English stage actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, is best known internationally for his star performance in the 2002 movie, Dirty Pretty Things (co-starring Audrey Tautou). Early in his career he was hired by Steven Spielberg for a small role in Amistad (1997, starring Morgan Freeman) and worked in British television. On stage he appeared in Romeo and Juliet (as Romeo) and Blue/Orange, which led to Ejiofor being hailed as the next great British actor. He has since appeared in the British TV series, Trust (2003) and the movies, Serenity (2005), Kinky Boots (2005), Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006), Children of Men (2006, starring Clive Owen), Ridley Scott’s American Gangster (2007, starring Denzel Washington) and 2012 (2009).
Ejiofor was born to Nigerian parents in Forest Gate, East London in July 10, 1974. His father was a doctor and his mother a pharmacist. Though his calling may not have been readily apparent in his early childhood, by the time Ejiofor was 13, the aspiring young actor was taken to the stage in numerous school and National Youth Theatre productions. His love for the stage grew with each passing year, and by the time he got to Dulwich College, his calling was clear. Attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, he gained a reputation as a formidable stage talent, and following appearances in high-profile productions at the Almeida Theatre Company and the Royal National Theatre, Ejiofor’s talents found him drawn to the medium of television, where he would make his debut in the 1996 made-for-TV thriller Deadly Voyage.
It wasn’t long before Ejiofor’s talent caught the eye of the legendary film director, Steven Spielberg, and the following year, the upcoming actor was back on the high seas for Spielberg’s historical drama, Amistad. Of course, a role in such a high-profile release was bound to attract the attention of other filmmakers as well, and though Ejiofor would remain true to his theatre roots, he would balance his stage work with roles in such films as Greenwich Mean Time (1999), It Was an Accident, and Mind Games (both 2000). Cast opposite Amélie star, Audrey Tautou in Stephen Frears’ 2001 drama thriller, Dirty Pretty Things, Ejiofor essayed the role of a Nigerian immigrant living in London who makes a horrible discovery that puts his life in grave danger.
It was obvious to those who had seen his performances that he was one to look out for, and his winning performance as a hedonistic lawyer in the 2003 British miniseries, Trust only served to cement the fact that his career was on the fast track. Remaining on the small screen for Twelfth Night, or What you Will and The Canterbury Tales (both 2003), Ejiofor would subsequently return to the big screen for Love Actually (2003) and Slow Burn (2004), a pair of films that virtually ensured him a high recognition factor and a bright future on stage and screen. He continued to work steadily in a variety of character roles.
He anchored the dramatic sections of Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda in 2004. He showed of his remarkable versatility in 2005 with roles in the urban thriller, Four Brothers, the science fiction film, Serenity, and starring as a flamboyant cross-dresser in the comedy, Kinky Boots.
In 2006 he worked with a pair of high-powered directors. He played the partner to Denzel Washington’s hostage negotiator in the hit thriller, Inside Man, and played a large part in Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men.
He 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 was the lead alongside John Cusack in the 2009 film, 2012. The film went on to gross over 700 million dollars, and is among the list of highest-grossing films of all time and placing 5th on top films of 2009.
However, some say that the eyes are a window into one’s soul and few actors are gifted enough to make an audience truly believe the plight of the characters they portray. Despite their best efforts, their eyes often betray their abilities and we still recognise the actor playing the character. With his honest eyes, sincere smile, and unmistakable onscreen presence, actor Chiwetel Ejiofor possesses the rare ability to internalise his characters to an unusually realistic degree -- an ability that has gained him increasing recognition in the arena of world cinema.
The list of awards is as follows:
American Black Film Festival 2004; won Best Performing Actor
Black Reel Awards 2004; won Black Reel (Best Actor)
British Independent Film Award 2003; won Best Actor
Evening Standard British Film Awards 2003; won Evening Standard British Film Award (Best Actor)
Gotham Awards 2007; won Best Ensemble Cast
Independent Spirit Awards 2008; won Independent Spirit Award (Best Supporting Male)
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards 2003; won SDFCS Award (Best Actor)
The Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2008; won Best actor (Othello)
Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer, 2000 Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.