Many say Chiwetel Ejiofor is “one of the best British actors of his generation”.
He has been recognised by the British Academy and Hollywood’s Foreign Press with BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations. Word is he may ad an Oscar nod to that impressive collection.
He had to leave his studies at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts after one year for a role in Stephen Spielberg’s Amistad. Not a bad foundation to launch a career that includes Love Actually, American Gangster and Dirty Pretty Things. Rumour has it he even turned down the role of Dr Who, with Matt Smith becoming the 11th Time Lord in 2009.
He is currently headlining Joe Wright’s sold out production of Aimé Cesaire’s A Season in the Congo at London’s Young Vic. He plays Patrice Lumumba – “a beer salesman who became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Congo in June 1960. Seven days later the country gains independence from Belgian colonial rule. By January 1961. Lumumba was dead – executed in murky circumstances, involving Congolese dissenters and foreign powers. It’s a “decolonisation drama”chronicling a vibrant nation’s turbulent first years of freedom.
It marks Chiwetel’s return to the boards since he reprised his role as Othello (previously at the Bloomsbury Theatre in 1995) at the Donmar Warehouse with Ewan McGregor as Iago in 2007. Chiwetel won the Olivier Award for his performance.
His latest film 12 Years A Slave has attracted Oscar buzz. The historical drama, directed by Steve McQueen, is based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped in Washington DC in 1841 and sold into slavery for 12 years. Brad Pitt plays his part as well – producing and acting in the film.
Chiwetel signed my sketch at the Young Vic last Thursday before the evening performance.