2013 is Chiwetel Ejiofor’s year to shine. The British thespian has both critics and moviegoers raving about his latest role as Solomon Northrup in the brilliant and gut wrenching “12 Years A Slave.” Based on the 1853 memoir, Ejiofor plays a free black man from upstate New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.

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Since its premiere at the Toronto Film Film Festival in October, the movie and Ejiofor are now on the fast track for Oscar consideration.  We’ve listed five interesting facts about Hollywood’s newest golden boy:

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1.  How do you pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor?

Even the most seasoned journalist gets tongue tied when it comes to pronouncing Chiwetel’s name.  Here’s a handy tutorial:

2.  Chiwetel can rip the runway

One of Chiwetel’s most recognizable roles was in the 2005 film “Kinky Boots,” where he played a crossdressing cabaret singer, Lola, who helps to rescue a failing shoe company by designing men’s fetish footwear.  Preparing for the role was an intense process, including choreography, costume changes and a particularly painful beauty regimen -getting his eyebrows waxed for the first time.

3.  He almost turned down the lead role in “12 Years A Slave” 

Did you know Chiwetel was this close to walking away from the biggest movie of 2013?  In a sit down interview on “The View,”  Chiwetel shared his initial apprehension in taking on such a heavy role: “Steve McQueen called me and sent me the script.  I had the moment of pause- it’s such an extraordinary story and I felt the responsibility of it all… it wasn’t just something I could jump into straight away.  I asked Steve ‘I don’t know, am I the guy?’  But after rereading Solomon Northrup’s memories, Chiwetel knew he couldn’t refuse to be part of such an unforgettable story.

WATCH: Chiwetel Ejiofor Is Overwhelmed By the Positive Response To “12 Years A Slave” [VIDEO]

4.  His sister is CNN correspondent Zain Asher

Talent and brains run in the Ejiofor family.  Chiwetel’s younger sister Zain Asher is currently a business correspondent for the CNN news network.  Previously Zain wrote for MONEY magazine where she covered careers and investing, primarily focusing on stocks, mutual funds, consumer tech stories and workplace advice.  Zain graduated from Oxford University in 2005, and received her masters from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Watch Zain report on the rise in food fraud:

5.   He’s a survivor

Tragedy entered Chiwetel’s life at a young age. When he was 11, Chiwetel and his father Arinze, were driving back from a wedding celebration in Lagos, Nigeria when their car was involved in a terrible car crash.  His father was killed, but Chiwetel miraculously survived after being in a coma for close to ten weeks.   In an interview with The Telegraph, Chiwetel spoke about the effect his father has on his life: “As I get closer to the age he was when he died, the relationship is becoming more acute. But I do think there’s a constant dynamic that will continue always; and be an influence on the kind of work I do.”


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