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Chiwetel Ejiofor is an acclaimed actor of film, television and stage with a wide range of roles in projects like Othello, Serenity, Kinky Boots and 12 Years a Slave.
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Born on July 10, 1977, in London, England, Chiwetel Ejiofor was a stage actor before landing a part in the 1997 film Amistad. Many more projects were to follow, including Dirty Pretty Things, Serenity, Kinky Boots, Talk to Me, Redbelt and Othello. Having been nominated for three Golden Globes, Ejiofor earned further critical acclaim for his role as Solomon Northup in the biopic 12 Years a Slave.
"I loved reading when I was young. I was just completely taken by stories. And I remember taking that into English literature at school and taking that into Shakespeare and finding that opened up a whole world of self-expression to me that I didn't have access to previously."
"Even though I loved the part [in the film Kinky Boots], there's always this possibility that it just wasn't in me; that I'd throw on the wig and say the lines and look like a moron or a fraud. But actually something different happened."
"I think Shakespeare's so astute in his understanding of people being vulnerable, you know. And that love is so easy to corrupt. 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."
"I think there's an obsession with arc, the arc of a character, the character's journey--but I don't think people change all that much in the end. I think people have a very primal, immediate nature, and they spend most of their time struggling against it or trying to reconnect with it."
"I look at scripts really for whether they can be moving or penetrate some kind of truth. You are constantly chasing that feeling as an actor when every part of a production comes together."
"I think I have a constant reflective relationship with [my father], but don't we all have that to some extent with people we have lost?"
"I decided to fly back to Nigeria to see my grandfather ... I had to get a car out from Lagos to Enugu and I realized this would be the first time driving on the same road that killed my father; making the decision to do that and confront it was a really important part of me coming to peace with the place."
Chiwetel Ejiofor was born on July 10, 1977, in the eastern part of London, England, to mother Obiajulu and father Arinze Ejiofor; both parents hailed from Nigeria, worked in medicine and had a prominent singing/performance career. The second of four siblings, Chiwetel lost his father in a car accident in a visit to Nigeria when he was a child, after which he was hospitalized for more than two months and physically scarred.
With his mother taking care of the family, Ejiofor developed a passion for reading and the stage, and as such performed with the National Youth Theatre before eventually attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He made his TV debut in the thriller Deadly Voyage (1996)and made his first film appearance in Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997).
During the early 2000s, Ejiofor had lead and supporting roles in many big-screen projects that showed his versatility as an actor, taking work in a variety of genres across the moral spectrum.
Some of the highlights: He received raves as a sleep-deprived taxi driver and hotel clerk with a medical background in the Stephen Frears thriller Dirty Pretty Things (2002), acting opposite Audrey Tatou. Ejiofor was then part of the large ensemble cast of 2003's Love Actually and later played villains in two notable sci-fi films—namely Joss Whedon's Serenity (2005) and Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men (2006). Ejiofor also collaborated with Spike Lee in the films She Hate Me (2004) and Inside Man (2006), working with co-star Denzel Washington in 2007's American Gangster as well.
Ejiofor was the lead character—singing drag diva Lola—in the 2006 film Kinky Boots, for which Ejiofor earned a Golden Globe nomination. (The movie eventually went on to be adapted into a Tony Award-winning musical written by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein.) Ejiofor received an additional Golden Globe nod for his part in HBO's Tsunami and three years later for his role portraying Thabo Mbeki in the South African drama Endgame.
Ejiofor also directed the 2008 short film Slapper; the same year he appeared in the David Mamet martial arts film Redbelt and performed lead in a stage revival of Othello, winning the Laurence Olivier award. After another ensemble venture with 2012 (2009), the busy actor starred as a government agent in the Angelina Jolie spy thriller Salt (2010).
The year 2013 was a major one for Ejiofor.
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