June 2, 2014 1:14 pm
Updated: June 2, 2014 1:18 pm

’12 Years a Slave’ used up guilt about black people, ‘Mandela’ writer claims

Screenwriter William Nicholson, pictured in Toronto in September 2013.

Larry Busacca / Getty Images

TORONTO — The screenwriter of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom says his movie didn’t do well at the box office because 12 Years a Slave “sucked up all the guilt about black people.”

William Nicholson also blamed the film’s poor performance on the timing of the titular leader’s death.

“Mandela died as I was in the royal premiere with Will and Kate,” Nicholson said at this past weekend’s Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, according to British media outlets.

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“We were deluged with Mandela stuff and after a week we all thought, please take it away, we’ve heard enough about Mandela.”

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, starring Idris Elba as Mandela, opened Nov. 29 and went on to earn a disappointing $27 million worldwide.

“I’m incredibly proud of this film,” Nicholson, 66, said. “Unfortunately it didn’t get the kind of acclaim that I wanted. It didn’t get Oscars.”

12 Years a Slave, released Oct. 18, made $188 million worldwide and was named Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

“(America) were so exhausted feeling guilty about slavery that I don’t think there was much left over to be nice about our film,” said Nicholson. “So, our film didn’t do as well as we’d hoped, which was a bit heartbreaking.”

Nicholson also revealed he wrote the speeches in Long Walk to Freedom because Mandela’s actual speeches were boring.

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

BELOW: Watch the trailers for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and 12 Years a Slave

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