'Amazing Grace' and the End of the Slave Trade Two hundred years ago, the passion and oratory of a man named William Wilberforce drove the British Parliament to abolish the slave trade. Michael Apted, director of Amazing Grace, talks about the film adaptation of the life of Wilberforce.
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'Amazing Grace' and the End of the Slave Trade

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'Amazing Grace' and the End of the Slave Trade

'Amazing Grace' and the End of the Slave Trade

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

William Wilberforce may be the most important figure in the abolitionist movement that you haven't heard of. Wilberforce led the campaign against slavery in Britain during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and eventually persuaded the House of Commons to ban the trade in human beings in 1807.

The victory was neither easy, nor short. The slave trade was an important part of the British economy. The country was at war. Many members of the parliament benefited directly from slavery or represented districts that did. Wilberforce prevailed in part by raising public awareness about the appalling conditions in slave ships.

(Soundbite of movie, "Amazing Grace")

Mr. IOAN GRUFFUDD (Actor): (as William Wilberforce) This is a slave ship to Madagascar. It has just returned from the Indies, where it delivered 200 men, women and children to Jamaica. When it left Africa, there were 600 on board. The rest died. That smell is the smell of death.

CONAN: That, an excerpt from a new movie about William Wilberforce. His mission was triggered by a religious conversion and by the influence of a growing number of Christians who believed that all men were equal in the eyes of God, a radical position at the time.

He conducted his campaign against the backdrop of the French Revolution and then the Napoleonic wars, changes in the Christian faith, the slave revolt in Haiti, and some historians argued that those forces - more than Wilberforce -changed ideas about slavery. But the dedication, passion and the oratory of William Wilberforce played no small part in Britain's decision. To mark the 200th anniversary, a new book and movie are out, both titled "Amazing Grace".

Later in the program, retired Lieutenant General William Odom joins us to talk about why he thinks victory in Iraq is not an option.

But first, "Amazing Grace". If you have questions about William Wilberforce or about the abolition of the slave trade in England, give us a call: 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org. Michael Apted is the director of the movie, "Amazing Grace". He joins us from NPR West in Culver City, California. Thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. MICHAEL APTED (Director, "Amazing Grace"): A pleasure.

CONAN: Also with us is Eric Metaxas, author of the new book, "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery". He joins us from our bureau in New York. Welcome to you as well.

Mr. ERIC METAXAS (Author, "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery"): Great to be here.

CONAN: And Michael Apted, let's start with you. Why don't more of us know about William Wilberforce and what he did?

Mr. APTED: Well, I think because the connection with the emancipation in America is quite distant. It was over 60 years, and I think the link between destroying the slave trade and the emancipation in America, I think, is perhaps a kind of tricky one for people here to grasp.

So I don't think there's quite the directness that there is with all of the great slave emancipators in America as there is with Wilberforce and what was happening in Great Britain. It appears that Wilberforce's problem in Great Britain was that slavery was at 3,000 miles, and the people - really, wasn't in their faces.

He had to dramatize the horrors of it, and - which is interesting, because he'd never seen it. So, that was one of my challenges is, you know, how to make Wilberforce convincing when, in fact, he'd never actually seen slavery and was sort of led into it. He didn't suddenly wake up one morning and think, my goodness, I better do something about this. He was persuaded into the movement to become, you know, an abolitionist.

CONAN: And his debates with himself in the film - should I go into politics where I have a promising career, or should I be a man of God?

Mr. APTED: Yeah, exactly. I mean, that's the central predicament he is - really, throughout the film.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Eric Metaxas, tell us a bit more about William Wilberforce. He comes from a wealthy family from the city of Hull, a port city in northeastern England. You say, critical to his story is the fact that Hull was not a slave port.

Mr. METAXAS: Yeah. I mean, it's an extraordinary thing that he happens, of course - I don't really believe coincidence has much to do with it here - but yes, he happens to come from the one, large port city where one of the cargoes was not human beings, and so it enabled him to actually remain in his seat in parliament and do God's work, as it were, without worrying too much about being turned out always an important thing.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And, of course, that enabled him to challenge members of parliament who represented cities like Bristol or Liverpool where, of course, the slave trade was hugely important.

Mr. METAXAS: Yes, and London.

CONAN: And London itself. And indeed, Michael Apted, one of the telling scenes of the film - we played that excerpt from it - was when he takes that group of dandies aboard a rowboat through the estuary of the Thames and brings them up against the slave ship, Madagascar.

Mr. APTED: Yeah. And that's really my point. He had to find ways to dramatize the slave trade when it really wasn't in people's faces. And, you know, as you said earlier, it was a very complicated issue for them because it wasn't just the moral dilemma. You know, the whole British economy was rather supported by the sugar industry, which was very much like the oil industry is now. And, of course, sugar was dependent on slavery. So he was - he and William Pitt and all the other political abolitionists were already taking on not just, you know, the opposition, but the government and the monarchy and whatever. So it was a huge task they had.

CONAN: And there was a broad social movement, Eric Metaxas, and we see a little bit of it in the movie. But there's more about people not using sugar, essentially a sugar boycott as consciousness began of this situation.

Mr. METAXAS: It's - I mean, it's an extraordinary thing because in our day, we take so much for granted. We can't really imagine a world, for example, in which slavery is not repugnant to all, you know, enlightened human beings. We can't really imagine it. We also can't imagine a world where the people have no voice. I mean, the idea of going to the people - which is what Wilberforce did - and campaigning, you know, to get the vox populi, which didn't exist - hardly existed - to be the midwife to the vox populi, to complicate metaphors there.

But just to try to convince people, first of all, that what they thought mattered. And then to get them to see the horror that was going on in their nation, and then to get them to sign petitions by the hundreds of thousands, which were then brought into parliament to roll - so beautifully done in the movie - to show this is what the people you represent feel on this issue.

And it was just entirely new, and it was kind of the first campaign of its kind in history with every manner of the things that we take for granted - posters, they printed up posters of the diagram of the interior of a slave ship - famous slave ship called Brooks. And they printed these up and just to look at it -I've got it in my book reproduced. You just look at it and you say, you don't have to say a word. I get it. This is a horror. I had no idea. And people had no idea. And he thought if I can just get people to see what is going on, they will wake up and they will bring an end to this.

CONAN: Michael Apted, Eric Metaxas just described briefly the scene where Wilberforce unrolls that great petition in parliament, there's an extraordinary moment. Ciaran Hinds - I hope I'm pronouncing his name correctly.

Mr. APTED: Ciaran.

CONAN: Ciaran now who plays Lord Tarleton - of course, we last saw him as Julius Caesar in HBO's production of Rome. So he says, the people. It's a perfect…

Mr. METAXAS: That was a very good impression, by the way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. METAXAS: Say that again.

Mr. APTED: But, you know, there was a very interesting dilemma, because 30 miles away, there was the French Revolution. And so it wasn't just the kind of reactionary conservativism and people like Tarleton, who is Ciaran Hinds, but also the fear that if you unleashed public opinion, you might end up with the guillotine in Hyde Park Corner, and everybody having their heads chopped off.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Right.

Mr. APTED: So there was a real tension. There was a real drama, and, you know, it was complicated. And there were two sides to the issue, and William Pitt, who was - in some ways, Wilberforce's great soul mate - was much more as, in fact, adept at reading the political times, whereas Wilberforce tended to see it straight through and never really changed very much. It's interesting to watch how the relationship in the film changes as Pitt has to slightly move his positions to take account from the political climate.

CONAN: And there is a moment in the film - and one assumes that this took a lot longer than just a moment in real life, Eric Metaxas, where Thomas Clarkson -one of Wilberforce's associates - almost tempts him with the idea of saying, look. The French have got it right. We need not just an end to slavery, we need a revolution.

Mr. METAXAS: Well, you can see how complicated this is. It's extremely complicated. I mean, obviously, the movie deals with a slice. My book deals with a different slice. But there are many, many slices, and it's not just one cake.

I mean, you've got so many different strands. Clarkson, you could see him drifting toward being sort of a French radical - in other words, somebody who says, listen. Freedom at all costs. Whatever we must do, it's the right thing to do.

