What’s the beef between ’12 Years’ writer John Ridley & Steve McQueen?


12 Years a Slave picked up three Oscars on Sunday. Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting, the film picked up Best Picture and screenwriter John Ridley won his first Oscar for adapting Solomon Northup’s memoir. Among those three awards, where would you expect all the drama? I would have thought it would be with Best Picture, but it looks like all of that drama got ironed out months ago. No, it seems that there’s some kind of unspoken drama with John Ridley and director Steve McQueen.

When Ridley’s name was announced, he didn’t say anything to McQueen and McQueen didn’t say anything to him either. McQueen only clapped for him, but it was like the bitchiest clap you’ve ever seen ever. Ridley didn’t name McQueen in his speech and when the film won Best Picture, McQueen didn’t thank Ridley. Oh yes. BOY DRAMA. Gossip know-it-all Nikki Finke tweeted this too:

So what’s the beef? I have no idea, but I’ve been reading some theories. You know Steve McQueen is a screenwriter as well, right? He co-wrote Shame and Hunger, and some say that McQueen had a significant hand in the script for 12 Years a Slave. But the WGA rules are notoriously wonky and sometimes the WGA rules against certain people getting credit on a script. So maybe that’s the beef – John Ridley doesn’t want to acknowledge that McQueen wrote part of the script and McQueen is pissed that he’s not getting credit? That’s just a theory.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first screenplay dramz Ridley has been involved with – he and David O. Russell had a huge falling out over the script for Three Kings. Note who Ridley embraces on his way up to the stage.

…Oh, and this morning’s Page Six has another take altogether. Apparently, Ridley was praising McQueen, saying he was “forever grateful” to McQueen for the chance to work on the film. That doesn’t explain why they didn’t embrace or why McQueen was doing the bitch-clap, but sure. Page Six says that there WAS a beef between McQueen and Ridley’s wife but that they’ve worked it out, although that story sounds absolutely bizarre.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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81 Responses to “What’s the beef between ’12 Years’ writer John Ridley & Steve McQueen?”

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  1. Lucy says:

    That bitch clap might be the funniest thing I’ve seen this morning

  2. Kiddo says:

    I watched it a few times, who did he hug? I can’t tell.

  3. Lindy says:

    That video doesn’t look like a beef that’s been worked out.

    • idk says:

      In all fairness, McQueen did stand up and clap as Ridley walked up to the stage. The “slow clap” only happened after Ridley left McQueen out of his “thank you’s”. Kind of understandable to be upset when everyone gets a “thank you” except you. But either way, they are grown men and shouldn’t be putting this out on display…but I do blame Ridley more than I would blame McQueen.

      • Tiffany :) says:

        I agree, I blame Ridley more than McQueen (based on what I know this far). If someone brings you a project, then works on it with you, and you receive an Oscar for that…you BETTER thank them if you have any class or dignity! Even if they had a falling out afterward, you should still be grateful that they took a project with so much promise and brought it to you.

        Plus, McQueen has a history of contributing writing to award winning scripts, so it doesn’t seem a stretch that he contributed, that seems to be his pattern. Ridley also has a pattern…of getting into credit drama with his co-workers. Doesn’t make him look good at all!

      • Liv says:

        I don’t know much about the topic, but if Ridley wrote the whole script and then McQueen got in and they together changed it or worked on it, then Ridley did the main work, didn’t he? Is it common then to credit both of them equally?

      • Tiffany :) says:

        Liv, I heard that the 2011 draft had Steven getting co-writing credits on the title page.

  4. blue marie says:

    Or maybe they genuinely dislike each other? It happens. Although if I had to guess, I’d go with option 1 of McQueen not getting screenplay credit. *shrugs* I’m just happy they both won.

  5. Lark says:

    I think David Poland said people are making a lot of drama out of nothing, and I kind of agree that people are over-reacting to this….. There’s been beef in the industry and even at the Oscars before, but this seemed more like a cold, tense relationship rather than Lily Tomlin/George Clooney/David O. Russell style feuding….I guess people are so used to gushy statements that not thanking someone or not hugging them is somehow “they hate each other’s guts.” I swear Ridley thanked McQueen at the Indie Spirits and McQueen has talked highly of Ridley a few times. It’s not like they were shit-talking each other beforehand or making passive-aggressive digs at each other….. so even if they do hate each others guts, props to keeping it together until after the awards race. My guess is they dislike each other and have a tense relationship, but it’s not the major beef people are running with.

