12 Years A Slave Role 'A Huge Responsibility'
The star of the Oscar-tipped 12 Years A Slave has told Sky News he had to "hit the pause button" before taking on the role in the harrowing film.
British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor plays the part of free-born African-American musician Solomon Northup who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the film directed by Steve McQueen.
Set in 1841, the movie has an all-star cast which includes Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Speaking before the film's screening at the London Film Festival, Ejiofor, 36, said he knew taking on the lead role would be a "huge responsibility" but also a chance to "do justice for the thousands of people affected".
"When I was asked to do this role, I wasn't sure as I was so aware of the responsibility of tackling such an important subject matter.
"But then I thought, I have to do this film, and I just focused on Solomon the character and then left the rest to the talent and creativity of Steve (McQueen)."
The movie is based on an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup and depicts the brutal physical and mental torture he is subjected to by various owners as he fights for his freedom and return to his family.
British-born director McQueen, whose previous works include Hunger and Shame, explained why he chose to tackle the subject: "I felt it was so important to make a movie that properly addressed and portrayed the issue of slavery appropriately.
"I am just happy for people to see the film. That is the most important thing. Any question of an award or Oscar would just be a bonus, but telling the story of Solomon was the main thing for me."
Cumberbatch plays one of Solomon's owners and Pitt's appearance as a Canadian abolitionist is brief, yet integral.
Oscar nominations are expected for McQueen, Ejiofor and Fassbender, who plays demented plantation owner Master Epps.
12 Years a Slave comes to UK cinemas on January 24.