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The cast of Steve McQueen's acclaimed new drama "12 Years a Slave" is something of a wonder. Whether it's the remarkable work of Chiwetel Ejiofor as kidnapped freeman Solomon Northup or Michael Fassbender as the shockingly inhumane plantation owner Edwin Epps or Best Supporting Actress contender Lupita Nyong'o, the film features some of the most riveting performances of the year. What has gone slightly unheralded, however, are the fantastic smaller turns by the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano and Alfre Woodard. And, the always wonderful Ms. Sarah Paulson.
Best known for her roles on the first three seasons of "American Horror Story," Paulson has steadily become one of prestige cinema's most underrated gems. In the past three year's she has delivered superb work in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," the HBO TV movie "Game Change," "Mud" and now "12 Years." (And yes, all after a showcase role on Aaron Sorkin's "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" back in the day). In McQueen's new film, Paulson gets a chance to play a woman with smoldering jealously brewing below her icy demeanor. As the wife of Epps, she has seen her husband openly flirt with one of his slaves (Nyong'o) and she can barely contain her anger at a life she can no longer control. It's not as prominent a role as Ejiofor or Fassbender have, but it's a very important piece of the puzzle (especially in the film's most harrowing scene).
Fox Searchlight has provided HitFix with an exclusive clip of "12 Years a Slave," which finds Paulson's character questioning her new slave hand Platt (Northup's slave name) on his background. You can watch it embedded at the top of this post. It demonstrates the deep bench of acting talent McQueen was able to assemble and why the film shouldn't be overlooked in the best ensemble race at the upcoming 2013 SAG Awards, where a nomination is a given.
For more on "12 Years A Slave," read my review out of the Telluride Film Festival here.
To find out Michael Fassebnder's thoughts on the picture, click here.
"12 Years a Slave" opens in limited release on Oct. 18.