You’ve seen him in some well-known movies but don’t know his name or how to pronounce it. That’s kind of the situation for David Oyelowo (pronounced “oh-yellow-oh”) — on the verge of being a household name while he earns his chops in films. Here are 10 reasons to appreciate this star from “The Butler” and “The Paperboy.” Here are 10 things you didn’t know about David Oyelowo.
Sources: tvguide.com, standard.co.uk, starpulse.com, usatoday.com, imdb.com, en.wikipedia.org, theguardian.com, gq-magazine.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk
David Oyelowo was born on April 1, 1976 in Oxfordshire, England. His parents were Nigerian immigrants and descendants of royalty. His grandfather was the king of a West Nigerian state. Oyelowo’s surname means “a king deserves respect.” Oyelowo said he didn’t believe that until the Oyelowo family moved back to Nigeria and lived on Oyelowo Street. Experiencing discrimination at an early age, Oyelowo said he was called a “coconut” by boys at school in England because of what they perceived as a “white person-esque” academic determination.
While he was living in Holloway with his family in a one-room flat, Oyelowo said, “I kind of fell into acting.” He enrolled in the acting program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and upon graduating became a member of Brave New World theater company. Portraying mostly Shakespearen characters, Oyelowo broke color barriers. He made history as the first black actor to play a Shakespearean king in the 2001 Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Henry VI.” Acclaim for his perfromance in that role paved the way for success.
The buzz of his Shakespeare success led to an opportunity in front of the cameras. He was cast as a spy, Danny Hunter, in the British series “Spooks” (2002-2004) — known in America as “MI-5.” Then he landed small but prominent roles in “As Time Goes By,” “Born Equal,” “Shoot the Messenger,” and the lead role in BBC’s “Small Island” in 2009. He even Orson Welles-ed it with his voice on a BBC 7 radio show, “Grace Unshackled – The Olaudah Equiano Story.”
Small roles in American films such as “Derailed” and “The Best Man” worked out well for Oyelowo, but he was still playing supporting roles. In 2006, he was cast as Orlando in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of “As you Like It.” Roles in bigger movies such as “The Last King of Scotland” and “The White Devil” gave him the “Aha! That guy!” status. Speed picked up even more when he landed roles in Oscar-winning films such as “The Help” and blockbusters such as “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
The year 2012 was a milestone in Oyelowo’s career. In “The Paperboy” starring Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman, Oyelowo stormed onto the festival circuit, accompanying director Lee Daniels (of “Precious” fame) and the cast to Cannes. He also had a role in Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” working with Daniel Day-Lewis. It was his quiet performance in the little-seen indie flick “Middle of Nowhere,” that secured his reputation as a major character actor. Check it out — it’s a great one.
Oyelowo said the best day of his career so far happened while filming “Jack Reacher” with Tom Cruise. Oyelowo took a little time off to go and shoot a few scenes for “Lincoln” in Richmond, Virginia. Cruise decided that a car-chase scene wouldn’t work with the stunt double, so he sent his private jet over to Spielberg’s set to get Oyelowo. Hours later, Oyelowo was behind the wheel in a high-speed car chase with Cruise in Pittsburgh.
…you gotta just go with it. The goddess of all things rarely takes on a film character role, but she did in Lee Daniels’ 2013 film, “The Butler.” Oyelowo played Louis, the son of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler. Winfrey played Gloria, Gaines’ emotional wife. Oyelowo’s depiction of Louis’s involvement in the civil rights and Black Panthers movements was stunning, but he was snubbed for an Oscar nomination.
Oyelowo describes his Christian faith as “a very visceral, conversational one that bleeds into everything.” Though he was raised a Baptist (his parents held religious meetings in their Brighton home), he switched to Christianity in his teenage years. Citing God as a comfort and teacher throughout his career and personal life, Oyelowo led the cast of “The Paperboy” in a prayer circle before filming one of its notoriously sultry scenes.
The year 2014 is expected holds more significant roles for Oyelowo. In sci-fi master Christopher Nolan’s upcoming space epic, “Interstellar,” he plays alongside Anne Hathaway and Matthew McConaughey. Other roles include “A Most Violent Year” and the fourth installment of the “Jurassic Park” series. Imdb.com has announced pre-production for “Selma,” with David playing Martin Luther King, Jr.
Oyelowo married actress Jessica Oyelowo in 1998. They have four children together ranging from ages 1 to 10, and reportedly live in Los Angeles. He has a fear of snakes, he hates his nail-biting habit, and he loves tennis! Oh, and he’s a humble guy who might not ever admit how great of an actor he is, and how promising his career looks.