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'

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy