Born on July 10, 1977 in Forest Gate to Nigerian parents, Chiwetel attended Dulwich College in South-East London. By the age of 13 he was appearing in numerous school and National Youth Theatre productions and subsequently attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
In 1996 Ejiofor caught the attention of Steven Spielberg who cast him in the critically acclaimed Amistad (1997) alongside Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins. He has since been seen on the big screen in numerous features including Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things (2002) (for which he won Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards, the Evening Standard Film Awards, and the San Diego Film Critics Society Awards), Love Actually (2003), Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda (2004), Kinky Boots (2005), Inside Man (2006), Children of Men (2006), American Gangster (2007), and Talk to Me (2007), for which his performance won him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Ejiofor has balanced his film and television commitments with a number of prestigious stage productions. In 2008 his performance in the title role of Michael Grandage's "Othello" at the Donmar Warehouse alongside Ewan McGregor was unanimously commended and won him best actor at the 2008 Olivier and Evening Standard Theatre Awards. He also received nominations in the South Bank Show Awards and the What's On Stage Theatregoers' Choice Awards in 2009. His other stage parts include Roger Michell's "Blue/Orange" in 2000 which received an Olivier Award for Best Play, and the same year Tim Supple's "Romeo and Juliet" in which Ejiofor took the title role.
Following his television debut in 1996 in Deadly Voyage (1996), Ejiofor has complimented his film and theatre work on the small screen in productions including Murder in Mind (2001), created by the award-winning writer Anthony Horowitz, Trust (2003), Twelfth Night, or What You Will (2003), and Canterbury Tales (2003). His television appearance in 2006's hard hitting emotional drama Tsunami: The Aftermath (2006) alongside Toni Collette, Sophie Okonedo and Tim Roth earned him a nomination for a Golden Globe Award as well as an NAACP Image award.
Ejiofor also appeared in such notable films as Endgame (2009), Channel 4's moving drama set in South Africa for which his performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries; Roland Emmerich's action feature 2012 (2009), opposite John Cusack, Danny Glover, and Thandie Newton; and Salt (2010), opposite Angelina Jolie and Liev Schreiber. In 2013 he will star in Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) and 12 Years a Slave (2013).