He didn't give a fig for whether England falls apart or not. Then you have Pitt on the other side saying, wait a second. This nation will be torn apart. There will be blood running in the streets if we don't say no to any number of things we might have said yes to a couple of years ago, and which we might say yes to in a few years, but right now, it's very, very dangerous.

So Pitt and the government made some really Draconian choices, which in hindsight, were terrible, very repressive - made things actually worse, made the populous infuriated. It was a very complicated time, and of course, there are parallels to the '60s in this country in some ways, and in some ways to what's going on now. It's just fascinating.

CONAN: And, of course, the final passage of Wilberforce's bill comes in 1807, a couple of years after the Battle of Trafalgar in which - after which it became clear that England itself was in no danger of being invaded. And that's one of the factors, Eric Metaxas, that, you know, obviously - you know, Michael Apted, you can't include everything in a movie, but some might say the military situation in the Napoleonic Wars played a huge part in how people were - felt slave labor.

Mr. APTED: It is. And I have to, you know, suck up criticism for that, but you have to focus. I mean, I risk getting criticism about why aren't there more black people in the film? It's a film about slavery, and yet it's a load of white guys - white guy politicians solving it. But again, we made the choice, we didn't want to deal with the plantations. We didn't want to deal with the high seas.

What I was really interested in was the politics of it. How, you know, this great and wonderful political movement organized itself and manipulated politics, because I think that's what so resonant today.

CONAN: And it's certainly not easy to dramatize politics in a circle as a narrow as the floor of Parliament or the floor of Congress or anywhere else, and yet you have established any number of personalities who've managed to carry that through the film.

Mr. APTED: Yeah, indeed. And so that's what drew me to it, and I think that's hopefully what's the most alive thing about the film for an audience looking at today. You know, when they're hearing stuff like, opposition to us is sedition - well where have we heard that? I mean, there are so many parallels - as Eric said - with what's happening today over Iraq and conflicts there and the conflicts in Congress. Some of the words are almost the same. And yet, these men of vision, you know, in 1807 saw a way through it - saw a way through of not being intimidated by the economics of the sugar industry, and really solved the problem and realized you have to do the right thing and found a way to do it.

CONAN: We're speaking with Michael Apted, the director of the new movie, "Amazing Grace". Also with us, Eric Metaxas, author of the new book, "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery". If you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call: 800-989-8255. E-mail us: talk@npr.org.

I'm Neal Conan. We'll be back after the break. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're talking about "Amazing Grace", the new film and also a new book that marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade by the British Parliament, and William Wilberforce, the man who led that campaign.

To find out what Frederick Douglass(ph) and William Lloyd Garrison had to say about Wilberforce, you can read the introduction to the book, "Amazing Grace". We posted at npr.org/talk. And while you're there, you can check out the new TALK OF THE NATION Podcast - our full show available as a download - that's npr.org/talk.

Our guests are Michael Apted - who directed the film "Amazing Grace", which opens nationwide tomorrow - and Eric Metaxas, who wrote the book "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery". If you have questions about the life of William Wilberforce or the abolitionist movement in Britain, give us a call: 800-989-8255. 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk at npr.org.

And let's begin with Mary. Mary's calling us from Grass Valley in California.

MARY (Caller): Yes, first I just wanted to say that abolishing the slave trade and abolishing slavery are two different things. But particularly, my question was in terms of "Amazing Grace", is Oloudaqh Equiano character?

CONAN: Michael Apted?

Mr. APTED: Yes, he is. He is played by the great Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour. He's a very crucial part of the film because he was the black leader in a sense, the one black politician that was involved with the abolitionist movement. So he's very, very important and crucial.

And again, he was a tricky part for me to cast, because I needed a man who had great presence, great charisma, and it was hard to find that. And someone pointed me to Youssou, who - in his own country - is a sort of major figure, a major politician as well as a musician. He'd never acted before, but he was up for this, and, you know, he did a fine job. And I think he does bring a great dignity and gravitas to the role.

CONAN: We have a clip from the movie. Wilberforce, who's played by Ioan Gruffudd is approached by abolitionists, including the former slave, Equiano, who persuade him to join their fight.

(Soundbite of movie, "Amazing Grace")

Mr. YOUSSOU N'DOUR (Musician, Actor): (As Oloudaqh Equiano) When you reach the plantation, they put irons to the fire, and do this to let you know that you no longer belong to God, but to a man.

