Chiwetelu Umeadi "Chiwetel" Ejiofor is a Nigerian-British actor.
Ejiofor was born on July 10, 1974 in London to Nigerian parents of Igbo descent who moved to the UK in the wake of the Nigerian civil war. His father, Arinze, was a doctor and his mother, Obiajulu, was a pharmacist, although they also performed together as a musical duo. Ejiofor is one of four children: he has an older brother and two younger sisters. At the age of 11, Ejiofor lost his father when their car collided with a lorry during a visit to Nigeria. He began acting at the age of thirteen as a student at Dulwich College and attended the National Youth Theatre where he honed his skills. Ejiofor’s stage performances in London earned him a remarkable reputation.
He played the lead role in Othello in September 1995 at the Bloomsbury Theatre and played the same character the following year at the Arts Theatre and again in 2007 at the Donmar Warehouse. He also performed in the 2007 run of Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull at the Royal Court Theatre.
Ejiofor's first film role was in the 1996 television movie Deadly Voyage based on the true story of a group of African stowaways on a ship who were murdered by its crew. His first leading film role was in 2002's Dirty Pretty Things as an immigrant doctor turned taxi driver, for which he won a British Independent Film Award for Best Actor. Ejiofor also acted in a BBC television adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight's Tale in 2003 and performed the role of the protagonist Prince Alamayo in Peter Spafford’s radio play I Was a Stranger (which aired on the BBC’s Radio 4 on May 17, 2004). He has also starred in major Hollywood films including Inside Man (2006), Children of Men (2006), American Gangster (2007) and Salt (2010). His first outing as a director was with a short entitled Slapper (2008) which starred Iain Glen and Bill Nighy.
Ejiofor's acting talents have won him many accolades. His brilliant performance in the play Blue/Orange won him the 2000 London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer as well as a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and the Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards. He was nominated for an Ian Charleson Award in the same year for his performance as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at the National Theatre. He also earned Golden Globe and British Independent Film Award nominations for his role in the British comedy film Kinky Boots. For his impressive body of work, he was nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award in 2006 and he has also been nominated for several Black Reel, NAACP Image and Screen Actor Guild awards.
Ejiofor was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2008. He will star alongside British actress Thandie Newton and Genevieve Nnaji in the movie Half of a Yellow Sun, a film adaptation of Chimamanda Adichie’s novel which is due to be released in 2013.
Watch: Chiwetel Ejiofor discusses his role in the film 2012