SOPHIE OKONEDO NEWS, INTERVIEWS & UPDATES
News for 2/26/2007
The following article appeared in the November 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
News for 9/18/2006
Broderick and Okonedo Toplining World
Source: Production Weekly
Matthew Broderick and Sophie Okonedo (Aeon Flux, Hotel Rwanda) are attached to headline Wonderful World, a character drama being written and directed by Joshua Goldin, reports Production Weekly.
The film, in pre-production, is about a cynical divorcee who starts a relationshiop with an African woman.
News for 3/23/2006
Mos Def, Okonedo eye Black Panther picture
By Randee Dawn
Rapper Mos Def ("16 Blocks") and Sophie Okonedo ("Hotel Rwanda") are in final talks to co-star in the indie drama "Stringbean and Marcus," playing two former Black Panther members who have fallen out of love.
The movie, set in 1978, was written and will be directed by first-time feature filmmaker Tanya Hamilton. It is told through the eyes of an adolescent girl.
"It's not so much about the idea of race," Hamilton said. "I just wanted to show this world of ordinary people living under extraordinary circumstances, trying to outrun this past they all have."
Shooting is scheduled to begin in July in Philadelphia.
Mos Def and Okonedo, producer Sean Costello said, have not yet signed, but "they've committed to the project." Contracts are not likely to be finalized until June, he added.
Hamilton was honored at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1996 for her short film "The Killers," for which she also received a DGA Women's Award.
"Mos is one of my favorite actors; he's fantastic," Costello said. "Sophie has to play this character who's both closed off and being open to helping people yet not being an angry woman. That's what she did in 'Hotel Rwanda' as this maternal, yet emotionally conflicted woman."
Okonedo received a supporting actress Oscar nomination for "Rwanda" last year. Mos Def received an Emmy nomination for his lead role in the cable TV movie "Something the Lord Made."
News for 2/20/2006
The following article appeared in the October/November 2005 issue of Aspire Magazine
News for 1/10/2006
The following article appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of Jewel Magazine
News for 8/17/2005
McGregor and Okonedo Get Sexual
Variety reports that actors Ewan McGregor and Sophie Okonedo will star in Edward Blum's full-length directorial debut Scenes of a Sexual Nature, a British comedy that explores seven couples' relationships during one afternoon on Hampstead Heath in north London.
Blum raised the £500,000 ($905,000) for the low-budget film written by Aschlin Ditta, who's also working on the film Crimebusters, and shooting began on July 31 after three weeks of pre-production.
The cast also includes Catherine Tate, Hugh Bonneville, Andrew Lincoln, Gina McKee, Eileen Atkins, Benjamin Whitrow, Douglas Hodge, Mark Strong, Polly Walker, Adrian Lester, Holly Aird and Tom Hardy
News for 8/1/2005
The following article appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of Forward Magazine
News for 5/30/2005
The following article appeared in the May 9, 2005 issue of People Magazine
News for 5/18/2005
The following article appeared in the April 2005 issue of Upscale Magazine
News for 5/1/2005
Okonedo Has a Martian Child Too
Sophie Okonedo, Oscar-nominated for Hotel Rwanda, will star in New Line's The Martian Child along with Oliver Platt and moppet Bobby Coleman, says Variety.
Okonedo will play a social worker who persuades a widowed writer, played by John Cusack, to adopt a young boy who believes he is a Martian.
Platt plays Cusack's suffering agent, who is frustrated as his client's attention turns away from his writing and toward his strange new adopted son. Coleman plays the boy who says he is from the Red Planet.
The film is set to begin shooting Monday. Menno Meyjes is directing from a script by Jonathan Tollins and Seth Bass, based on a short story by sci-fi writer David Gerrold.
Okonedo next appears in Paramount's Aeon Flux opposite Charlize Theron.
News for 3/21/2005
Sophie Okonedo: Fame, here I come
Her Oscar nomination should mean better job offers. It's about time too, says Kaleem Aftab
Sophie Okonedo was beaming as she walked along the red carpet in an elegant strapless evening gown on her way to the Oscars ceremony last Sunday. She was wide-eyed as she told reporters, "I'm going to start crying, I'm so overwhelmed."