Unidentified Man (Actor): Mr. Wilberforce, we understand you're having problems choosing whether to do the work of God or the work of a political activist.

Unidentified Woman: We humbly suggest that you can do both.

CONAN: An excerpt from the new movie, "Amazing Grace". Mary, thanks for the call.

MARY: Thank you. I'm looking forward to seeing it, and recommending it to my students.

CONAN: Okay.

Mr. METAXAS: And buying the book, Mary.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. METAXAS: Come on.

CONAN: Well, all right...

Mr. METAXAS: Help me out.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Edwin. Edwin's with us from West Windsor in New Jersey.

EDWIN (Caller): Yes, good afternoon, gentlemen.

CONAN: Good afternoon.

EDWIN: I am Haitian-American. And I would just like to say that this is an excellent topic, considering that we are celebrating Black History Month this month.

And naturally, knowing Haitian history, I'm curious to know the impact or the influence that the Haitian revolt might have had, considering that Haiti gained its independence - I think it was in 1804 - which was at the height of the Napoleonic era. So was that used for propaganda purposes, or especially to highlight France's and Napoleon being an oppressive and slave-trading regime?

CONAN: Eric Metaxas?

Mr. METAXAS: Yes, in a way, what happened in Haiti - I mean, in some ways, it's so horrific. I mean, it was this nightmare, this slaughter. But the good that came out of the horror, really - and Wilberforce seized on this - was that Henri Christophe - I'm probably pronouncing that incorrectly, but - became king of Haiti.

And Wilberforce and his group - the Clapham Sect, as they've come to be known -were so thrilled that here was an opportunity to show the slave interests and the anti-abolition folks - not just in Parliament, but everywhere - that a black man and an almost completely black nation can govern itself. They thought, if this can happen in Haiti, it will speak for itself and we won't need to argue anymore, because there are people who simply don't believe that this is possible. This will prove to them that it's possible.

So Wilberforce spent incredible amounts of time and effort trying to help Christophe be a successful king of Haiti. He sent him books. He corresponded with him. He personally selected Christophe's staff - everything he could do to try to make it a success. They just exchanged letters. It was this incredible relationship that he had.

And as I say, when Wilberforce poured himself into something, he was just absolutely tireless. He knew this was important. Sierra Leone was the same type of thing, but Haiti was something that Wilberforce really, really poured himself into.

It ended tragically some years later, around 1820. Christophe killed himself. It was crushing to Wilberforce. But, of course, by then, other things had moved along. But he was really excited about that possibility, and they just spent terrific amounts - they invested much in it.

CONAN: There were other slave revolts on British Sugar Islands in the Caribbean - Jamaica, notably. What role did they play in the debate?

Mr. METAXAS: I'm sorry. Say that again. There were other…

CONAN: There were slave rebellions in Jamaica, British Sugar Islands.

Mr. METAXAS: Basically, that was, it was this see-saw thing. It was kind of like what we were talking about just a moment ago with what was going on in France. You had this desire on the part of many Britons and many MPs that think, yes, yes - this can work. And then there would come the news of some grotesque horror, you know, a slave revolt that was just, you know, people are butchered on both sides, and immediately people would say, see? The moment you open the door, you're opening the door to nothing but trouble.

And things would get shut down. And it was a very, very difficult political dance. Wilberforce was very invested in that as well, trying to say to people, you know, hang on. We're moving things forward. Something like that would happen, and it would set the cause back for any number of years. That's why I think, ultimately, it took 20 years, because it was so many different things that were not controllable.

EDWIN: By the way, you did pronounce it correctly. Henri Christophe.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. METAXAS: Thank you.

EDWIN: And you actually highlighted some of my other curiosities, which was what were some of the influential Haitian leaders of that revolt? And I was thinking about Toussaint Louverture - what kind of impact they had. So naturally, you answered that.

And I was curious when Neal mentioned the other British revolt - or the other Caribbean revolt - was it also because that area was so economically rich, particularly because of the sugar?

