Black actors duke it out for top honours

Published: Wednesday | December 18, 2013 Comments 0

THE GLOVES are off as British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor is up against old friend and rival, Idris Elba, for personal glory in the film awards season.

Ejiofor, 36, has been applauded for his depiction of a free-born black man forced into slavery in 19th-century America in the film 12 Years A Slave, and has been nominated for best actor at next month's Golden Globes against fellow Londoner, Elba, who plays Nelson Mandela in the biopic Long Walk to Freedom.

This year, 12 Years A Slave scored nominations in multiple categories, including best picture, best director for Steve McQueen, best supporting actor for Michael Fassbender, best supporting actress for newcomer Lupita Nyong'o and best acting ensemble.

Speaking at a special screening at Cineworld Haymarket recently, Ejiofor, a former Dulwich College pupil, told The Evening Standard: "I love Idris and his work and I've known him for 20 years, so I'm very excited for him and his film.

"I was talking to him not long ago, and we were reflecting on the privilege of getting to play these extraordinary people, and to find audiences for those portrayals is incredible."

The film 12 Years A Slave, directed by the British McQueen, is based on the 1853 memoirs of Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free black man who was kidnapped in Washington DC in 1841 and sold into slavery.

Ejiofor, whose parents are Nigerian, added: "People come to the film with an open mind, and they recognise that these are people who are telling the story from the perspective of a diaspora, as well as specific nations, all of which were involved in the slave trade, be that Britain or the West Indies, or Nigeria, where my heritage is and where hundreds of thousands of slaves came from."

Ejiofor and Elba are also rivals for the best actor in a TV movie or mini-series category for their respective performances in Dancing On The Edge and Luther.

12 Years A Slave will be released in Britain on January 10, and The Golden Globes awards ceremony takes place two days later on January 12.

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