It was the moment of recognition that the actress had almost given up on receiving from the film community. Okonedo screamed in delight when she discovered that she was nominated for best supporting actress for her turn in Hotel Rwanda, while walking with her mother and seven-year-old daughter on Hampstead Heath. Aware that the last black British actress to be nominated for an Oscar, Secrets & Lies star Marianne Jean-Baptiste, had only made one visit to the Academy Awards, Okonedo was determined to enjoy every moment of the occasion.
When the announcement was made that Cate Blanchett had won the Oscar for her role in The Aviator, it was Okonedo who responded with the biggest smile of the night. She seemed pleased just to be rubbing shoulders with Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood et al.
Okonedo tells me, "I'm glad that I didn't know all about the Oscar fallout before, because I would have been quite nervous. I'm not used to having all this attention." From being relatively unknown, all of a sudden everybody wants a piece of her.
The sudden media attention and newspaper reports about her private life are the downside to the Oscar nomination. The stories have concentrated on her childhood growing up in poverty on north London's Chalkhill estate and the split between her black father and white Jewish mother when Okonedo was five years old.
The actress is now loath to respond to even the most innocent questions that could touch upon her personal life. On whether there was a tension being both black and Jewish, a virile topic in America, especially in Hollywood, she asserts, "I don't want to talk about my childhood. People have been writing all sorts of stuff. I haven't said anything, so let's just talk about the film."
Hotel Rwanda is based on the real-life story of the Hutu Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle), manager of the Hotel Mille Collines in Kigali, who gave refuge to 1,200 Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide in the Nineties. His wife, Tatiana, is a Tutsi. The real-life couple currently live in Belgium, and Okonedo spent time with them preparing for the role.
"I went to meet Tatiana a couple of times, although she did not speak English and it was difficult to communicate," says Okonedo. "I gave myself an idea of what it was like to be a Rwandan housewife at that time, pre-genocide. I never spoke to her about the genocide. I sensed that it would be something very painful for her to relive, and I did not want to put her through that."
She supplemented the information gleaned from these visits by reading Fergal Keane's Season of Blood and watching documentary footage that Hotel Rwanda director Terry George had compiled when he visited Rwanda with Paul and Tatiana.
At the beginning of the genocide in 1994, Okonedo was preparing to play Palace in a production of David Beaird's 900 Oneonta at the Old Vic. Little did she know that the events taking place in Rwanda would finally garner her some much-deserved recognition more than a decade later. All Okonedo remembers of the news emanating from Africa is, "reading about the mass exodus of the Hutus and seeing footage of all the refugee camps in Uganda. I certainly didn't have anything near the information that I had when I started researching and reading the script, and I was quite ashamed."
Okonedo's mother, who accompanied the actress to the Baftas and the Oscars, always encouraged her to take an interest in the arts. Initially Okonedo thought that she wanted to be a writer, and a couple of years after leaving school at 16 she went to a workshop at the Royal Court run by The Buddha of Suburbia author Hanif Kureishi. The realisation that acting and not writing was her calling was followed by an application to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. She was awarded a scholarship, and takes pleasure in being able to recount that since graduating she has never had to take another job.
Parts in a series of plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Young Vic and The National Theatre, and appearances on television, endowed Okonedo with a burgeoning reputation among her peers. It was not until 1999, however, and her seditious turn as Cressida in Trevor Nunn's production of Troilus and Cressida, that Okonedo received the critical acclaim to match her talents.
As her public profile was further raised with small-screen appearances on Clocking Off and Whose Baby?, it seemed that Okonedo's career was destined to be as what she tags "a jobbing actress". "I was just happy with what I was doing. I'm much happier doing the stage and TV roles of the calibre that I've been doing in recent years, which I've really been enormously proud of, than doing rubbish films.
"I didn't really try to get a film career. I just carried on doing my thing and somehow managed to land in a film that has been enormously powerful. As for the roles, I don't really care what the genre is, I just want to tell good stories."
With this sweeping statement she tries to deflect attention from the bit parts in dud movies such as This Year's Love and Ace Ventura 2 that she felt compelled to take in order to build a celluloid career. But being taken seriously as a film actress was always going to be tough: apart from Naomie Harris's turn in 28 Days Later, it's hard to think of another meaty role for a black actress in a recent British film. As it was, Okonedo made her own luck by making the most of a secondary role as a caring prostitute in Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things.
"I was so surprised by the reaction to Dirty Pretty Things. It was only a few scenes so I didn't even think that I would be noticed in it," she says. Yet it was from these scenes that some directors began taking an interest, and George decided he wanted to cast her in Hotel Rwanda, despite opposition from the film's financiers.
