Chiwetel Ejiofor is jealous of Charlize Theron.

This week, the “Old Guard” actor covers the new GQ Hype, and talks about the Netflix action movie, the film industry at large, racism, and more.

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On his butt-kicking co-star, Ejiofor says, “I envy Charlize, you know? I’ll admit it,” he chuckles. “She is able to do something that I have never quite managed to do and that is tell narrative through physicality. That is really difficult and this isn’t the first film she’s shown she can do this – take ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, for example. There is an exquisite poetry in seeing Charlize wield a four-foot axe – and with humour too, I might add. To put all the nuance of a character into a very complex fight sequence using only choreography is quite astonishing.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor. Photo: Misan Harriman for GQ Hype
Chiwetel Ejiofor. Photo: Misan Harriman for GQ Hype

The actor also shares his worries about the state of the industry given the pandemic, and the importance of blockbuster franchises to cinema’s future.

“It’s going to need these big films, the likes of Marvel, the James Bond franchise and so on,” he says. “I think that sort of rhetoric about what is considered cinema and what isn’t, being too picky and so on, is just barking up the wrong tree. The industry is in deep trouble at the moment, many jobs, theatres, venues are on the line. So let’s focus on survival, rather than this sort of finicky artistic debate.”

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Talking about the Black Lives Matter movement and other racial issues facing the U.K., Ejiofor says he is optimistic but bears his own difficult experiences.

“Look, I know what non-representation feels like, as do so many Black people in this country,” he says. “To walk into a room and not see anyone who looks like you? I had to go to America to get the work I wanted, rather than get the support and work I wanted in the U.K. and that, to me, was shocking. Shocking.”

Remembering growing up in East London in the 1980s, Ejiofor adds, “At times I remember I would have to come home from school through National Front marches, with my father holding my hand as we’d bolt across the road. I know what lack of representation means. I know how it can fester and build ideas of the ‘other’, how it can create xenophobia, and what that feels like… a fear of the stranger. So am I optimistic? Yes… Yes, I am. Just cautiously so.”