Oh, what a wonderful morning it’s been! 12 Years a Slave’s Chiwetel Ejiofor isn’t the only one overjoyed by his Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In a heartfelt, and very emotional interview, Ejiofor’s sister Zain Asher broke down on live television while discussing what this recognition means to her and the British star’s family.
“Honestly, I could not sleep last night. I really couldn’t,” CNN reporter Asher, said on Thursday Jan. 16. “This was so emotional for me because — I’m going to try not to cry — this was a day that my family has really been hoping for and waiting for, for such a long time. Chiwetel — he’s been acting since he’s 13 years old and — oh my god! I told myself I wasn’t going to cry. I do feel so emotional now,” she said tearfully.
“He’s worked so hard for this and growing up with him he was always in his bedroom practicing Shakespeare lines and writing Shakespeare on the wall. I would go out with my friends and I would come home and in the morning he would be reciting Measure for Measure and in the evening it would be Othello.”
She continued: “He’s someone who’s really dedicated and an actor’s actor. He’s been acting for over 20 years, and so to finally see recognition for his work — I can’t even describe the feeling.”
Ejiofor, 36, has worked in Hollywood for years — Love Actually, Four Brothers, and American Gangster — but has never received this much recognition before landing the lead in the Steve McQueen-directed film. He lost out to Matthew McConaughey for Best Actor at the 2014 Golden Globes Sunday night, but will be going up against the Dallas Buyers Club star once again, along with Christian Bale (American Hustle), Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street) for the Oscar on March 2.
“There’s so many amazing actors and so he’s in good company,” Asher said of her brother. “You just never know how these things are going to go. and so yesterday was very emotional for me, my mother, both of my brothers and sister so I wasn’t really sure when I was watching the nominations what was going to happen.”
It turns out, neither did Ejiofor. “We spoke last night and I’ve been calling him this morning very early. He was actually quite sick yesterday in bed,” Asher said. “But when we spoke last night he was a little bit nervous because there were just so many amazing people nominated this year.”
After finding out the news himself, Ejiofor released a statement of his own. “At no point during filming, in the sweltering heat of New Orleans, did any of us ever foresee the journey this film would take us all on. Steve McQueen created an entire family to tell one man’s tale and I am delighted that so many of this family have also been recognized today,” Ejiofor said. “I am hugely grateful to the Academy for this great honour, and, of course, to Solomon Northup for sharing his story through his breathtaking book.”
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