She has just completed filming the sci-fi thriller Aeon Flux with Charlize Theron. Part of the attraction was that her character's cartoon persona was unlike any other she has done before: "I'm an experimentalist. I'll always experiment to see what I like. It was an experience to learn how to flip and spin in the air; the part was purely physical and it was just what I needed to do after Hotel Rwanda."
This could be the last role for a while in which Okonedo is happy to take second billing, as it seems likely that she is going to use her Oscar success as a launch pad for a film career in America. She's spending the next couple of weeks at home, doing the school run until the right things come along.
Tellingly, she says: "Really, I could not have come into Hollywood in a better way, entering America with a serious, strong film - it is not a glamorous part, playing a mother. I don't have to live up to anything. I've been acting for 15 years and I've had a slow, continuous build. In the last year I've had a huge leap and I'd say that the last few weeks have been another huge leap. I'm certainly more ready for it than if it had happened when I was 20."
News for 2/27/2005
An Unexpected Journey From London to 'Rwanda'
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
WHEN the script for "Hotel Rwanda" arrived on the doorstep of her modest home in North London, Sophie Okonedo walked it up the stairs and did the usual: she gave it a quick thumb-through to see if the dialogue sounded true, if the pile of words held an actual story. Then she flipped back to page one.
"I did not move until I finished it," said Ms. Okonedo, 36, a well-known British theater actress who is up for an Academy Award. "I was so shocked and so moved and blown away by the story. I wasn't even thinking about the part I was up for, but the thing as a whole. And there was a certain amount of shame about how this had passed me by.
"Without hammering you over the head with it," she said, "the movie gets you to ask questions. That's what good movies do. Here's what happened, and what can we do about it?"
Although the film's financial backers were against casting a British theater actress, particularly one who was a cipher in America, she landed the role anyway.
"I managed to slip through the net," said Ms. Okonedo, who slid her tall, lanky frame unnoticed into a seat at an unpretentious Muswell Hill cafe. "Lucky me."
In the movie, based on a real-life story, Ms. Okonedo plays Tatiana Rusesabagina, the wife of the Kigali hotel manager Paul (played by Don Cheadle), a man who saved the lives of more than 1,000 Rwandans during the country's 1994 plunge into genocide. She spends a good portion of her role in tears, but her understated performance, as she bounces between fear, rage and hope, is poignant and emotionally wrenching in its restraint.
David Ansen, a film critic for Newsweek, called her performance a "revelation," and Claudia Puig of USA Today said Ms. Okonedo tackled the role with "nuance, humor and passion."
The undisputed underdog in the Oscar crowd, Ms. Okonedo was nominated for best supporting actress. Her competition includes the front-runners Cate Blanchett for "The Aviator" and Virginia Madsen for "Sideways."
Ms. Okonedo, now a budding celebrity, has been embraced here as the new face of multicultural modern Britain: her mother is white and Jewish, and her estranged father, who left the family when she was 5, is Nigerian. She grew up in the projects, inside a notoriously rowdy and dangerous council estate (as the projects here are called).
Later, she and her mother, Joan, moved above a takeout restaurant into a flat that reeked of fish and chips at all hours. The greasy stench had her pining for the projects.
"The Star Who Rose From the Mean Streets," proclaimed The Daily Mail.
GROWING up with a foot in two cultures - black and Jewish - was something she never overanalyzed. It was life, and she adapted when she needed to adapt. "It has certainly opened doors to the many colors of what it is to be human for me, what you need to get through life," she said. "But all of us have different worlds we juggle - work world, family world."
School was a blip for her, a lesson in ambivalence. It took a notice for a writing workshop at a youth theater group on Portobello Road to tap the teenager's attention. She signed up, switched from writing to acting, got to go to the theater for free and found her groove.
She auditioned for the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and got in at 18. Since then, she has won praise for her varied roles on television and on the stage, particularly as Cressida in a Trevor Nunn production of Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" at the National Theater in 1999, a career-making performance for her. A turn as a kindhearted prostitute in Stephen Frears's "Dirty Pretty Things" in 2003 got the attention of Terry George, the director of "Hotel Rwanda."
If she has one trademark trait, it is that she simply immerses herself in a script until she knows it inside out, until she reacts rather than acts.
