Alfre Woodard, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong'o, Steve McQueen, Sarah Paulson

George Pimentel/WireImage

No doubt 12 Years a Slave wasn't an easy movie to make. The real-life story of Solomon Northup, a black man kidnapped from the North and sold into slavery in the 1840s, is brutally graphic and emotionally draining.

The cast and crew knew they had to make time to let off some steam.

"We tried to do something different every weekend as a group," the film's star Chiwetel Ejiofor told me at the movie's L.A. premiere. "One time or twice even, we went go-karting. We went paintballing once just to sort of let it all out."

Lupita Nyong'o

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"You needed the release," he continued. "I love that we all got to know each other and we got to be friends, and then on Monday morning, we got to tell a story that we were all deeply passionate about."

And then there was some late-night fun with Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen.

"I went dancing with Michael and Steve," said the film's breakout star Lupita Nyong'o. "It was such a good icebreaker because we just got to bust a groove."

Produced by Brad Pitt and his Plan B Productions company, 12 Years a Slave has garnered much Oscar buzz. "The genius of 12 years a Slave," a reviewer wrote in The New York Times, "is its insistence on banal evil, and on terror, that seeped into souls, bound bodies and reaped an enduring terrible price."

The movie received standing ovations at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival. Madonna was spotted tearing up during its New York premiere.

12 Years a Slave is in theaters now.

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