    • ViktoryGin says:

      What’s the beef between Lily Tomlin and Clooney?

      • Spacelamb says:

        It wasn’t between Lily Tomlin and George Clooney; it was between the two actors and David O. Russell on separate films. Clooney punched Russell in the face on Three Kings because they rowed over the way Russell was treating extras. The Tomlin/Russell meltdown is online. She asked for clarification of something on the set of I Heart Huckabees and he flips out. He was so unpopular with the crew that somebody leaked it – very rare in an industry where what happens on set stays on set. Tomlin was all class and actually defended him when the footage leaked by saying he was very talented and sets can be stressful, and Clooney said in a recent interview that after a decade of frostiness he buried the hatchet with Russell when they bumped into each other at some sort of social gathering.

      • Ellen says:

        It’s Tomlin/Russell on I Heart Huckabees and they mostly made up afterward. But the video is pretty epic.

      • Eva says:

        It’s between Lily and David O, and a separate scuffle between George Clooney and David O.

        DOR shouted at LT on the set of I Heart Huckabees, and nearly had a fistfight with GC filming Three Kings.

      • MsDisgrace says:

        I think they were trying to say that both Lily Tomlin and George Clooney have had beefs with David O’Russel. Clooney and Russel almost got into a fistfight on the set of Three Kings, and Russel and Tomlin had all out screaming matches on the set of I Heart Huckabees.

        Basically David O’Russel is terrible to work with and probably a pretty big douche bag.

      • L says:

        Man, the 3 kings set sounds like a nightmare. Ridley and O’Russell had a big feud because of that movie to.

      • dizzylucy says:

        After watching some interviews in all the Oscar coverage, I get the impression that Russell has gotten it together a bit and doesn’t act that badly on set anymore. He still seems kind of jerky, but not as short fused. Plus most of his actors are willing to work with him repeatedly, so that’s a sign he’s not as bad as he used to be.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I think it is a pretty big deal to not thank the person that brought a project to you, after you win an Oscar for that exact project. Based on the body language, it was a intentional snub, not an accident. Oh the drama!

  6. Ellie says:

    Glad you brought it up, I’d noticed it on the night. On watching again nobody seems partly warm towards Ridley. Sounds like he doesn’t like sharing. McQueen seems popular with both cast and crew. Also I love his reaction to winning Best Film.

  7. Sixer says:

    Don’t know and don’t much care but I LOVED that hand clap. Hilarious. It’s always all or nothing with McQueen.

  8. truthSF says:

    According to an eyewitness, McQueen allegedly stepped up to Ridley’s wife when Ridley went into the restroom and berated her during the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, increasing the existing tension between the two. I don’t know how true this is, but judging by how these two kept giving each other 12 shades of “b! tch please” does indicate that something’ s between them. And it’s quite entertaining.

  9. Luca26 says:

    I’m glad they kept their bizness under wraps and didn’t let this feud undermine their movie.

  10. amanda says:

    such a bummer. they’re both very talented and it’s too bad that they, with their influence and talent, couldn’t work it out or get the WGA to help them sort it out, especially for such a film as 12 Years A Slave.

  11. Celia says:

    The Wrap has an extensive article about the feud: http://www.thewrap.com/oscars-rift-fight-john-ridley-steve-mcqueen-12-years-a-slave

    Both of them come across badly. Ridley for refusing to give Steve credit, Steve for not allowing people to talk to Ridley and making him to sit alone in a different table in an awards ceremony and berating his wive and stealing their Bafta goodie bag….

    • The Original G says:

      Also prominently mentioned is the fact that Brad has been working to mediate the situation.

      • Liberty says:

        In her understandable excitement, Lupita didn’t mention Brad Pitt in her thank you speech, but Pitt didn’t act silly or rude because of it and the world didn’t end. It’s a crazy moment. Some trip, some stammer, some freeze or cry, some forget names.

