Chiwetel Ejiofor has quietly built a genre-defying resume any actor would envy.
With a background in theatre, he’s easily jumped from small productions (Kinky Boots) to big (2012), serious films (Children of Men) to more lighthearted fare (Love Actually).
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In Salt, Ejiofor takes on the role of a counter-intelligence pro hot on the trail of Angelina Jolie’s suspected spy. Metro caught up with the British actor in Washington, D.C., where much of the current movie was filmed.
Have you always been a fan of this genre?
Definitely, yeah. It breaks into sort of two categories for me: I like the old-school kind of spy stuff, the John Le Carré spy stuff. But I also really enjoy the Mission: Impossible spies — the series as well as the films — just because of the intricacy of how everything’s done, the detail of having to go back and figure out everything, and the scripts just being like little puzzles.
What stood out about Salt as a spy thriller for you?
This is taking on a kind of slightly more bureaucratic sense of the CIA, to me a kind of grounded sense of the CIA. As opposed to the sort of — I mean, obviously, who doesn’t love the Bond series? But it’s different. They’re people and they do a job and they’re in offices with ties, and they’re just sort of getting through the day. And occasionally — like on this particular occasion — something big happens and they have to respond to that. But for the most part they’re just kind of ticking away, looking at data.
Would you ever want to be in a Bond film?
Well I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I don’t know what the situation is with Bond at the moment, but God, I hope they can figure it out. It would be lovely to be in a Bond film.
You’ve had an incredibly diverse career. How much conscious effort do you put into trying to be in as many different genres as possible?
Well, not a lot, really. I’m just very happy to work in any medium that I can and any genre that I can if I’m engaged with the material.
You know, I don’t really have an oeuvre or a style of doing stuff. I have a working method, but I can apply that to different parts and different types of parts.
You and co-star Liev Schreiber have stage backgrounds. Did that help in working together?
Yeah, we were able to quote Shakespeare to each other back and forth (laughs) and do Lear a little bit. And Henry V. He’s a good Henry five (laughs). But no, he’s a terrific actor, and a shared commonality in theater is always a fun place for us to come to chat and talk about stuff and get a sense of each other.
For such a big film, it’s really just the three of you.
It’s very interesting that it’s essentially a three-hander but it feels like much more than that. And I think it’s because these characters are carrying so much with them, you know? I think an audience can really follow everything, and they can follow the subtext even within the action. And I feel like that’s actually quite satisfying for an audience.