Ms. Okonedo, a self-described daydreamer ("I'm the kind of person who puts handbags in the fridge"), was at home making tea one recent morning, contemplating a power nap, when a studio representative called to say she was late for this interview. She rushed out of the house and showed up full of apologies, with her hair shoved under a gray flat cap and her body camouflaged in an oversize navy blue sweatshirt, jeans and tattered Converse sneakers, looking younger than her 36 years.
As a single mother, her big concern for the day was picking up her 7-year-old daughter at school that afternoon; the rest kind of slipped her mind. "I say to myself if I can just get to that school run every day, I'm a good mother," she said with a laugh. "I'm sure my daughter doesn't care in the least."
Teetering on the verge of fame, Ms. Okonedo is still at a point in her career where she is untouched by glitz. Her mother shrieked, loudly, and tried to do a cartwheel inside the gallery of a historic London house when the two heard about the nomination. A security guard shushed them, but her mother told everyone she saw on the way out. "I mean, she's a Jewish mother," Ms. Okonedo said.
She was thankful when United Artists pampered her with a stay at a bed-and-breakfast on a beach in California and a bicycle for her to ride (both requested by Ms. Okonedo, an avid cyclist). The low-budget movie felt refreshingly high budget to her. They were, after all, in South Africa for the filming. "Anything more than a clapped-out Datsun taking me to work," she said. "I am happy with that."
AS for a move to Los Angeles? "I haven't any money yet," she said, laughing. "You ought to see where I live. No. No. Hopefully it's going to all come flooding in soon. I'm certainly not in the big paycheck yet. I can't even pay this mortgage off, let alone another one."
She also has taken her time selecting a dress for the Oscars, something that has tossed friends and family into a state of apoplexy. "The beautiful dress will somehow appear on my body, and I will walk confidently down the red carpet," she said. "As long as my bust doesn't fall out or something like that."
Her sudden immersion into the world of celebrity here has forced her to cope with the British press. But, on the whole, it is her role as Tatiana in "Hotel Rwanda" that she has relished most. Just before the film shoot began, she took a train to Brussels to meet with the real Mrs. Rusesabagina in her home.
There was only a bit of conversation because neither spoke the other's language; they drank tea together, quietly and comfortably. Ms. Okonedo thought about asking her to recount the horror of 1994. "But when I walked in the room, there was so much pain in her eyes," she said. "I knew it was absolutely something I couldn't touch.
"Meeting the two of them was the most wonderful thing," she said. "It would be hard to meet two more decent human beings, truly decent, and honorable, and humble. You ask Paul about what happened and he says, 'I did what anyone would have done.' No, actually not. Most people would have run for cover."
News for 2/21/2005
The following article appeared in the February 4, 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine
Okonedo's 'Rwanda' nomination a door-opening experience
By Evan Henerson
It's the little things that often make a performance. The sweeteners, if you will, that bring out the sweetness.
For her Oscar-nominated work in "Hotel Rwanda," Sophie Okonedo received a key piece of character-building advice from Tatiana Rusesabagina, the wife of real-life Rwandan hotel manager - and refugee shelterer - Paul Rusesabagina. Since Okonedo would be playing Tatiana, it made sense for her to listen.
The two women met in Brussels, where the Rusesabaginas have lived since fleeing Africa following the Rwandan genocide in 1994 - the year in which Terry George's film is set. The two women didn't have a language in common, "but somehow we muddled through."
And it was during an early conversation that Okonedo picked up a character essential.
"She offered me tea and asked me if I would like sugar in it," recalls Okonedo of the early meeting. "I said, 'I don't like sugar in my tea.' She said, 'To play Tatiana, you have to have sugar in your tea.' "
Admittedly, there's not a lot of time for domesticity of any kind in George's acclaimed film. Tatiana and Paul (played by Don Cheadle) are too busy shoring up provisions, hiding from soldiers, searching for missing relatives and doing everything possible to either save their own lives - and the lives of their children - or provide a quick and painless suicide if survival proves impossible.
The Rusesabaginas cheat death on several occasions in the course of the film. That's dramatic license, says Okonedo. In reality, she says, their peril was probably even greater.
"I didn't really ask Tatiana about the genocide at all," says Okonedo. "I wasn't trying to imitate the real-life Tatiana. Really I was just trying to, I suppose, explore her within the story I had, the facts I had."
Sugar or no sugar, Okonedo's work was enough to impress the academy voters to nominate the 35-year-old, London-born actress (who received SAG and Image award nominations as well) for best supporting actress. She also got a thumbs-up from the very woman whose life she enacted.