Mr. METAXAS: Well, one thing I learned writing this biography of William Wilberforce was how little I know about anything, particularly everything we're talking about. There's so much, it makes me want to go back and get a Ph.D. I have to say that it's just fascinating. I got the opportunity to read many wonderful books on the subject, and it's just one of the richest periods in history, I think. There's so much going on between what happened in France and all of this. You can really just learn more and more and more. So I'm still in the process of doing that.

CONAN: Edwin, thanks for the call. Appreciate it.

EDWIN: My pleasure.

CONAN: So long.

Let's turn now - this is Mark. Mark is with us from Redding, California.

MARK (Caller): Yes, I'd like to know what credit the Quakers get in either/or both the book and the movie in our attempts to end the slave trade and slavery.

CONAN: Michael Apted, let's start with you.

Mr. APTED: Well, they get very much credit. I mean, they're part of the original abolitionist group that William Pitt brought together to try and persuade Wilberforce to join the cause. So they feature very heavily.

Mr. METAXAS: Yeah, and in my book, I have to say that what fascinates me is that it was Quakers, the Moravians - you know, all of the Christian fanatics only who took this seriously when the entire culture could not care less about the sufferings of these millions of human beings. It was the Quakers, of course, principally at this point, but anyone who took scripture more seriously than the average Anglican of the time was drawn to this. They knew immediately, this cannot be God's will. This is a horror. We've got to do something about this. And they were lonely voices in the wilderness at the time.

And it wasn't until Granville Sharp got involved, of course, at Kianu(ph) - as we've just mentioned - that things began to find a tiny bit of momentum. They knew they needed someone in Parliament to represent them. At the same time, of course, Wilberforce was being drawn to the thing, and bang. It began.

So it's just a beautiful thing to see how it unfolded.

CONAN: Mark, thank you.

MARK: Thank you.

CONAN: Here's an e-mail question from MT in Boston, Massachusetts about Thomas Newton, who's played in the film by Albert Finney: I hope the film makes clear that Newton's conversion experience - he's, in case you missed the top of the show, the slave ship captain, the former slave ship captain who goes on to write the hymn "Amazing Grace," and then Wilberforce talks to him about enlisting his aid in the abolitionist campaign.

Anyway, I hope the film makes clear that Newton's conversion experience and his opposition to slavery were years apart. The former's first effect is to increase the frequency of services on board his slave ship. I'm particularly concerned, because a few programs on Christian radio have left the impression that the author of "Amazing Grace" gave up slave mongering as soon as he found Christ or somewhat like him.

Michael Apted, you don't go back that far in Thomas Newton's story.

Mr. APTED: No, I don't. And, you know, John Newton fits - he fits very well for us, because in reality he was a mentor and an inspiration to Wilberforce. So just as the song is organic to the story we're telling, it all kind of dovetails neatly.

But, I think, Newton is probably worth about three films of his own, he has such an interesting life, such an interesting character.

CONAN: John Newton, of course. Excuse me. I got the name wrong.

Let's get another caller on the line. And this is Essian(ph) - am I pronouncing that correctly - in South River, New Jersey.

ESSIAN (Caller): Yes. That's correct. Thank you for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

ESSIAN: I have a question. I'm actually Nigerian American, and I'm from an area in Nigeria known as Calabar. That's my ethnic group. We're known as the Efiks. And we were told that this song "Amazing Grace" - actually the melody came from one of our traditional songs. And I wanted to know, in this film, is this depicted? Is there any credit or any - or is this even correct - that the melodies came from, you know, this old Efik or old Calabar song?

CONAN: In the film it's just credited to Mr. Newton. But, Eric Metaxas, can you give any further information?

Mr. METAXAS: Yeah. I mean, I think it's one of these things - it's like what the previous caller said, you can't really know. I've heard all of this stuff. I mean, I think that it's impossible to know. There's a good on this song written by Steve Turner that may say more.

But the - when Wilberforce met Newton originally, Newton was a reasonably young man. He'd come to faith, but he had not really found the passion to turn against the slave trade. And it was later in life - it's horrific to think about, that somebody could have a very serious conversion experience, and yet still be a slave trader.

I think that - what it does to me is it speaks to how utterly endemic this idea of slavery and slave trading - they simply couldn't imagine a world without it. And that's why, you know, the leadership of the Quakers and Wilberforce and everyone else, it's just all the more heroic that they were able to imagine it.

