Is MTV Movie Awards and Oscar nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor going from “12 Years A Slave” to James Bond villain? Allow us to explain in full, while you take the time to escape our cleverly constructed trap.
According to multiple sources — though so far unconfirmed by Sony and MGM studios — Ejiofor is in talks to play the bad guy in Sam Mendes follow-up to “Skyfall.” He would join a returning Daniel Craig as 007, as well as Ralph Fiennes as spy-boss M, Naomie Harris as ass-kicker turned assistant Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as tech specialist Q.
To fans who only know Ejiofor for his literally tortured, yet heroic role as Solomon Northup in “12 Years,” this move might seem a left turn in the actor’s career. Yet there’s three big reasons this isn’t as unbelievable a move as it might initially sound.
First of all, there’s the long history of British actors following up their critical acclaim by taking on roles as bad guys in American action films. Look no further than Gary Oldman, who went from playing a key role in “JFK,” to portraying Dracula. Or Michael Caine, who has alternated Oscar-nominated roles with appearances in shlock movies like, “On Deadly Ground.”
More to the point for Ejiofor, though: he’s already portrayed multiple soulful assassins and villains in films already.
In the cult favorite “Serenity,” he was The Operative, an unstoppable killer bent on preventing the crew of Joss Whedon’s spaceship drama from releasing government secrets throughout the galaxy.
That same year he was a vicious mob boss in “Four Brothers,” while the next year in “Children of Men,” he was a member of a militant immigrant rights group who nearly kills our heroes.
The third reason playing a Bond villain won’t be a step down for an actor who’s career is on the rise is that he’ll be following up on Javier Bardem’s memorable turn as Raoul Silva in “Skyfall.” When Bardem took the role of Silva, he was coming off numerous nominations for “Biutiful,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and an Oscar win for “No Country For Old Men.”
His “Skyfall” role continued the trend, with multiple MTV Movie Award nominations, BAFTA nominations and nominations in multiple Critics Circle Awards. So whereas years ago a villain role could seem a step down, for Bardem it was just another notch in his critical bedpost.
Will it be the same for Ejiofor? We’ll have to see, as he has yet to officially sign on for the film. And he has time to decide: as Ralph Fiennes told us, the film doesn’t start filming until October, aiming for a November 6, 2015 release.