        So it has be a bigger “other” issue between these two men. Artist temperament? Refusal to acknowledge work in general? General bitchy behavior or specific disagreements that get too big? Like, the way it’s said that Bill Murray wouldn’t speak to Harold Ramis for years, until near the end of Harold’s life, due to creative conflicts over the story line for Groundhog Day. Stuff happens. Bill gave a nice shout-out to his late friend while presenting on Sunday night.

        A friend of mine in LA says “everyone in Hollywood is beefed off with someone! The game is only letting your friends know who they are.”

    • A Different Kate says:

      I also have read that Ridley is not well-liked in the industry because he crossed picket lines during the writers strike a number of years back.

    • LadySlippers says:

      @Celia: The comments from that article were better and more informative than the article itself. Thank you so much for the link.

  12. cody says:

    Maybe McQueen and Ridley’s wife had an affair and Ridley found out and at that Spirit Awards he was not berating her, but having a lovers spat.

  13. Jayna says:

    It was the Oscars. That’s sad. Ridley wins and doesn’t hug even one of the cast of TYAS. So, obviously, sides were being taken. They showed a photo backstage where it was said Ridley kept ignoring Angie and was focusing on Sidney. The photos looked like he was snubbing Angie as she’s trying, but who knows if that’s the truth or if they are making up a story from a few photos that could appear that way.

  14. andypandy says:

    Glad they were able to keep it contained until now and not jeopardize the film.Beef in Hollywood is nothing new Cmon how many if us like EVERybody we have to deal with at work But we find a way to keep it professional
    McQueen may have an ego but would more side with him that Ridley who based on what I know of him kinda seems to be a jerk
    Exhibit A h ttp://www.esquire.com/features/essay/ESQ1206BLACKESSAY_108?src=spr_TWITTER&spr_id=1456_46460256

  15. Greata says:

    Whatever the reason Ridley acted like a petulant child.Grow up man! If you have a beef with someone work it out. Stop acting like a petulant little b*tch…..for all the world to see no less.

  16. L says:

    What I don’t get is at the Independent Spirit awards speech Ridley’s speech included nothing but praise for McQueen and vice versa-so either something happened at that award show or this is much ado about nothing.

    McQueen should have had a screenwriting credit, esp as his wife (who is a historian) did the original research and they both worked with Ridley. As someone posted above, esp after that horrible Esquire article Ridley wrote I’m more inclined to ‘side’ with McQueen. Ridley has always created beef with his directors/producers. He’s a tool. A talented one, but still a tool.

  17. Evi says:

    My experience with writers is that they don’t like directors trying to get the credit for their work.
    Directors will always take a script and change some parts of it. Then they’ll seek a writing credit and so on.
    Maybe Ridley put his foot down and the producers were on his side. No one will ever know the goings on,but for their to be a feud like this, it’s usually the director trying to get their foot in and get a credit when they don’t really deserve a credit.

    • Ice Maiden says:

      Yes, if you read the comments on the article linked to above, many people are saying that, because directors tend to be much higher in the pecking order than script writers, it’s not uncommon for them to ask for writing credit even if all they’ve done is tweak a scene here and there. They are also saying that disputes like this are always decided by the higher-ups, and in this case it seems they took Ridley’s side. it’s also worth pointing out that Ridley apparently wrote the script ‘on spec’ – ie he wrote it in the hope that some studio would pick it up, but didn’t actually get paid a penny until they did so, which was by no means a certainty.

      So while I can’t pretend to know the details here, my guess is that McQueen’s ego may have been getting the better of him. In either case, it’s slightly pathetic to see two wealthy, successful adult men bicker publicly on the night of their greatest triumph.

  18. Tiffany says:

    So two well off, award winning men are acting like children. Well, color me shocked. Shocked.

    Dudes, you just won Oscars are Sunday, so it is hard to feel bad for either of you.

