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Chiwetel Ejiofor

Chiwetel Umeadi Ejiofor[2] CBE (/ˈtʃuːətɛl ˈɛdʒioʊfɔːr/ CHOO-ə-tel EJ-ee-oh-for;[3] born 10 July 1977[2]) is a British actor.[4] He is the recipient of various accolades, including a BAFTA Award, a Laurence Olivier Award, a NAACP Image Award, and nominations for an Academy Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Golden Globe Awards.

After enrolling at the National Youth Theatre in 1995 and attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, at age 19 and three months into his course, Ejiofor was cast by Steven Spielberg to play a supporting role in the film Amistad (1997) as James Covey.[5]

Ejiofor portrayed the characters Okwe in Dirty Pretty Things (2002), Lola in Kinky Boots (2005), Victor Sweet in Four Brothers (2005), The Operative in Serenity (2005), Thabo Mbeki in Endgame (2009), Darryl Peabody in Salt (2010), Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave (2013), Vincent Kapoor in The Martian (2015), Karl Mordo in Doctor Strange (2016) and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022), and Trywell Kamkwamba in The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019). He voiced Dr. Watson in Sherlock Gnomes (2018) and Scar in the 2019 remake of The Lion King and featured in the fantasy film Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.[6] For 12 Years a Slave, he received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations, along with the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. He was nominated for a 2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie for his performance on Dancing on the Edge.[7] In 2022, he played the lead role in the Showtime science fiction television series The Man Who Fell to Earth.

In 2008, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the arts.[8] He was elevated to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2015 Birthday Honours.

Early life
Ejiofor was born on 10 July 1977 in Forest Gate, London, to middle-class Nigerian parents of Igbo descent.[10][11][12] His father, Arinze, was a doctor, and his mother, Obiajulu, was a pharmacist. His younger sister, Zain, is a CNN correspondent.[13] His other sister Kandi is a GP doctor.

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, and Ejiofor was badly injured, receiving scars that are still visible on his forehead.[14][15]

Ejiofor began acting in school plays at his junior school, Dulwich Prep London (known at the time as ‘Dulwich College Preparatory School’), where he played the gravedigger in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He continued acting at his senior school, Dulwich College and joined the National Youth Theatre. He got into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art but left 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.

Career
1996–2007: Career beginnings and early recognition
Ejiofor made his film debut in the television film Deadly Voyage (1996).[16] He went on to become a stage actor in London. In Steven Spielberg’s Amistad,[16] he gave support to Djimon Hounsou’s Cinque as interpreter Ensign 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.[17]

Ejiofor had his first leading film role playing Nicky Burkett in Jeremy Cameron’s It Was an Accident (2000). In 2002, he starred in Dirty Pretty Things,[16] 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,[16] starred in a BBC adaptation of Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale and also starred on 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 Red Dust (2004), portraying the fictional politician Alex Mpondo of post-apartheid South Africa.

He played the central role 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 film Serenity (2005).[16] Ejiofor played a revolutionary in the film Children of Men (2006).[16] His singing and acting performance in Kinky Boots received a Golden Globe Award[16] and British Independent Film Award nomination. He was also nominated for the BAFTA Orange Rising Star Award in 2006, which recognises 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.[16]

In 2007, Ejiofor starred opposite Don Cheadle in Talk to Me,[18] a film based on the true story of Ralph “Petey” Greene (played by Cheadle), an African-American radio personality in the 1960s and 1970s. 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”.[19] He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance.[16] He also narrated the BBC television film Partition: The Day India Burned (2007), which was based on the Partition of India. He starred as Mike Terry in the 2008 cult film Redbelt that received favourable reviews.

Personal life
In 2015, Ejiofor was honoured with a Global Promise Award by The GEANCO Foundation, a non-profit welfare organisation in West Africa, for his charity work in Nigeria.

On 12 September 2016, Ejiofor, as well as Cate Blanchett, Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Capaldi, Douglas Booth, Neil Gaiman, Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Kit Harington and Stanley Tucci, featured in a video from the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR to help raise awareness of the global refugee crisis. The video, titled “What They Took With Them”, has the actors reading a poem, written by Jenifer Toksvig and inspired by primary accounts of real refugees, and is part of UNHCR’s #WithRefugees campaign, which also includes a petition to governments to expand asylum to provide further shelter, integrating job opportunities, and education.[45][46] Ejiofor is a supporter of Crystal Palace F.C

Awards and nominations
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Chiwetel Ejiofor
Ejiofor is the recipient of several awards, including numerous nominations in the Best Actor category for his role as Solomon Northup in the 2013 biographical drama film 12 Years a Slave, of which he won the AACTA International, BAFTA, BET, Black Reel awards, in addition to several critical accolades. His other acclaimed roles include: as Othello in a 2007 Donmar Warehouse production of the play of the same name, which won him the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor; as geologist Adrian Helmsley in the 2009 apocalyptic disaster blockbuster 2012, which garnered worldwide commercial success, with a box-office growth of over 769 million dollars (the fifth-highest of any film that year[48] and the highest for its week of release[49]), which earned him nominations for a Black Reel and NAACP Image Award; as Louis Lester in the BBC miniseries Dancing on the Edge (2013), for which he was nominated for an Emmy, Golden Globe and Satellite award for outstanding lead actor in a miniseries or movie, and won a Black Reel Award in the same category; as the narrator of the 2018 Apple TV+ documentary film The Elephant Queen, for which he was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator; and as the director and screenwriter of the 2019 British drama film The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, which saw him receive nominations for the Black Reel Award for Outstanding Breakthrough Screenwriter, two British Independent Film Awards (Best Supporting Actor and Best Debut Director), the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize―winning the latter two.

In 2008, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the arts.[8] He was elevated to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2015 Birthday Honours.

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