CONAN: Hmm. Thanks for the call Essian.

ESSIAN: Thank you.

CONAN: We're talking with Eric Metaxas, the author of the new biography, "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery," and with director Michael Apted. His new movie, "Amazing Grace," opens nationwide tomorrow.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And Michael Apted, you said earlier, it was a struggle to make Wilberforce seem realistic. As he's portrayed in the film - and I have no idea how accurate this is - but he's an almost saintly character. He's a man who has very - there are no flaws in the film.

Mr. APTED: Well, I don't think that's quite fair, because I think what's so powerful about him and what I think is so resonant about him is the way - you know, he was a great politician as well. He knew how to play the game of politics. He wasn't above, as we see in the film, a little dirty trick of his own.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. APTED: So he wasn't a man who was isolated by his religion, which seems to me what happens so much in the world today. He was one of those great men that can use the inspiration and power of religion to fortify himself - give him courage, give him bravery - and yet he can move in political life; as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, people who can keep their feet in both camps.

And, I think, that's what to me is so powerful about the story. That he didn't just simply take a high moral ground. He got his hands dirty and got on with the business of forming coalitions, engaging people, and manipulating to get this piece of legislation through.

So there's something very practical about him. He just didn't sit in an ivory tower and preach to everybody, he got on with the job. And I think that, for us today, is an interesting kind of a template.

CONAN: And, Eric Metaxas, you argue that, in fact, he did a great deal more than campaign against slavery. He had any number of causes that, in sum, reworked the way English society thought about itself.

Mr. METAXAS: Yeah. I mean, I think that's what happened. When he had this conversion experience, it changed everything for him. He realized that the entire society - they call themselves a Christian nation and they did that officially. I mean, we don't in America, but they said officially, you know, we are a Christian nation, the Church of England, and so on.

And he said that, you know, what the Gospels teach, what scripture teaches is completely the opposite of what's going on here. The way we treat people, our ethic of what we do with power, is it to help the powerless or is it just to abuse people. There was an ethos that it was fine to abuse people that were in different social stations and it was fine to be completely self-indulgent and narcissistic. It was a whole culture of that.

And so he steps into this situation. And the first thing, of course, that has to change is slavery and the slave trade. That's the most obvious. But every other social ill, every other horror, was something that got his attention and he spent his whole life - aside from his efforts in abolition - working for a moral reform.

And some people have called him - I think rightly - probably the greatest moral - sorry - social reformer that we've ever seen. There wasn't anything that he wasn't involved in. It's as if you step into a situation where no one's doing anything about anything. And suddenly you say, well, it's wide open here. What have we got? Cruelty to animals, penal reform, you name it.

Suddenly, he thought, let's get people excited about doing good, and he had a desire to make goodness fashionable. He knew that you couldn't just do it by legislation, you had to get people excited about it, and he was committed.

CONAN: And, of course, his great victory was to end the international slave trade, at least as far as Britain was concerned - hugely important, Britain ruled the waves - in 1807. Britain did not outright ban slavery, though, until 1833. And, as you write Eric Metaxas, Wilberforce lived long enough to see it.

Mr. METAXAS: Three days before he died, on his deathbed. It's right out of a movie, except - that'll have to be Michael's next movie. My goodness, I wish you would do it, because this film is fantastic, and I have no interest in it. I have no stock in the movie. But to distill all of this into a film is amazing.

But at the end of his life there's this other cinematic moment, where just three days from his final reward, he gets word that in parliament - that they have just passed the bill for emancipation of every slave in the vast British Empire. His fondest dream, his lifelong dream - realized just days before he passes away. It's just a holy moment to think about, very moving to me.

CONAN: Eric Metaxas, thanks very much for your time today.

Mr. METAXAS: Thank you.

CONAN: Eric Metaxas' new book is "Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery." Michael Apted, thank you for your time as well.

Mr. APTED: Pleasure. Pleasure to be with you.

CONAN: Michael Apted, director, most recently of the film "Amazing Grace," which opens nationwide tomorrow.

When we come break from a short break, retired General William Odom joins us. He wrote a recent opinion piece that victory in Iraq is not an option. 800-989-8255. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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