"Tatiana watched the film with me," says Okonedo. "It was so emotional, and at the end she hugged me and held me and said, 'You are a beautiful Tatiana.' "
Paul Rusesabagina was the manager at the upscale Mille Collines Hotel in 1994 during the 100 days when Hutu extremists slaughtered both Tutsi neighbors and moderate Hutus. Nearly 1 million people were killed during those 100 days. By sheltering refugees of both factions at the Mille Collines, Rusesabagina is credited with saving the lives of more than 1,200 people.
Okonedo, who lives in London, says she had fleeting knowledge of the Rwandan genocide - she was 25 at the time - before she got the role.
"I remember seeing the mass exodus of the Tutsi and knowing there was a genocide," says Okonedo. "But I really didn't have much of an understanding of what was going on until I started reading the script. That's the way I tend to do things. I do a lot of research and digging around before I start filming. Then, once I start, I tend to stop and play the moment."
The producers of "Hotel Rwanda" singled out Okonedo after seeing her work in Stephen Frears' "Dirty Pretty Things." How they made the creative leap from a London prostitute in the midst of a black-market vital-organs scam to earnest Rwandan refugee mom is anybody's guess, but Okonedo is glad they did.
"I meant to ask (producer) Alex Ho that question," says Okonedo. "I don't think he was seeing 'Dirty Pretty Things' specifically for me. I think he just wanted someone who could act."
And act, Okonedo certainly can, although cineastes and TV watchers on this side of the Atlantic may not be able to bring her to mind easily. In addition to a glut of British television, Okonedo's films include "This Year's Love," "The Jackal," "Go Now" and "Young Soul Rebels."
She was nominated for a British Independent Film award for "Dirty Pretty Things," and with this being the season of awards, Okonedo has learned for the first time that she also garnered an MTV Movie Award nomination for best on-screen kiss with Jim Carrey in the "Ace Ventura" sequel "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" (1995). There's not much she can say about the role, since, according to Okonedo, "I only had two lines."
The "Rwanda" role, on the other hand, may prove to be a career turning point. "I'll be happy if the nomination makes a difference to my career. I'm not quite sure yet (whether it has)," says Okonedo, whose next film will be the secret-agent thriller "Aeon Flux" with Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand. "Quite a lot has been happening (since 'Hotel Rwanda')."
Okonedo has spent much of her stay in Los Angeles with a friend from her days at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Between the interviews and photographs, the outfits and events, Okonedo and her friend have slipped in manicures, pedicures and general glamour. The routine is a change of pace for a woman who says she has worn jeans, T-shirts and sneakers for the last 10 to 15 years.
"Suddenly, dresses will come, and that's great. They'll all look very nice. There are certainly people around here who are helping me make decisions," says Okonedo. "Before, I couldn't understand the benefit of having your hair done and makeup on all the time. I certainly see the benefit of all that now."
Originally envisioning a future in writing, Okonedo answered an ad for a young writers group on the back of Time Out magazine. Performance eventually intrigued her more, and she earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy.
During her years at the Royal Shakespeare Company, she was a frequent "spear carrier" - meaning a background filler - in productions with another up-and-coming future Oscar nominee, Emily Watson. Okonedo left the RSC without having performed a single Shakespeare play but ended up getting her big dramatic break in a Shakespearean role: Cressida in a Royal National Theatre production of "Troilus and Cressida," directed by Trevor Nunn.
These days, she does most of her stage work at the Royal Court, artistic home of - among others - playwright Caryl Churchill.
"I've had my pick (of stage projects) for quite a few years now," says Okonedo. "I'm a fan of new writing, so I have a feeling the things I'd really like to do may not have been written yet."
News for 2/1/2005
The following article appeared in the Janury 2005 issue of Vogue Magazine
The following article appears in the February 2005 issue of Interview Magazine
News for 1/26/2005
British Actress Revels in Surprise Oscar Attention
LONDON (Reuters) - Among the genuine surprises at the Oscar nominations announced this week was Britain's Sophie Okonedo, chosen in the best supporting actress category for her part in the genocide film "Hotel Rwanda."
Best known in Britain for her roles on television and stage, the 36-year-old said there was initially some resistance to a relative unknown taking the part of Tatiana Rusesabagina alongside Don Cheadle, who was nominated for best actor.
"People were not wanting me to do it because I wasn't famous," she told Reuters late Tuesday. "But I have a load more choices now, and that's fantastic."