    • Ice Maiden says:

      I said much the same thing above. However, while it’s true that their public spat is childish, it’s also true that credit translates to money. From what I’ve read, if McQueen was credited as a screenwriter, he’d also stand to get an additional % from the film’s earnings. Since ’12 Years a Slave’ was a big hit, we could be talking a substantial amount of cash. So it’s not just about ego – though this being Hollywood (however much McQueen may like to think he’s all about his ‘art’) you can be sure ego is involved too!

  19. The Original G says:

    There are stories around that Brad acted as a mediator to keep the lid on things during award season. You can kind of see Brad corraling them around at various events.

    Add this, to Angie being Australia, extra filming for Fury and lord knows how many long distance flights the past few weeks, no wonder they both looked a bit tired.

    I think McQueens’ been over-exposed.

  20. Zigggy says:

    I thought it was weird he just walked by all the TYAS people!

  21. Clara says:

    I think it’s more likely McQueen is pissed off that Ridley wouldn’t give his wife a credit. In every interview, speech etc, he mentions his wife bringing Solomon Northrup’s story to his attention. He had her on stage to accept Best Picture with cast and crew.

    • Ice Maiden says:

      No – McQueen wanted screenplay credit (and presumably any accompanying royalties) for himself, but seems the producers sided with Ridley. He’d be really stretching things too far if he also demanded his wife got a cut as well.

  22. vv007 says:

    I think McQueen’s clap came after Ridley’s speech too. That speech consisted of Ridley thanking and giving the producer almost complete credit for the film. I don’t recall the name but it was a pretty hamfisted dig I thought and it seemed to suggest McQueen was not a factor—like, at all. I thought that was bitchier than the clap and now knowing there was a beef leading up to that speech, that statement “you made it happen” makes better sense.

    • Shopperetta says:

      He pretty much thanked everyone but McQueen, and then said that one of the producers made the movie happen at the end. The guy should take a page from Adele Dazim and ‘let it go.” However, Steve McQueen clapping made the night for me.

  23. TheCountess says:

    Ridley gets into rows with every director who works on one of his scripts. That said, McQueen had no business trying to get a name credit for the screenplay. These two really deserved each other.

  24. LAK says:

    Ridley is NOT in the WGA. This is why the WGA couldn’t arbitrate this dispute. It was Ridley against studio. Studio decided to go with Ridley.

    However, Ridley is a tool who fights with all his directors and producers, so I wouldn’t immediately say that it was McQueen trying to grab unwarranted credit.

    On the other hand, Ridley not being union, could be used against him as he has to fight his own battles. Someone above posted that he crossed union lines in the last writers’ strike, he didn’t. He isn’t union, so he could support the strike unemcumbered.

    Writers and directors are always having this sort of fight. There are clear rules about how much a director or co-writer can claim to have contributed in order to get that credit. And Directors do have a lot of input on the screenplay eventually, and if McQueen put in as much as he claims, there is no reason why he shouldn’t have received a credit. It’s a pity that the WGA wouldn’t arbitrate this one because it’s their job and experience.

    I’d never trust a studio hack to do it especially if pressure is brought to bear to make a decision for one party over the other.

    • Bridget says:

      Here in the states, it’s still considered crossing lines even if you weren’t a part of the union – and it is a big deal to cross a picket line in a strike. The only reason why David Letterman was able to get back to work at the time was because he bargained directly with the Writer’s Guild. Therefore, none of those writers were crossing lines.

  25. GeeMoney says:

    Wow. The amount of shade being thrown in that gif is EPIC.

    Perhaps they’ll make up in the future… who knows.

  26. Bridget says:

    This wasn’t a Writer’s Guild project, so they won’t exactly be getting involved in the matter.

  27. Karen says:

    Hahaha wow. I knew something was up when he won, I saw the fake clap immediately sunday night. How rude. As glad as I am about 12 Years A Slave bringing it home, I’ve watched/read a few Steve McQueen interviews and he is NOT a gracious person so I can’t help but think he’s the baby in the situation.

  28. db says:

    I have nothing against McQueen at all, but good for Ridley. Writers routinely get shat on, for the greater glory of more powerful players. The fact the studio sided with the writer, when they are normally the weaker hand in such matters, is telling, imo.