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Chiwetel Ejiofor to receive Richard Harris honour at British Independent Film Awards

12 Years A Slave

Story by Jack Foley

CHIWETEL Ejiofor will be honoured with The Richard Harris Award at this year’s Moët British Independent Film Awards on Sunday, December 6, 2015, at Old Billingsgate in London.

The accolade will recognise Ejiofor’s exceptional service to the film industry, not just here in the UK but internationally as an ambassador for British film.

Jared Harris, son of Richard Harris, commented: “I am so happy this award is going to Chiwetel. Although the recipients of this award have all been embraced by the establishment, they all came from outside it, fought their way in on the strength of their talent, claimed their place and changed the status quo.

“A journey which describes Chiwetel’s career perfectly. His talent is immense, it has brought him deserved worldwide recognition, and he is in his prime! I hope this award inspires British filmmakers to take advantage of him and build films around his talent.”

In 1996, Chiwetel caught the attention of Stephen Spielberg, who cast him in Amistad opposite Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins.

In 2002, he was nominated for his first major awards: the BIFA for Most Promising Newcomer and for Best Actor, which he won, for his performance in Stephen Frears’ thriller Dirty Pretty Things.

Chiwetel’s transatlantic career continued with roles in Richard Curtis’ Love Actually, Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda and Julian Jarrold’s Kinky Boots, which drew another BIFA nomination.

Chiwetel has worked with a spectacular roll-call of directors in the UK and US including Ridley Scott (American Gangster, The Martian), David Mamet (Redbelt), Tom Hooper (Red Dust), Spike Lee (Inside Man) and Alfonso Cuarón in the Oscar nominated Children of Men.

2014 was a memorable year for Chiwetel and saw him star in Steve McQueen’s Oscar winning US-UK co-production Twelve Years a Slave. Chiwetel’s performance as Solomon Northup gained him Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG nominations and won him a Best Actor BAFTA.

Later in the year, Chiwetel also starred in Half of a Yellow Sun, based on the highly acclaimed novel of the same title, the film also starred Thandie Newton and Joseph Mawle.

This year, Chiwetel was elevated from OBE to CBE for his services to drama and has seen him feature in a raft of acclaimed films and stage performances, including Everyman, Rufus Norris’ inaugural play as Artistic Director of The National Theatre.

As well as that astonishing stage performance, 2015 has seen Chiwetel appear in blockbuster The Martian and the soon-to-be-released thriller Secret in Their Eyes with Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman as well as John Hillcoat’s heist crime thriller Triple Nine with Kate Winslet, Casey Affleck and Aaron Paul.

He is currently shooting Marvel’s Doctor Strange with Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton.

The Richard Harris Award was introduced in 2002 in honour of the late Richard Harris and recognises outstanding contribution to British film by an actor.

Previous winners have been John Hurt, David Thewlis, Bob Hoskins, Jim Broadbent, Daniel Day-Lewis, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Julie Walters and Emma Thompson in 2014.