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."

Ejiofor originally turned down the role of Solomon Northup out of fear of being "the guy that messed it up".

 

"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'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor