Writer Says 12 Years a Slave Used Up the White Guilt Mandela Needed

Do you remember the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom? You probably don't, even though it came out last year and starred Idris Elba. It was not well-liked by critics and did not even recover its budget at the box office, and William Nicholson–who wrote the screenplay—thinks he knows why: because 12 Years a Slave "sucked up all the guilt about black people."

Nicholson spoke about the film—which he admits "didn't get the kind of acclaim that I wanted"—at this past weekend's Hay Festival in Wales, though he probably now wishes that he hadn't.

For instance, he said this:

"(America) were so exhausted feeling guilty about slavery that I don't think there was much left over to be nice about our film."

He also said this about Mandela's rhetorical style:

"I know it sounds outrageous to say a thing like that, but when he came out of prison he made a speech and, God, you fell asleep," he said.

There is plenty to be said about white America's—and white Hollywood's—relationship with 12 Years a Slave, but a white guy who wrote a Nelson Mandela biopic despite finding the man boring is unsurprisingly not the one to do it.

[image via Getty, h/t Vox]