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Chiwetel Ejiofor Talks About 'Kinky Boots'

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Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Lola in Kinky Boots

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Lola in Kinky Boots.

© Miramax Films
Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as a feisty drag queen named Lola in Kinky Boots, directed by Julian Jarrold and inspired by the true story of Northampton shoemaker Steve Pateman. The real Pateman inherited a failing shoe factory from his father and in an effort to keep the company afloat, he began manufacturing kinky boots for transvestites.

Chiwetel Ejiofor on Finding a Level of Comfort in His Kinky Boots Costumes: “It took quite a long time. It was up until, I think, almost when we started really shooting it. We had quite a long period of rehearsals and choreography and getting used to all the different aspects of it, and a number of meetings with Sammy Sheldon, who did all the costume design, and Trefor Proud, who did the hair and makeup. There was a lot of preparation time, and then also putting together the music and choreographing stuff with the rest of the guys doing all the numbers. But it took all the time that we had, really, to really feel completely sort of comfortable and almost become a kind of idea, or sort of second nature, and just sort of turning up and getting into the makeup chair and the transformation beginning.

[There were] sort of shocking moments along the way. I think when I first had my eyebrows waxed, I was pretty disturbed (laughing). But then all of that was geared towards creating this kind of character, which all of that sort of helped do, really. Even the trepidation and the nervous energy was all a great part of learning about Simon and Lola and the character research, in its own way.”

Relating to His Characters – Lola and Simon: Ejiofor doesn’t know just how much of himself is in Lola or Simon. “I think in the end...When I first read the script, I really didn't know the answer to that question, and I would have assumed a tiny bit,” said Ejiofor. “But then, certainly by the end of the rehearsal period, I was completely aware that it was something that was very much part of me, even if it wasn't something that I had ever considered or known about. So it was kind of a fun, eye-opening experience, just getting in touch with a completely different side of your nature. It was just fun. And then at the end of it all, sort of putting it away in a box that, you know? Who knows where it is now? But there you go. And it's interesting to know.”

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Approach to Playing Lola: Ejiofor said he just wanted to make sure Lola was very distinctive, that she stood out from everyone else in the same environment. Ejiofor added, “But also was a very real person that everybody could relate to and understand and sort of realize that the differences between them, if you like, were only very surface ones. And actually, in the end, everybody had the opportunity to realize that what brought them together was greater than what separated them. I wanted that to happen, but I wanted it to happen honestly, I guess, and not feel sort of forced, or not feel like you'd ever think that these people somehow could never relate to Lola because she was too outlandish or too kind of wild, or too much, I suppose. I guess that's how I looked at it.”

Becoming Educated on Drag Queens and Transvestites: When the subject turned to drag queens and transvestites Ejiofor said, “There are as many different reasons as there are people. I think in this story, it was very important, to me anyway, just to make sure that it is a very specific tale. It has its own questions and its own answers. It's a tale about fathers and sons, obviously, and about the nature of masculinity, and what is the distinction between transvestitism and drag queens and so on. But it's a very individual story and there are very psychological reasonings, but they are in no way a generalization of everybody's reasoning behind transvestitism and cross-dressing.

I feel like I got a very good and in-depth understanding of the scene and the distinctions within the scene and so on. So in that sense, it was very interesting. But like I say, in no way is the film supposed to reflect the kind of general transgender world. It's a very specific story, I think.”

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