8 Facts You Never Would Have Guessed About Chiwetel Ejiofor
Though you may have trouble pronouncing it, the name “Chiwetel Ejiofor” has risen to household status as the actor has tackled some of the most challenging roles available. Through his groundbreaking performances, he has made a name for himself in the British and American entertainment industries on stage as well as on film.
1. Ejiofor was born in England to Nigerian parents of Igbo descent. His birth name was slightly different from his stage name as “Chiwetelu.”
2. His sister is CNN News correspondent Zain Asher.
3. When he was 11, Chiwetel and his father were involved in a head-on crash in Lagos, Nigeria. His father was killed, and he sustained serious injuries.
4. In 2008, Ejiofor was awarded an Order of the British Empire title by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the arts. In 2015, this status was elevated to Commander of the Order of the British Empire at the Queen’s Official Birthday Honours.
5. He began acting at just 13 and eventually went on to join the National Youth Theatre. He later earned a scholarship to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and received a role in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film Amistad shortly after. At his audition, he met fellow British actor Idris Elba.
6. In 2005, he portrayed a violent Detroit gangster in John Singleton’s Four Brothers. The same year, he also played a drag queen in Kinky Boots. Based on a true story, his singing and performance in the latter film garnered a British Independent Film Award nomination as well as a Golden Globe nomination.
7. His “breakout” role is considered by many to be his portrayal of slave Solomon Northup in the true story 12 Years a Slave. For his performance, Chiwetel received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for the 86th Academy Awards. He also received Golden Globe nominations and a BAFTA for Best Actor. To prepare for his role, he collected slave narratives, learned to play the violin, grew his hair and even worked as a laborer picking cotton.
8. When he first received the script, Ejiofor was hesitant about taking the part of the real-life hero. While he was excited to be given the “once in a lifetime” opportunity, he didn’t know if he was capable of taking on the weight of the role and portraying the character realistically.
Though he may have recently gained the attention of many on the other side of the pond, Chiwetel Ejiofor has had a career filled with challenging roles that have impressed audiences of all types. What roles of his did you find the most memorable?