Chiwetel Ejiofor won the BAFTA for Best Actor for his role in 12 Years A Slave, which was also honored with an award for Best Movie at Sunday night’s event, the last major award ceremony before the Oscars.
British director Steve McQueen accepted the award at the EE British Academy Film Awards and Television Arts Awards, held Sunday at The Royal Opera House in London.
The biggest stars in movies gathered for what is known as the precursor of the Oscars and what many believe is an indication of who will take the big honors at the Academy Award ceremony in Hollywood next month.
Voting members were captivated by the brutal story of the days in which the United States condoned holding other human beings captive for their disturbing purposes.
Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor — who beat such luminaries as Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, and Christian Bale to win the award — said in his acceptance speech referring to director Steve McQueen:
“This is yours. I’m going to keep it — that’s the kind of guy I am — but it’s yours.”
In the movie Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a free New York man, Solomon Northup, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery and is present in almost the entire movie.
The auditorium at the Royal Opera House erupted into loud cheers as the British actor was announced the winner of the BAFTA for Best Actor:
“I’m so deeply honored and privileged. Thank you for you work, your artistry and your passion in this project (…) to make it of such value, of such worth.”
— MOBO AWARDS (@MOBOAwards) February 16, 2014
Chiwetel Ejiofor told the pleased crowd and thanked cast members, including Michael Fassbender, calling him “a marvel” and the rest “an extraordinary group – everybody bringing an extraordinary passion to this project”.
The 36-year-old also thanked his family, telling his new niece and nephew, Hero and River, that: “we will endeavor to make a world you are proud of.”
After the ceremony Chiwetel Ejiofor told reporters that when he read the script for the first time he was “struck with self-doubt” at the thought of playing the slave.
“We live in the same era as the events that these things happened in, with seismic differences, but also with numerous similarities. So we understand our societies through the history of our societies, so we can draw parallels and relevances from stories like this.”
Speaking to The Telegraph after the ceremony Chiwetel Ejiofor said it was “a thrilling night” and a testament to the great films that were competing for the top award.
[Images via Regency Enterprises]