Ejiofor at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Redbelt
|Born||Chiwetelu Umeadi Ejiofor
10 July 1977
Forest Gate, London, England, UK
|Alma mater||Dulwich College, London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art|
Chiwetelu Umeadi "Chiwetel" Ejiofor, OBE (/ / CHEW-i-tel EJ-i-oh-for; born 10 July 1977) is a British film, television, and theatre actor. He has received numerous acting awards and nominations, including the 2006 BAFTA Awards Rising Star, three Golden Globe Awards' nominations, and the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance in Othello. He played Okwe in Dirty Pretty Things (2002), The Operative in Serenity (2005), Lola in Kinky Boots (2005), Luke in Children of Men (2006), and Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave (2013).
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 the scars on his forehead. Ejiofor began acting in school plays at the age of thirteen at Dulwich College and joined the National Youth Theatre. He then got into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art but had to leave after his first year, after getting a role 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, who played 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. 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 2000 Critics' Circle Theatre Awards. For his performance in Blue/Orange, he received the 2000 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer and a 2001 nomination for the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award Best Supporting Actor.
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 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 Golden Globe and British Independent Film Award nominations. He was also nominated for the 2006 BAFTA Rising Star Award, which recognises emerging British film talent. Ejiofor's performance in Tsunami: The Aftermath received a 2007 Golden Globe nomination for best actor in a mini-series or film made for TV.
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 favourable 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 Honours. 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 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 of his 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, and engaged in some of the physical labor 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."
12 Years a Slave opened to wide acclaim, with many critics citing Ejiofor's performance and declaring him an almost-certain Academy Award nominee for Best Actor. From Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly: "It is Chiwetel Ejiofor’s extraordinary performance that holds the movie together, and that allows us to watch it without blinking. He plays Solomon with a powerful inner strength, yet he never soft-pedals the silent nightmare that is Solomon’s daily existence." From Christopher Orr at The Atlantic: "Ejiofor has given notable performances in the past (Dirty Pretty Things, Serenity, Talk to Me), but this is by far his most essential role to date. Stoic, watchful, compromising himself just enough to stay alive, he is the point of stillness and decency around which spin the madnesses of the film." In his Hollywood Reporter review, Todd McCarthy wrote, "Ejiofor is terrific in a demanding character who’s put through the wringer physically, mentally and emotionally."
Ejiofor will play Patrice Lumumba in an upcoming film adaptation of Aimé Césaire's A Season in the Congo, which he performed at the Young Vic in 2013. Joe Wright, who directed the play, will also direct the film. He is also considered one of the leading candidates to play T'Challa/Black Panther in the proposed Black Panther film based on the Marvel Comics character.
|2001||Murder in Mind||DS McCorkindale|
|2011||The Shadow Line||Jonah Gabriel|
|2013||Dancing on the Edge||Louis Lester|
|2000||Blue/Orange||Chris||Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer, 2000 Critics' Circle Theatre Awards
Outstanding Newcomer, 2000 London Evening Standard Theatre Award
Nominated — Best Supporting Actor, 2001 Laurence Olivier Award
|2000||Romeo and Juliet||Romeo||Nominated — Ian Charleson Award|
|2000||Peer Gynt||Young Peer|
|2002||The Vortex||Nicky Lancaster|
|2007||The Seagull||Boris Alexeyevich Trigorin|
|2007||Othello||Othello||2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor|
|2013||A Season in the Congo||Patrice Lumumba|
- "BFI | Film & TV Database | EJIOFOR, Chiwetel". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
- "inogolo.com". inogolo.com. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
- born in 1977, as stated by Ejiofor at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_UDXHRlCRs, at 9:30 mark
- Hattenstone, Simon (Saturday 10 July 2004). "The rainbow's end Arts". The Guardian (London). "Life, he says, was always precarious for his parents in Nigeria - they belonged to the Christian Ibo tribe..."
- Raphael, Amy. "Almost famous", The Guardian, 3 November 2002. Accessed 9 July 2007.
- Husband, Stuart (11 November 2007). "Chiwetel Ejiofor: it's always the quiet ones...". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 28 April 2010.[dead link]
- Talk to Me, FocusFeatures.com. Accessed 29 July 2007.
- Press reviews: Othello, bbc.co.uk. Accessed 5 December 2007
- The London Gazette: . 14 June 2008.
- Ejiofor, Chiwetel (June 18, 2008). "Can you bring it down a notch, Bill?". London: guardian.co.uk. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
- McCracken, Kristin (11 September 2013). "Interview: Steve McQueen Talks '12 Years A Slave,' 'Django Unchained', Pitt & Fassbender & More". The Playlist. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- Kennedy, Lisa (27 October 2013). "Chiwetel Ejiofor takes us down a rabbit hole in "12 Years a Slave"". Denver Post. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- Horn, John (6 September 2013). "In '12 Years a Slave,' Steve McQueen juxtaposes beauty, brutality". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- Wallenger, Christopber (19 October 2013). "Chiwetel Ejiofor breaks through in ‘12 Years a Slave’". Boston Globe. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- Mandell, Andrea (17 October 2013). "'12 Years' captures brutality, reality of slavery". USA Today. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
- Simon, Jeff (3 November 2013). "Chiwetel Ejiofor on one of the great film performances of 2013 in “12 Years a Slave”". Buffalo News. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- Mandell, Andrea (16 November 2013). "Oscar buzz follows Fassbender, Ejiofor in '12 Years'". USA Today. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
- Gleiberman, Owen (7 September 2013). "Toronto 2013: '12 Years a Slave' is a landmark of cruelty and transcendence". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Orr, Christopher (18 October 2013). "The Searing, Visceral 12 Years a Slave". The Atlantic. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- McCarthy, Todd (31 August 2013). "Chiwetel Ejiofor on one of the great film performances of 2013 in “12 Years a Slave”". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
- Jagernauth, Kevin (16 September 2013). "Joe Wright To Direct Chiwetel Ejiofor In Adaptation Of Play 'A Season In The Congo'". The Playlist. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chiwetel Ejiofor.|
- Chiwetel Ejiofor at the Internet Movie Database
- Chiwetel Ejiofor biography and filmography at the British Film Institute's Screenonline