She heard the news of her Oscar nod while on Hampstead Heath in north London. She and her family made so much noise that a security guard at nearby Kenwood House was forced to ask them to tone down the celebrations.
"I can hardly speak," she said. "I really didn't think there was any chance at all."
British bookmakers make Okonedo least likely to win the Oscar when the awards are handed out on Feb. 27. Natalie Portman, for "Closer," and Cate Blanchett, for "The Aviator," are seen as the frontrunners.
Based on a true story of a hotel manager who rescued more than 1,200 Rwandans from the 1994 genocide that claimed 800,000 lives in a matter of weeks, "Hotel Rwanda" also won a nomination for best original screenplay.
Okonedo wanted to be involved in the movie as soon as she read the script, recognizing it as a "story that resonates."
Like most actresses, Okonedo said she had been through ups and downs in her career and had accepted jobs in the past purely for the money.
A well-known face on British television, Okonedo has also graced the stage, most notably in her highly acclaimed performance as Cressida in Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" in 1999.
In 2002, the mother-of-one appeared alongside French actress Audrey Tautou in "Dirty Pretty Things," in which she played a prostitute.
Asked what she planned next, Okonedo replied:
"I'm available for work if anyone's watching."
Sophie's choice: a pop star
A funny thing happened to Sophie Okonedo after she appeared in Steven Frears's movie Dirty Pretty Things - the highly respected British theatre actor was suddenly a movie star. Dirty Pretty Things led Okonedo almost immediately to two big film roles, one in the upcoming action film Aeon Flux, with Charlize Theron, and the other in Hotel Rwanda, with Don Cheadle, which opens today.
"I went 'round and saw Stephen Frears last week and said, 'I really have to kiss your feet. Thank you very much because you've given me a career I never expected.' I was quite happily doing theatre and a bit of TV for extra money," says Okonedo, "but never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be here, doing press interviews."
"Here" is Toronto during last fall's film festival, where Hotel Rwanda was first presented.
The film is set during the genocide in Rwanda and tells the story of real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina.
Rusesabagina and his wife (played by Cheadle and Okonedo in the film) sheltered 1,200 people at a hotel in Kigali.
The thirtysomething Okonedo, who has a British mother and a Nigerian father, says of being an actor, "I just think of myself as a storyteller. That's how I started, and I've spent many, many years in the theatre doing that. I'm interested in what it is to be human, in the human condition, the human spirit."
No better project for those interests than Hotel Rwanda. The drama was filmed in South Africa, and it was a tough shoot, says Okonedo.
"It was draining, but you keep yourself in check. You're standing next to people who've been through a genocide, and, you know, you're just there, acting."
She concedes, "I still have ghosts from it - I have read things and heard things and saw things which, frankly, I wish I'd never seen. And you know how little that is, compared to the people who actually went through it."
Modestly describing herself as a theatre actress in London, Okonedo leaves it to others to mention her various triumphs in such productions as Troilus and Cressida or Money. The voracious reader got into acting in a roundabout way when she joined a writer's group as a teenager.
"And I quickly realized I was better at reading out other people's bits than I was at the writing. So I got in a play, and then I auditioned for the Royal Academy and got a scholarship there."
Film success aside, Okonedo says she'd be uncomfortable going longer than two years without doing a play.
"It's where I learned my trade. In film, you don't get a chance to rehearse. In theatre, you get a good chance to develop a character and learn how to tell a story. If you haven't had that, sometimes you just play moments rather than the whole story."
She falls down laughing when a male reporter asks if she'd ever consider modelling, or being the "face" of any brand.
"Two things go though my mind at once," says Okonedo. "First, how much money does a person need?"
In a quick aside, she murmurs, "Hmmm, you'll see me doing Gap next year," and laughs wildly.
Then she continues, serious again,
"Second, you have to be a bit careful about it. There's nothing wrong with doing any of that. I just think that, the less you know about an actor, the more interesting it can be to watch them on the screen. The more you can lose yourself. So you'd have to be selective. You have to have a reason for doing things, not just the money."
Any thoughts on the Academy Awards buzz around Hotel Rwanda? Ever dreamed of winning an Oscar?
"I've really only ever dreamed of being a pop star," Okonedo says.
"But I really can't sing, so I dream of a magic microphone."
News for 12/31/2004
The following article appeared in the December 20, 2004 issue of Newsweek Magazine