Steve McQueen’s success no surprise, says Kingston professor who met him as a student


His film 12 Years a Slave won three Oscars on Sunday night, including Best Picture.


By SWLondoner staff

Oscar-winning film director Steve McQueen was always destined for stardom, says the Kingston University professor who worked with him as a student.

Professor Will Brooker met McQueen, whose film 12 Years a Slave won three Oscars on Sunday night, when they were students at Goldsmith College.

“I met Steve McQueen when he was on the cusp of becoming a film-maker,” he said.

“I was doing a postgraduate course which saw each student direct a short film that would become their industry calling card.

We all helped out on each other’s projects and one day a young man who was studying fine art asked if he could join us as he wanted to learn about film-making. The student was Steve McQueen and, in hindsight, this was a crucial point in his career.”


Professor Brooker said he can see the person he knew then in his work today.

“He uses a sustained long take as a motif in his work – he won’t cut away and is committed to shooting difficult and sometimes unpleasant scenes, which ties in with my sense of him from 20 years ago,” he said.   

McQueen’s ascent to Oscar winner so early in his feature film-making career was all the more impressive, according to Professor Brooker, since he began his career in the world of fine art, winning the Turner Prize in 1999.

Although their acquaintance was brief, McQueen left a lasting impression on Professor Brooker who said that while he didn’t expect McQueen to remember him, he felt he’d played a small role in the director’s rise to fame.

“When I did my postgraduate course, I decided to specialise in learning film sound, even though it was one of the less glamorous or popular aspects of film-making, because it was a way of ensuring my skills would be in demand from other students,” he said.

“The photo I have of Steve from that time (see above) is of him working on sound – so although I don’t specifically remember showing him the ropes, I like to tell myself I might have had some very modest influence on his career.”

His memories of helping McQueen develop his skills may have faded but Professor Brooker said there was one that remained clear and which, more than two decades later, seemed prophetic.

“We used to make jokes about Steve’s thirst for knowledge with regards to film-making and about him having the same name as a famous actor,” he reminisced. “He took the ribbing in good spirit, but said that one day when people talked about ‘Steve McQueen’, he was going to be the first person they thought of.”

Photo courtesy of Chris Cheung, with thanks.

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