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March 2006
Inside Man: An Interview with Chiwetel Ejiofor

Inside Man: An Interview with Chiwetel Ejiofor

by Wilson Morales

In the midst of a good movie, there’s usually an actor that steals the spotlight from the lead, and in some films, it has been British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. Since he received many accolades for his performance in Stephen Frears’Dirty Pretty Things, Ejiofor’s film career has blossoming. In one of his films that came out last year, Ejiofor was one of the few black actors with a meaty role in Woody Allen’s film, Melinda and Melinda, and then he played two scene stealing characters in John Singleton’s Four Brothers and Joss Whedon’s Serenity; the latter in which he played ruthless bounty hunter The Operative. Ejiofor will later play a cross dress in “Kinky Boots”. In his current film, Ejiofor is teaming up with Denzel Washington in Spike Lee’s film, Inside Man”. It’s his second collaboration with Lee after “She Hate Me”. In “Inside Man”, Ejiofor plays Detective Bill Mitchell, who teams up with Washington’s Keith Frazier to stop a bank robber from committing the perfect crime. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Ejiofor spoke his role, working with Spike Lee, and discusses his future projects.

How did you come to be part of this all-star cast?

Chiwetel Ejiofor: It was pretty straight forward I think. They just gave me the script and asked me what I thought of it as far as
playing the character Mitchell. I thought the script was terrific and I knew the cast that was going to be involved and it was an
extraordinary ensemble, and I was thrilled. I’ve worked with Spike before and I love his movies and I was thrilled to be part of this.

As with Clive Owen, you seem to be an actor in demand these days. What sort of roles intrigues you?

CE: I think I just prefer complicated, interesting characters on some level in interesting dynamic stories. It’s all on the script and the overall project.

How would you describe your character?

CE: Well, Denzel is the main detective, even in our little unit, and I’m very much happy to be a part of it. I think Mitchell is an interesting character in his own right and very forthright and I think there are elements of a real good partnership to it.

What were you able to pick up from Spike as a director?

CE: Spike’s very clear and he knows exactly what he wants out of every sequence, which is pretty good to work with because it keeps things moving and you’re not in any doubt as to what the director wants, and I’ve always enjoyed that. He’s very direct about that, and that’s good.

How was it working with Denzel?

CE: He’s an incredibly talented actor and it was great to have the best seat in the house.

Last year, you played two menacing characters in “Four Brothers” and “Serenity”, especially the latter, because the show’s fans were in awe of The Operative. Had the film done well at the box office, would you have entertained coming back in a sequel?

CE: I love Joss’ writing, and yes, if he put something down, I would be very intrigue as to how The Operative would come back, but yeah, I definitely would be up for it.

How fun was it playing such a ruthless character for John Singleton’s Four Brothers?

CE: Again, John Singleton is a terrific director and it was a funny and interesting project and again, there was a really good cast and a really fun character.

You have another film coming out next month called Kinky Boots, in which you play a cross-dresser? Can you talk about that character?

CE: That was a great character to play. It was a sassy, cabaret star, transvestite, kinda Soho glamour character, and there was a completely other side to Lola, which is a vulnerable and sensitive, delicate, kinda person. I was really intrigue in playing the two sides of that character and it was an extraordinary experience.

Did you do any research for that role?

CE: It was the easiest film to do research for. I was going around to different clubs in Soho and meeting a lot of transvestites, drag queens, cross genders and their community, which was great. I went out there with the director, Julian Jarrold, and we had a great time. Some of the people that we met actually worked in the background on the film.


What’s do you have after “Kinky Boots”?

CE: Well, later in the year, I have “Children of Men” coming out, which is Alfonso Cuaron’s film, based on a P.D James novel and also stars Clive Owen and Julianne Moore. I play one of the leaders of a guerilla group that sets slightly in the future in London.

How did you get attached to that film?

CE: Clive and I met filming Inside Man and we talked a little bit about this other project and then I met up with Alfonso in London and I mean, it's think absolutely brilliant, and I think he's an incredible director and so I was sort of thrilled to get on board and again great cast and great people to work with.

You seem to enjoy doing sci-fi films these days?

CE: I don’t know. It’s not the type of operatic science fiction broad stroke. The story has a very detailed look at the future at England so it’s sort of interesting. It slips in between the raindrop and the wind. I also have “Tonight at Noon”, a film I did with Michael Almereyda, which is all set and shot in New York. The film is a love story of a guy but there’s two realities to it. There a real world and then there a hyper illusional invented world and he’s negotiating a love line between the two world.


Why should we go see “Inside Man”?

CE: Because it’s great. It’s a really high octane, complicated spark and thriller and then, of course, you have the cast. How could you leave them out? It’s got a great cast in it. I love the way how Spike created the setting and New York very much becomes a visceral character in the story and it a has a unique cut to it, which is good.


INSIDE MAN opens on March 24th, 2006


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