10 Questions with Steve McQueen

The Prize-winning artist turned Oscar-nominated director on slavery, Pinocchio and stamps

Jana Cruder / Corbis Outline

You compare your film 12 Years a Slave to Pinocchio. Can you explain?

Well, it's one of the films I compare it to. At the beginning of Pinocchio, these two men trick Pinocchio into the circus. That's similar to what happened to Solomon Northup [when he was kidnapped]. And Solomon's story is almost like a dark fairy tale--unimaginable, unbelievable, except it actually did happen.

One scene shows slave children playing while not 20 feet away, a man struggles to not be strangled by a noose. Were you trying to make them seem heartless?

During slavery, people lived under the possibility of...