‘12 Years a Slave’ Director Steve McQueen Heckled at New York Critics Circle Awards

Ramin Setoodeh
Variety7 January 2014

The 79th annual New York Film Critics Circle Awards turned awkward on Monday night when CityArts editor Armond White started to heckle director Steve McQueen.

McQueen had just accepted his prize for “12 Years a Slave,” presented by Harry Belafonte, when the interruption broke out.

As soon as McQueen took the stage, White started shouting from his table at the back of the room. “You’re an embarrassing doorman and garbage man,” White boomed. “F—you. Kiss my ass.”

McQueen either didn’t hear the comments or pretended not to. He thanked the critics group for honoring him with an award previously given to John Ford and Woody Allen, at which point White hissed “pulease.”

This isn’t the first time White, a controversial critic who often hates the movies everybody else loves and panned “12 Years a Slave,” has thrown a public fit at the annual gala meant to celebrate film.

In 2011, White hosted the ceremony and took verbal jabs at the winning performances from Annette Bening and Michelle Williams. In 2012, he jeered at Robert DeNiro and Viola Davis as they were speaking on-stage.

Other than the interruption, the rest of the ceremony was a breezy, wine-infused affair with most of the winners in attendance at the Edison Ballroom. This wasn’t a coincidence. They were announced beforehand and included Robert Redford for best actor (“All is Lost”), Cate Blanchett for best actress (“Blue Jasmine”), Jared Leto for best supporting actor (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Jennifer Lawrence for best supporting actress (“American Hustle”) and “American Hustle” for best film (accepted by director David O. Russell).

Lawrence, who didn’t make the ceremony, sent her co-star Bradley Cooper on her behalf. He read a note from her that joked, “I’m not receiving this for ‘House at the End of the Street,’ so you guys must have missed that one,” in which she referenced her 2012 teen horror flick.

Leto brought his mom as his date, and he promised that he was going to make her cry. “My mom is a shining example of the possibilities in life,” he said. “She was someone who wasn’t born in luxury, someone who wrestled her own dreams into reality … She made a life for herself and in turn made a life for me.”

Blanchett received the best actress award from her “Blue Jasmine” co-star Sally Hawkins. She thanked her longtime agent Hylda Queally. “She not only has the best eyes in the business, but the legs,” Blanchett quipped. “She’s my leg double.”

Redford told a story about how he made a New York stage appearance many years ago in a play he didn’t name, other than to say the production wasn’t good, despite what the director kept telling the cast. After it opened, he read a review that said “what a sorry excuse for an actor he was.” That line drew a big laugh from the crowd.

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