David Oyelowo has worked with a lot of very important people in Hollywood. In the past two years, he has shared screen time with megawatt stars like Daniel Day-Lewis, in Lincoln; Tom Cruise, in December’s Jack Reacher; and Oprah Winfrey, in next year’s The Butler.
He’s fulﬁlled almost every thespian’s dream of running lines under directorial deities George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and has gotten quite a bit of shine from indie ﬁlms like 96 Minutes and the critically acclaimed Middle of Nowhere, directed by award-winning ﬁlmmaker Ava DuVernay. While many would describe his rise to stardom as sudden, the reality is, it’s been a steady 14 years in the making.
“I’m a great believer in the slow climb when it comes to being an actor,” says Oyelowo during a short break from shooting the Nina Simone biopic, Nina, starring Zoe Saldana. “I think it’s always dangerous when you get a lot of success at a young age and you haven’t had time to mature in your craft.”
After graduating from drama school in the U.K. in 1998, the 36-year-old Nigerian-Brit spent a great deal of time honing his chops onstage and on the small screen before jumping into ﬁlm roles. “I deliberately turned a lot of stuﬀ down that I felt wasn’t going to be the kind of thing that I would be proud of in the long run, which is probably why it took as long as it did to get to where I am.”