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Chiwetel Ejiofor – MovieActors.com

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Ejiofor in The Martian.

About Chiwetel Ejiofor (1977 – )

Chiwetelu Ejiofor was born in London's Forest Gate, to Nigerian parents of Igbo origin. His father, Arinze, was a doctor, and his mother, Obiajulu, was a pharmacist. His younger sister is CNN correspondent Zain Asher.

In 1988, when Ejiofor was 11, during a family trip to Nigeria for a wedding, he and his father were driving to Lagos after the celebrations when their car was involved in a head-on crash with a lorry. His father was killed, but Ejiofor survived. He was badly injured, and received scars that are still visible on his forehead. Ejiofor began acting in school plays at the age of fourteen at Dulwich College and joined the National Youth Theatre. He got into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art but had to leave after his first year, after being cast in Steven Spielberg's film Amistad. He played the title role in Othello at the Bloomsbury Theatre in September 1995, and again at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow in 1996, when he starred opposite Rachael Stirling as Desdemona.

Ejiofor made his film debut in the television film Deadly Voyage in 1996. He went on to become a stage actor in London. In Steven Spielberg's Amistad, he gave support to Djimon Hounsou's Cinque as interpreter Ens. James Covey. In 1999, he appeared in the British film G:MT – Greenwich Mean Time. In 2000, he starred in Blue/Orange at the Royal National Theatre (Cottesloe stage), and later at the Duchess Theatre. That same year, his performance as Romeo in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet was nominated for the Ian Charleson Award. Ejiofor was awarded the Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer at the Critics' Circle Theatre Awards in 2000. For his performance in Blue/Orange, Ejiofor received the London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer in 2000 and a nomination for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2001.

Ejiofor had his first leading film role in 2002's Dirty Pretty Things, for which he won a British Independent Film Award for best actor. In the following year, he was part of the ensemble cast of Love Actually, starred in a BBC adaptation of Chaucer's The Knight's Tale and also starred in the BBC series Trust. Also in 2003, he starred in the lead role of Augustus in the radio production of Rita Dove's poetic drama "The Darker Face of the Earth", which premiered on the BBC World Service on 23 August of that year, marking the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. He starred alongside Hilary Swank in 2004's Red Dust, portraying the fictional politician Alex Mpondo of post-apartheid South Africa. He played the central part of Prince Alamayou in Peter Spafford's radio play I Was a Stranger, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 17 May 2004, and he played the god Dionysus, alongside Paul Scofield's Cadmus and Diana Rigg's Agave, in Andrew Rissik's play, Dionysus, based upon Euripides' Bacchae, also broadcast by the BBC. He played Mike Terry, in the cult film Redbelt that received favorable reviews. He also received acclaim for his performance as a complex antagonist The Operative in the 2005 film Serenity. Ejiofor played a revolutionary in the 2006 film Children of Men. His singing and acting performance in Kinky Boots received a Golden Globe Award and British Independent Film Award nomination. He was also nominated for the BAFTA Orange Rising Star Award in 2006, which recognizes emerging British film talent. Ejiofor's performance in Tsunami: The Aftermath received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film in 2007.

In 2007, Ejiofor starred opposite Don Cheadle in Talk to Me, a film based on the true story of Ralph "Petey" Greene (played by Cheadle), an African-American radio personality in the 1960s and '70s. He performed on stage in The Seagull at the Royal Court Theatre from 18 January to 17 March 2007, then later that year reprised his role as Othello at the Donmar Warehouse, alongside Kelly Reilly as Desdemona and Ewan McGregor as Iago. The production received favorable reviews, with particularly strong praise for Ejiofor. "Chiwetel Ejiofor produces one of the most memorable performances of Othello in recent years". He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance.

Ejiofor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2008 Birthday Honors. In the same year, he made his directorial debut in the short film Slapper, which he also wrote, based on an idea by editor/director Yusuf Pirhasan. Ejiofor appeared alongside John Cusack in the 2009 film 2012. The film went on to gross over $700 million, and is among the list of highest-grossing films of all time and placing 5th of top films of 2009. He played CIA officer Peabody in Salt (2010), and the Golden Globe Award-nominated leading role of band creator Louis Lester in the BBC Two drama series Dancing on the Edge (2013), which played on Starz in the US.

In 2013, Ejiofor took on one of his most notable roles to date, Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave. The film was based on Northup's memoir, edited in 1968 by historians Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon, of Northup's experience as a free black man in New York, who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery in Louisiana. On casting, director Steve McQueen said:

Chiwetel Ejiofor was always going to be Solomon Northup for me. I was looking for someone that had that genteelness, that kind of humanity. Knowing that humanity was going to be tested under certain duress and circumstances, I needed a person who could actually keep hold of that, even through periods of extraordinary trying and extraordinary situations where it would be tested to its absolute limit. He was the only person.

At the Toronto International Film Festival, Ejiofor said he briefly hesitated about playing Northup. "You wait all your life for a great script to come through the door. You're hassling your agent and all that, and then it comes and you read it and your first reaction surprises you. Your first reaction being, 'Can I do this?'" He accepted the role about 24 hours later. As part of his preparation, Ejiofor learned to play the violin, collected slave stories, maintained a slave's edge up hairstyle, and engaged in some of the physical labour that Northup did like picking cotton. Since he had not worked with McQueen before, Ejiofor also observed the working dynamic between the director and co-star Michael Fassbender, who worked with McQueen on Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011). On playing Northup, Ejiofor did feel a responsibility, not being American, to get the story of Solomon Northup as current he could, adding "I've been very grateful to show the film to his descendants and see them be so proud of it."

In 2013, Ejiofor took on one of his most notable roles to date, Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave. The film was based on Northup's memoir, edited in 1968 by historians Sue Eakin and Joseph Logsdon, of Northup's experience as a free black man in New York, who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery in Louisiana. On casting, director Steve McQueen said:

Chiwetel Ejiofor was always going to be Solomon Northup for me. I was looking for someone that had that genteelness, that kind of humanity. Knowing that humanity was going to be tested under certain duress and circumstances, I needed a person who could actually keep hold of that, even through periods of extraordinary trying and extraordinary situations where it would be tested to its absolute limit. He was the only person.

At the Toronto International Film Festival, Ejiofor said he briefly hesitated about playing Northup. "You wait all your life for a great script to come through the door. You're hassling your agent and all that, and then it comes and you read it and your first reaction surprises you. Your first reaction being, 'Can I do this?'" He accepted the role about 24 hours later. As part of his preparation, Ejiofor learned to play the violin, collected slave stories, maintained a slave's edge up hairstyle, and engaged in some of the physical labour that Northup did like picking cotton. Since he had not worked with McQueen before, Ejiofor also observed the working dynamic between the director and co-star Michael Fassbender, who worked with McQueen on Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011). On playing Northup, Ejiofor did feel a responsibility, not being American, to get the story of Solomon Northup as current he could, adding "I've been very grateful to show the film to his descendants and see them be so proud of it."

Chiwetel Ejiofor's movie credits include...

Year Movie Role
1997 Amistad Ens. James Covey
1999 G:MT – Greenwich Mean Time Rix
2002 Dirty Pretty Things Okwe lander
2003 Love Actually Peter
2004 She Hate Me Frank Wills
2004 Red Dust Alex Mpondo
2004 Melinda and Melinda Ellis
2005 Four Brothers Victor Sweet
2005 Serenity The Operative
2005 Slow Burn Ty Trippin
2005 Kinky Boots Simon / Lola
2006 Inside Man Detective Bill Mitchell
2006 Children of Men Luke
2007 Talk to Me Dewey Hughes
2007 American Gangster Huey Lucas
2008 Redbelt Mike Terry
2008 Slapper
2009 Endgame Thabo Mbeki
2009 2012 Dr. Adrian Helmsley
2010 Salt Peabody
2013 Savannah Christmas Moultrie
2013 12 Years a Slave Solomon Northup
2013 Half of a Yellow Sun Odenigbo
2015 Z for Zachariah Loomis
2015 The Martian Vincent Kapoor
2015 Secret in Their Eyes Ray
2016 Triple 9 Terrell Tompkins
2016 Doctor Strange Karl Mordo / Baron Mordo

Chiwetel Ejiofor's television credits include...

Year Show/Series Role
1996 Deadly Voyage Ebow
2001 Murder in Mind DS McCorkindale
2003 Twelfth Night Orsino
2003 Trust Ashley Carter
2003 The Canterbury Tales Paul
2006 Tsunami: The Aftermath Ian Carter
2011 The Shadow Line Jonah Gabriel
2013 Dancing on the Edge Louis Lester
2013 Phil Spector Mock Prosecutor

Academy Award Nominations/Awards won by Chiwetel Ejiofor include...

Year Movie Award
2013 12 Years a Slave Best Actor – Nominated

Quotes by Chiwetel Ejiofor

“I remember getting cast in Amistad and getting this very strong feeling that I had overshot myself. It was a great shock. It made me realize that this is not a profession you can predict; that you can have all these ambitions and expectations and that they can all be thrown to the wind. What was peculiar about that situation was that my aspirations were so far below what actually happened.”

“I like to disappear into a role. I equate the success of it with a feeling of being chemically changed.”

“I think so many of Shakespeare's plays are about how fragile love is - how perfect and beautiful it is, but also how terrifying and easy to manipulate it is.”

“[on '12 Years a Slave'] There are 21 million people in slavery as we sit here. I just hope 150 years from now our ambivalence will not allow another filmmaker to make this film.”

“[to director Steve McQueen, while accepting the BAFA male acting trophy, 2014] This is yours. I'm going to keep it - that's the kind of guy I am - but it's yours.”

“I think I just look for what appeals to me, and maybe what appeals to me is kind of serious sometimes. I like characters and I like story and I sort of like narrative, and that is what excites me.”

Things You May Not Know About Chiwetel Ejiofor

His name is pronounced Chew-eh-tell Edge-ee-oh-for.

Starred with British actor Clive Owen in back to back action thriller films, Inside Man (2006) and Children of Men (2006).

He has named his five favorite films (in no order) as Raging Bull (1980), The Godfather (1972), Fargo (1996), Miller's Crossing (1990) and Do the Right Thing (1989).

His younger sister, Zain Asher, is a financial news reporter at CNN based in New York.

Has played slaves in two films: Amistad (1997) and 12 Years a Slave (2013).

He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his services to Drama.

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Chiwetel Ejiofor in his Oscar-nominated performance in 12 Years a Slave (2013)... Middle picture with Michael Fassbender.
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Chiwetel Ejiofor in Children of Men (2006).
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Ejiofor in Dancing on the Edge (2013).
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Ejiofor in Dirty Pretty Things (2002).
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In Four Brothers (2005).
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In Half of a Yellow Sun (2013).
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In Inside Man (2006).
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Ejiofor with Keira Knightley in Love Actually (2003).
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Ejiofor with Morgan Freeman in Amistad (1997).
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Chiwetel Ejiofor in Redbelt (2008).
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In Savannah (2013).
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Ejiofor as the mock prosecutor in Phil Spector (2013).
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In Talk to Me (2007).
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As Vincent Kapoor in The Martian (2015).
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Chiwetel Ejiofor in Z for Zachariah (2015).