Sunday 18 August 2019

Chiwetel Ejiofor to receive Richard Harris gong at film awards ceremony

Chiwetel Ejiofor will receive the award at the British Independent Film Awards next month
Chiwetel Ejiofor will receive the award at the British Independent Film Awards next month

Chiwetel Ejiofor will be recognised for his outstanding contribution to British cinema at an awards ceremony honouring the best of independent film.

The actor, whose career includes roles in Twelve Years a Slave and The Martian, is the winner of the Richard Harris Award and will receive the gong at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs) next month.

The award is bestowed upon Ejiofor in recognition of his service to the film industry, not just in the UK but internationally as an ambassador for British film, organisers said.

Jared Harris, son of Richard Harris, said: "I am so happy this award is going to Chiwetel. Although the recipients of this award have all been embraced by the establishment, they all came from outside it, fought their way in on the strength of their talent, claimed their place and changed the status quo.

"A journey which describes Chiwetel's career perfectly. His talent is immense, it has brought him deserved worldwide recognition, and he is in his prime. I hope this award inspires British filmmakers to take advantage of him and build films around his talent."

The Richard Harris Award was introduced in 2002 and previous winners include John Hurt, Bob Hoskins, Daniel Day-Lewis, Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Walters and Emma Thompson.

Ejiofor, 38, was awarded a CBE for services to drama earlier this year - having already been the holder of an OBE.

This latest honour caps a remarkable rise that began with a London schoolboy reciting Shakespeare to himself in his bedroom.

His star has continued to shine brightly, with him receiving an Oscar nomination and winning a Bafta in 2013 for 12 Years A Slave.

Ejiofor grew up in north London with Nigerian parents, started acting at school before joining the National Youth Theatre and training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

He got his big break when he was a teenage student and was offered a role in another slavery drama - Steven Spielberg's epic Amistad about a mutiny aboard a slave ship.

Steady work on stage and screen followed before he landed a major role in British film Dirty Pretty Things - a gritty tale of immigrant London - and a succession of increasingly high-profile parts including Othello at the Donmar Warehouse and in BBC drama The Shadow Line.

His transatlantic career flourished with roles in Richard Curtis's Love Actually, Woody Allen's Melinda And Melinda and Julian Jarrold's Kinky Boots, and h e has worked with an impressive roll-call of directors including Ridley Scott, Tom Hooper, Spike Lee, and Alfonso Cuaron.

Last year was a memorable one for the actor as it saw him star in Steve McQueen's Twelve Years A Slave.

His performance as Solomon Northup gained him Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG nominations and won him a best actor Bafta.

This year he has featured in acclaimed films and stage performances, including Everyman, Rufus Norris's inaugural play as artistic director of The National Theatre.

He has also appeared in blockbuster The Martian and the soon-to-be-released thriller Secret In Their Eyes with Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman as well as John Hillcoat's heist crime thriller Triple Nine with Kate Winslet.

Ejiofor is currently shooting Marvel's Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton.

The rest of the winners of the Moet British Independent Film Awards will be announced on Sunday December 6 at Old Billingsgate in London.

In total, 28 British feature films are nominated with The Lobster leading the nominations with seven.

45 Years and Macbeth have six nominations each, Amy, Brooklyn and Ex Machina have five, and High-Rise and Suffragette each have four nominations.

PA Media

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