In a great night for British talent, British actor of Nigerian descent, Chiwetel Ejiofor won Best Actor at the BAFTAs for his role as Solomon Northup in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave.The film also won Best Film award on the night. The film was nominated in 10 categories, but was beaten in many by Gravity which claimed six prizes, including best director for Alfonso Cuaron.
Ejiofor, 36, plays black New Yorker Northup, who is kidnapped and sold into the American South slave trade in 1841.The actor, a former EE Rising Star nominee, beat competition from Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, Christian Bale for American Hustle, Bruce Dern for Nebraskaand Tom Hanks for Philomena.
Ejiofor, who received a standing ovation as he took to the stage to receive his trophy from Uma Thurman at the Royal Opera House in London, thanked Bafta for the “incredible” award and paid tribute to director McQueen’s “artistry and passion”.
“You really brought us all through it, you had the real vision to tell this remarkable story. The extraordinary life that he had, and to tell this story in a way to make it of such value, of such worth to all who were there. Thank you for this, it was yours. I’m going to keep it, but it’s yours,” he said.
Ejiofor is also nominated for the Best Actor Oscar ahead of the Hollywood ceremony on Sunday 2 March.