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Steve McQueen
Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Steve McQueen

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Steve McQueen is a British artist, director and screenwriter best known for his films 'Hunger,' 'Shame' and '12 Years a Slave,' which won the Academy Award for best picture.

Who Is Steve McQueen?

Steve McQueen is a British artist, director, and screenwriter who has garnered many awards for his art exhibitions and film work. He broke through into the mainstream film industry with his 2008 film, Hunger. His 2011 film, Shame, earned many accolades. McQueen's 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave, won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the 2014 Academy Award for best picture.

Early Life

McQueen was born on October 9, 1969, in Ealing, near London, England. The son of Trinidad and Grenada working-class immigrants, McQueen started in the arts at age 4 or 5, when a drawing he made of his family was chosen for a banner outside London's Shepherds Bush Library.

McQueen began his formal training studying painting at London's Chelsea College of Art and Design. He then pursued film at Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London, where he immersed himself in the works of filmmakers Jean Vigo, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Ingmar Bergman. McQueen later enrolled at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, but quit after three months in the school's film program because he believed his classes emphasized technique over substance.

Career Success

Through the 1990s and 2000s, McQueen garnered many awards for his art and film work. He enjoyed art, but noted in a 2009 interview with The Guardian, "I'm fed up with the art world, to be honest. It doesn't go much further than its own tail, and it gets boring."

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Representative Deb Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico, speaks during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, June 29, 2020. The hearing is titled "U.S. Park Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters at Lafayette Square Park." Photographer: Bonnie Cash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Deb Haaland

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 09: John Major attends the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall on November 9, 2014 in London, United Kingdom. People across the UK gather to pay tribute to service personnel who have died in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts, with this year taking on added significance as it is the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

John Major

McQueen pursued his passion for film, breaking into the mainstream industry with his 2008 film, Hunger. Starring Brian Milligan and Liam McMahon, the film depicts the last months of the life of IRA activist Bobby Sands, who died from a hunger strike while protesting his brutal treatment by Belfast's Maze Prison guards.

McQueen's 2011 psychological sex film, Shame, features Michael Fassbender as a New York City executive suffering from a debilitating sex addiction. The film earned McQueen the CinemAvvenire Award for emerging director as well as a FIPRESCI Prize at the 2011 Venice Film Festival.

McQueen went on to direct the film drama 12 Years a Slave (2013), based on the true story of Solomon Northup, a Black New Yorker born into freedom who was kidnapped in 1841, smuggled to Louisiana and sold to slave owners. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor (Northup), Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o and Fassbender, the film won the People's Choice Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival as well as the 2014 Academy Award for best picture; McQueen shared the Oscar with Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Anthony Katagas. The film also garnered a Best Director Oscar nod for McQueen, with the award ultimately going to Gravity's Alfonso Cuarón.

Personal Life

In 1996, McQueen left London for Amsterdam, where he settled with longtime partner Bianca Stigter. Together they are raising a daughter, Alex, and son, Dexter.

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