|Date of Birth
||10 July 1974
|Place of Birth
||Forest Gate, London, England, UK
Stung by the acting bug after watching Cary Grant’s performance in Once Upon A Honeymoon (1942), 13-year-old Chiwetel Ejiofor began performing in numerous school productions and for the National Youth Theatre productions, where he played the title roles in “Julius Caesar” and “Othello.” He later attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts on a scholarship and performed with the Almeida Theater Company and the Royal National Theater.
In 1996, Ejiofor made his TV movie debut in HBO’s searing drama/ thriller based on a true incident, Deadly Voyage, starring Omar Epps. He soon caught the attention of renowned filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who gave him a small role in a 1997 movie based on the true story of the 19th century ship and court case, Amistad. The historical drama film, starring Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins and Djimon Hounsou, received several nominations at the Academy of Motion Pictures, which consequently helped catapulting Ejiofor’s name toward the spotlight.
"I remember getting cast in Amistad and getting this very strong feeling that I had overshot myself. It was a great shock. It made me realize that this is not a profession you can predict; that you can have all these ambitions and expectations and that they can all be thrown to the wind. What was peculiar about that situation was that my aspirations were so far below what actually happened." Chiwetel Ejiofor
The up and coming actor subsequently starred as one third of a rock band in John Strickland's musical drama GMT Greenwich Mean Time (1999; alongside Alec Newman, Melanie Gutteridge and Georgia Mackenzie), before tackling the lead as Nicky Burkett, an ex-con who wants to go straight, in Metin Hüseyin's adaptation of Jeremy Cameron's novel, It Was an Accident (2000; also featuring Thandie Newton). On stage, Ejiofor earned critical praise for his performance in "Blue/Orange," a play about a mental patient who claims to be the son of an exiled African dictator, at the Royal National Theatre. The play handed him a nomination for a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2001 (2000 season) for Best Supporting Actor, as well as won him the Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer at the 2000 London Critics Circle Theatre Awards (Drama) and the 2000 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer.
Back to his film work, Ejiofor’s star glowed in 2002 when he received multiple awards for starring as Okwe, a Nigerian doctor moonlighting as a taxi driver during the day and a hotel receptionist at night, in Stephen Frears' gritty urban drama Dirty Pretty Things (opposite Audrey Tautou). He followed it up with the high-profile romantic comedy Love Actually, in which he co-starred opposite Keira Knightley as her groom and the TV-movie version of one of Shakespeare's most celebrated and best loved comedies, Twelfth Night, or What You Will, playing the lead role of powerful nobleman Orsino. He also played Paul on the BBC TV series adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer's book, "The Canterbury Tales" (2003).
2004 saw Ejiofor in Spike Lee's relationship comedy She Hate Me (starring Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington and Ellen Barkin) and in Tom Hooper's political drama inspired by Gillian Slovo's novel, Red Dust (opposite Hilary Swank). He also portrayed one of Radha Mitchell's Melinda’s suitors in the tragic potion of Woody Allen's dual-structured Melinda and Melinda.
After playing a charismatically sadistic crime boss in John Singleton’s violent thriller Four Brothers (2005; with Mark Wahlberg, Andre 3000, Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund), adapted from Henry Hathaway's 1965 western film The Sons of Katie Elder, Ejiofor snagged another captivating villainous role, this time as the nameless and rankless Operative in Joss Whedon's sci-fi western film Serenity (2005; with Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau and Adam Baldwin). That same year, he also completed filming Wayne Beach's crime drama, inspired by a novel by Filipino-American writer Sabina Murray, Slow Burn (starring Jolene Blalock, Ray Liotta and LL Cool J), which was shown at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival and is currently scheduled for American theatrical release sometime in 2007, and a British film by Julian Jarrold, the drama comedy Kinky Boots, in which he starred as brassy cabaret singer Lola, the alter ego of Simon.
Recently, Ejiofor reunited with Spike Lee in his 2006 crime-drama film starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, Inside Man. He also teamed up with Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine in Alfonso Cuarón's thriller Children of Men and co-starred opposite Tim Roth in the HBO miniseries Tsunami: The Aftermath.
Ejiofor will soon complete his upcoming films: Kasi Lemmons' biographical drama about Washington D.C. radio personality Ralph "Petey" Greene (played by Don Cheadle), Talk to Me (Ejiofor played Petey’s producer Dewey Hughes), and Ridley Scott's biopic of Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington), American Gangster. He is currently filming Michael Almereyda's film adaptation of an award winning short story by Jonathan Lethem, Tonight at Noon (opposite Lauren Ambrose; Ejiofor plays dual characters Lee/Evans), and Danny Glover's historical action epic Toussaint (starring Don Cheadle).