7/10/1977 (44 years old) Forest Gate, London, England
The actor's convincing breakthrough performance as a Nigerian doctor/illegal immigrant in the 2002 British drama Dirty Pretty Things can be attributed to the fact that he based it on his own physician father. Unfortunately, his real-life dad died in a tragic car accident that also left the then-11-year-old Ejiofor with a prominent scar on his forehead. Despite this tragedy, Ejiofor pursued his performing dreams and made an auspicious big-screen debut at age 20 in Steven Spielberg's 1997 slave drama Amistad. The theater-trained actor spent the next few years on the English stage, racking up rave reviews, notably for his Olivier-nominated turn as a schizophrenic in Blue/Orange, which also netted him a Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer. Although Dirty Pretty Things established him as a formidable screen presence that led to a slew of work in auteur-helmed films (Spike Lee's She Hate Me and Inside Man, Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, John Singleton's Four Brothers), Ejiofor earned a pair of Golden Globe nominations in 2007 for contrasting roles as Lola, a singing drag queen with a penchant for fancy footwear in the feature Kinky Boots, and in the TV-movie Tsunami: The Aftermath, playing a dad desperately searching for his missing daughter. Heading back to the London stage in 2007, he won the Laurence Olivier award for best actor playing the lead role in Othello. Continuing to excel in a variety of genres, he starred in Roland Emmerich's 2009 end-of-the world action flick 2012, and played a CIA agent opposite Angelina Jolie in 2010's spy thriller Salt.