British director Steve McQueen had been toying with the idea of writing a script about slavery, featuring a black man who had been born free and later forced into slavery. He couldn't find the right angle and script until his wife found Solomon Northup's biography and gave it to him to read. McQueen decided to adapt the book and asked John Ridley to write the script. And 12 Years a Slave became the film of the year. It won both the Golden Globe as Best Motion Picture, Drama, and the Academy Award as Best Film. When McQueen accepted, from presenter Johnny Depp, the award for Best Motion Picture-Drama at the Globes, he didn't forget to mention that: “Thanks to my wife Bianca, who found the book 12 Years A Slave, thus opening my eyes.”
McQueen also thanked the superstar who helped produce his movie (through his Plan B production company), and who played a small role in it, Brad Pitt: “Many thanks also to Brad Pitt: without you, this movie would have never gotten made”. Actually, Pitt was criticized by many for casting himself in a brief heroic role: Pitt claimed that he did not insist at all on being cast, but that it was easier to secure funding for the picture if he was in it. Nobody could argue with that. The film moved the entire civilized world, loved by critics and audiences.
At the Golden Globes, held on January 12, 2014,12 Years a Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon, Lupita Nyong'o as brave slave Patsey and Michael Fassbender as their cruel enslaver, triumphed as Best Film – Drama, over Gravity, Philomena, Rush and Captain Phillips. The film went on to win three Oscars. Ejiofor was nominated for Best Actor – Drama, but Matthew McConaughey won for Dallas Buyers Club. Lupita Nyong'o was a Golden Globe nominee for Best Supporting Actress, but Jennifer Lawrence won for American Hustle. Nyong'o, though, won the Oscar in that category. Fassbender also received a Globe nomination for Supporting Actor, but Jared Leto won for Dallas Buyers Club. Alfonso Cuarón won the Globe for Best Director for Gravity.
That was the year Woody Allen received the Cecil B. deMille Award: he did not appear at the Globe ceremony and the prestigious award was accepted in his stead by his long-time collaborator and friend, actress Diane Keaton. Worth noting is also Bryan Cranston's Globe – his first – for his performance as Walter White in the acclaimed TV series Breaking Bad, which also won for Best TV Drama in its fifth and final season.
12 Years a Slave was the first film from a black director to win the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Picture. Richard Corliss of Time magazine, heralded the film and its director stating: "Indeed, McQueen's film is closer in its storytelling to such 1970s exploitation-exposé of slavery as Mandingo and Goodbye, Uncle Tom. Except that McQueen is not a schlockmeister sensationalist, but a remorseless artist."