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Sophie Okonedo

Academy Award nominated actress

Born in London to a Nigerian father and a British mother, Okonedo was 18 years old when she came across an advertisement for a writer's workshop in Time Out magazine. It didn't take long for Okonedo to realize that she was more proficient in offering dramatically rendered readings of her fellow classmate's stories than penning her own, and with the encouragement of writing coach Hanif Kureishi, the aspiring actress was soon honing her skills at the Royal Court Theatre. A scholarship to the Royal Academy was quick to follow, and in the succeeding years, Okonedo would earn glowing reviews thanks to, among many other roles, her stunning performance in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. A brief appearance as a tribal princess in the Jim Carrey vehicle Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls found Okonedo becoming increasingly at ease in front of the camera, and upon returning to the U.K., the rising starlet began to carve out an impressive niche for herself on such television productions as The Governor, Deep Secrets, and In Defence.
Despite Okonedo's increasing exposure abroad on screens both large and small, it was her touching turn as a sympathetic prostitute in Frears' dark thriller Dirty Pretty Things (2002) that proved to be her breakout role in film. It was shortly after witnessing Okonedo's performance in that movie that filmmaker Terry George approached her for a substantial role in his upcoming docudrama Hotel Rwanda -- am emotionally devastating retelling of the 1994 Tutsi massacre and one local hotel owner's noble attempt to save innocent lives by opening his doors to those hoping to escape a grim fate at the hands of the Hutus. Delivering a performance that was as genuinely moving as it was heartbreaking, Okonedo truly came into her own with the role -- and earned an Oscar nomination in the process. In addition to her increasingly busy onscreen career (by the time Hotel Rwanda was released into theaters she was already nearly finished filming her role opposite Charlize Theron in the sci-fi action effort Aeon Flux), Okonedo still found time to remain loyal to the stage by serving on the board of directors at the Royal Court Theatre.

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