    This is a clear case of you snooze you lose. Brad Pitt and Plan B had to fight to get this movie made and now that Paramount sees it’s success they want a piece of it. They should have helped finance the movie if they wanted to share in the success.

  14. Virgilia Coriolanus says:

    So what I got out of this was Plan B wanted to finance it, offered Paramount a piece of the action, Paramount said kiss my booty, and now that the film is actually doing well (don’t quote me on this, but I read that 12YAS has made about 2 and a half million dollars already, in limited release) they’re po’d because they lost out–so now they’ve called in some pr to do some saving face. Sounds about right??

    It’s rare that almost everyone agrees that a film is amazing. And I don’t get the issue with the authenticity of the story–they say it may have been ghostwritten by someone else i.e. someone else wrote Solomon’s story, but Solomon put his name on it? I highly doubt that’s true, because I’m sure that when the book came out a lot of Southerners immediately discredited the book (and most likely succeeded) BECAUSE it was written by a black man.
    If you’ll all remember your history, black people couldn’t even testify in court–their testimony was inadmissible.

    How sad is it that people are STILL trying to discredit a historical event, simply because it deals with slavery (you can put the Holocaust in there too)?

  15. Maya says:

    Ahh – let the dirty politics have begin. 12 Years a Slave is getting tremendous praise by both the critics and the viewers and now others who refused to produce this movie wants a piece of it’s success.

    I hope Brad puts them in their place and swipes the Oscars next year not because I love Brad but because this movie deserves all the awards.

  16. ANDREA1 says:

    @Linia and @Renee I completely agree with you guys. Paramount isn’t being fair IMO

  17. Kate says:

    12 Years A Slave is a far, far better film than Argo. Argo won because the mainstream contenders were very average, the best contenders were way too obscure for the Oscars and the only film that met in the middle was Django Unchained, which voters didn’t know what to do with.

    12 Years isn’t the best film of the year, but it will likely be the best film nominated for Best Picture. However, there are a few much more crowd-pleasing films yet to come, so I doubt it will win. I do think it was hyped too early. I’ve been hearing about it for over a year now. That’s fine if it’s a real underdog, like say, Beasts of the Southern Wild, but it’s really tiring if it’s one of the the main contenders. It turns off as many voters as it attracts.

    • magpie says:

      “12 Years isn’t the best film of the year”. What is in your opinion?

    • A Different Kate says:

      I really don’t think last year was mediocre in terms of quality movies. I think politics more than anything torpedoed some of the better movies, leaving Argo as the least offensive option. Obscurity wasn’t the issue. Zero Dark Thirty was absolutely fabulous (I thought it was the best picture, hands down) but was hindered by political agendas from both sides of the aisle. Silver Linings Playbook was also extremely well done. Both were pretty mainstream, with big budgets, big casts, etc. Django Unchained was also pretty mainstream and incredibly well done, but as you say, it had some controversy to it so that voters didn’t quite know what to do. Lincoln and Les Mis, yeah, they were mediocre. All that said, Argo’s win wasn’t outrageous. It wasn’t like Titanic or Shakespeare in Love winning.

  18. ANDREA1 says:

    Why isn’t there a reply button its frustrating!

  19. ANDREA1 says:

    @Kate I totally agree with you TYAS was hyped too early I wish it was an underdog too and I do hope it won’t be ignored by the Oscars because TYAS is a great movie.

  20. ashley says:

    Good job,brad pitt. U deserve to get an oscar next year. I hope the actors in this movie will be rewarded,they deserve it,great performance! Paramount is full of sh!t!

  21. Madpoe says:

    the man has Angelina Jolie! He don’t need no stinkin’ Oscar! :)
    *fingers crossed he’ll snag one tho*

  22. ANDREA1 says:

    @Eve I can’t find one maybe because am using my phone. Thanks will switch from my phone now.

  23. Lopusta says:

    Brad has done well and has also come a long way. I hope TYAS sweeps the awards this season.

  24. Kim1 says:

    There is no reply button if you are on a phone today but it was here yesterday.

  25. ANDREA1 says:

    @Kim1 okay and thanks! I was able to reply yesterday I hope this irregularities gets fixed.

  26. Janet says:

    It must be an iPhone problem. The reply button is working fine on android phones.

  27. Bodhi says:

    Its petty well documented that 12 Years a Slave is a legit autobiography. Whisper about other stuff all you want, Hollywood, but the scholarship is legit.

  28. shannon says:

    ol’ Brad looks waxy as hell in this pic. I know he’s airbrushed but there is def. something else going on there.

  29. paranormalgirl says:

    12YAS was a hard movie to watch, and rightfully so. As far as historical inaccuracies… it’s a drama, not a documentary. It didn’t bother me with “Argo” and it wouldn’t bother me with 12YAS either.

  30. The Original Mia says:

    I have to agree with those above. There’s no amount of in-fighting that will keep this film from winning several Oscars. It’s a very moving story and the film is amazing.

  31. The Original G says:

    I predict that Brad will make it work. It’s actually interesting the number of sucessful business collaborations he has going in multiple fields.

    Paramount just likely wants their public role re-cast. They don’t want to be painted as obstucting the making of this film. And Brad wants to keep making films with them. They’re no evidence that he needs to hog all the glory anyway. Not his style. He’s a fixer.

  32. Greata says:

    As a Brange Bit*ch, I hope this is worked out soon and smoothly, or somewhere, where the devils roam, Harvey W. will be gleefullly laughing.

  33. Best Jess says:

    Haven’t seen the movie yet so no comment on that but I had to chime in to say whatever Pitt is doing to his face, he needs to stop. He’s beginning to look very plastic.

  34. glaugh says:

    Yeah but at the end of the day, who gives a sh-t about the Oscars? If the film is indeed as amazing as everyone says it is, it will not be forgotten, and will be considered a classic. Look at all the movies that have received Oscars… it’s mostly an award given to the most well-marketed film isn’t it? Not necessary the most quality or worthy film. SO… who cares.