Chiwetel Ejiofor FactsGetty

Chiwetel Ejiofor is hard to miss in great movies like Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" and Spike Lee's "Inside Man," but the talented British stage and screen actor was handed the role of a lifetime in this year's "12 Years a Slave."

Ejiofor is undeniably spectacular as Solomon Northup, a free man turned slave, in Steve McQueen's 2013 awards darling, a current favorite for Best Picture. The haunting film -- arguably one of the most gruesome and accurate depictions of American slavery ever produced -- has thrust Ejiofor into the national spotlight.

Whether you've seen Ejiofor in the riveting Oscar-contender or not, there's still much to know about the talented British star. From his favorite holiday destination to his tragic beginnings, here are 15 things you probably don't know about Chiwetel Ejiofor.

1. Despite the recent attention, the talented actor was already established and had three Golden Globe nominations under his belt by the time "12 Years a Slave" came along. Now, with a nomination for the intense slave drama -- and another for the mini-series "Dancing on the Edge" -- Ejiofor has racked up five Golden Globe nods.

2. The actor was born in Forest Gate, London, to Nigerian parents.

3. Ejiofor began acting when he was 13 years old, and soon joined the National Youth Theatre. Later on, he entered the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), but left after a year upon receiving a role in Spielberg's "Amistad" (1997).

4. The role Ejiofor would most like to play is Iron in Nigel Williams's "Class Enemy." The role depicts a 16-year-old boy, and the actor has acknowledged he's certainly too old for the part.

5. His favorite films are "Raging Bull," "The Godfather," "Fargo," "Miller's Crossing," and "Do the Right Thing."

6. Sadly, when Ejiofor was 11, his father was killed in a car crash in Nigeria after returning from a wedding. The actor was also badly injured in the crash, and scars on his forehead are still visible today.

7. His favorite vacation destination is Barcelona, Spain.

8. In 2007, the actor starred alongside Ewan McGregor on the London stage in "Othello."

9. Ejiofor never decided to act professionally, but rather loved the craft and fell into his career. He jokes that it only became a profession "when somebody offered to pay [him] for it."

10. Ejiofor loves sailing and spending time in the outdoors, so he looks forward to getting out to Los Angeles.

11. According to Steve McQueen, director of "12 Years a Slave," Ejiofor initially passed on the role of Solomon Northup. Ultimately, the actor just needed a bit more time to contemplate the intense part.

12. His nickname is Chiwe (pronounced chew-ee).

13. If Ejiofor could trade places with one person, living or dead, he would love "to have the distinct and beautiful voice of Nat King Cole."

14. The actor's favorite book is "Other People's Trades," by Primo Levi.

15. Ejiofor was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honors List on behalf of his service to drama.

[Sources: IMDb, Wikipedia, Slant Magazine, IndieWire, WhatsOnStage]
12 Years a Slave Movie Poster
12 Years a Slave
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In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate... Read More

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