Chiwetel Ejiofor breaks through in ‘12 Years a Slave’

Carlo Allegri/Invision/AP

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NEW YORK — As Chiwetel Ejiofor knows from personal experience, even the most accomplished actors can have moments of crushing self-doubt, when they question their own ability.

When Ejiofor, a British actor known for “Inside Man and “2012,” first read the screenplay for director Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave,” he knew he was holding a role-of-a-lifetime in his hands—the kind of extraordinary part that actors would kick down doors and jump through hoops to land.

The movie, which opens on Friday, is based on the real-life story of Solomon Northup, a free African-American family man and professional violinist from Saratoga Springs, New York, who was kidnapped in 1841, ferried to Louisiana, and sold into slavery.

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