The head of the New York Film Critics Circle has apologised to 12 Years A Slave director Steve McQueen after one of its members heckled him while he accepted an award on Monday night (06Jan14).

The British filmmaker was presented with the Best Director honour at the organisation's annual prizegiving for his acclaimed new movie about a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery.

As he fought back tears upon being handed the prize by civil rights icon Harry Belafonte, MCQueen was heckled by Armond White, the editor of New York arts publication CityArts.

The controversial reviewer, a three-time chair of the Critics Circle, shouted out, "You're an embarrassing doorman and garbage man. F**k you. Kiss my a**."

Now the organisation's current chair Joshua Rothkopf has reached out to MCQueen to apologise for the outburst and insist the board is considering disciplinary action.

The statement reads, "On behalf of the New York Film Critics Circle, I apologise sincerely for the crass bit of heckling Mr. MCQueen encountered. I'm mortified to learn that this was from one of our own members. We are taking disciplinary action."

White has since responded to the heckling reports, telling, "I was not in a position or vicinity to yell at MCQueen. It was talk among my tablemates."

It is not the first time White has caused a commotion at the industry bash - he has had run-ins with Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky and filmmaker Michael Moore, and has previously heckled stars including Michelle Williams, Annette Bening, Robert De Niro and Viola Davis during their acceptance speeches.