Baftas 2014: Chiwetel Ejiofor beats Leonardo DiCaprio to Best Actor award
The British actor beat Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale to the award
British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor has won Best Actor at the Baftas for his role as Solomon Northup in Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave.
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 Nebraska and Tom Hanks for Philomena.
Ejiofor thanked Bafta for the "incredible" award and paid tribute to McQueen's "artistry and passion".
"You really brought us all through it," he told the director. "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."
"When I read the script, I thought it was an extraordinary story but I did feel the weight and the responsibility of it," he told the BBC. "I hadn’t seen a story from inside the slave experience as a film and I’d been accustomed to the fact I’d probably never see it.
"So to be handed that kind of opportunity and the responsibility of telling (Northup's) story – I just questioned myself and was stuck for a moment with the questions of whether I could do that."
Ejiofor is nominated for the Best Actor Oscar ahead of the Hollywood ceremony on Sunday 2 March. But Matthew McConaughey, who plays an AIDS sufferer in Dallas Buyers Club, will be his closest rival, having won the Screen Actors Guild Award for the role. McConaughey was not nominated for Best Actor at the Baftas.
Barkhad Abdi won Best Supporting Actor for his role as a Somalian pirate in Captain Phillips. Emma Thompson presented the newcomer, who was attending his first awards ceremony, with the prize - previously expected to go to Michael Fassbender for 12 Years a Slave.
Speaking to the BBC on the red carpet earlier, Abdi praised his co-star Tom Hanks, saying that the established actor "helped with whatever obstacle I faced".
The Somalian actor thanked director Paul Greengrass for "believing in me before I believed in myself". After completing work on Captain Phillips, Abdi reportedly took a day job in a phone shop as he found it difficult to secure further roles.
Watch Chiwetel Ejiofor talk about '12 Years a Slave'
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils