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Why Baron Mordo from Doctor Strange looks so familiar

A noble sorcerer from Kamar-Taj, Baron Mordo is an acolyte of the Ancient One, frenemy of Stephen Strange, and something of a stickler for rules. Well-intentioned yet inflexible, Mordo sees the world in black and white and refuses to meddle with natural law, no matter the cost. In other words, you could describe this mystic warrior as high-minded, uncompromising...and really familiar looking.

With his soothing voice and noticeable scars, Mordo is played by none other than Chiwetel Ejiofor, a British actor who got his first movie gig with Steven Spielberg in Amistad. Ever since that fateful film, Ejiofor has been working his magic in one great picture after another. So if you want to find out where you've seen this guy before, put on your Cloak of Levitation, grab your Eye of Agamotto, and get ready to cast some spells as we discover why Baron Mordo from Doctor Strange looks so familiar.

Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

Five years after playing alongside Matthew McConaughey and Morgan Freeman in Amistad, Ejiofor scored the lead role in Stephen Frears's Dirty Pretty Things, a British drama about immigrants caught in the soul-crushing machine of English society. In the film, Ejiofor plays Okwe, an illegal alien from Nigeria. Once upon a time, Okwe was a doctor in his homeland, but now, he's barely getting by, driving taxis during the day, working as a hotel porter at night, and occasionally using his skills to help fellow immigrants.

When he's not working, Okwe is sharing an apartment with Turkish immigrant Senay (Audrey Tautou), playing chess with mortuary worker Guo Yi (Benedict Wong, who played Wong in Doctor Strange), and chewing khat to keep awake. He's a man that doesn't have time to sleep, especially when he finds a human heart lodged inside a hotel toilet. Going into private eye mode, Okwe begins investigating the organ's appearance, stumbling upon a horrible secret and learning, according to film critic Keith Phipps, "just how deep immigrant desperation, and others' willingness to feed on it, goes."

For his performance, Ejiofor won the 2003 British Independent Film Award for Best Actor, beating out the likes of Joaquin Phoenix, Ewan McGregor, and Paddy Considine. Film critic Roger Ebert also praised Ejiofor for his "rare ability to seem good without seeming sappy, and his quiet intensity...deepened by the sense that his character carries great sadness from his past." So yeah, all in all, not too shabby for Ejiofor's third film.

Serenity (2005)

After his big role in Dirty Pretty Things, Ejiofor starred in movies like Richard Curtis's Love Actually, Spike Lee's She Hate Me, and John Singleton's Four Brothers, all before climbing aboard Joss Whedon's Serenity. The follow-up to Firefly, Whedon's canceled TV show, Serenity picks up where the series left off, with Captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his band of space rogues traveling across the 'verse, robbing banks and dodging the law along the way.

But their outlaw life is getting harder thanks to River Tam (Summer Glau), a dangerous psychic who's taken shelter with Mal's crew after escaping the clutches of government scientists. Thinking River used her telepathic powers to learn some unsavory government secrets—while being tortured and experimented on—the bad guys send the Operative (Ejiofor) to track her down and bring her back, dead or alive.

A man without rank or name, the Operative is a diehard believer in the Alliance. He truly thinks this government superpower can bring peace to the entire galaxy and create a "world without sin." But if you want to make a paradise, first you've got to crack a few heads, and the Operative is totally fine with playing the part of the monster, killing innocent civilians to keep the Alliance intact. But the man doesn't come across as a raving lunatic. Instead, this dude is one cool samurai, a bushido practitioner who's polite, refined, and completely unflappable.

In short, the Operative is a man who believes the ends justify the means, a warrior who'll never question his orders, a killer who knows how to carve people up with a katana. But the Operative has one sin that ultimately brings him down. Sure, he can take you out with a paralyzing nerve shot, but the Operative underestimates Mal at every single turn, and that turns out to be the biggest gorram mistake he's ever made.

Children of Men (2006)

The year 2006 was a pretty exciting one for Chiwetel Ejiofor. Not only did appear as Detective Bill Mitchell in Inside Man, but he also gave an amazing performance in Children of Men, one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, the 2006 thriller is set in the year 2027, a period where humanity is suffering from mass infertility. As a result, the species is slowly dying out, and society is collapsing into anarchy. Great Britain is one of the few countries left with any semblance of law and order, thus attracting immigrants from around the world.

However, while the "fugees" hope to find safety and shelter, they're instead treated like animals, locked in cages, and tossed into camps resembling third-world slums. And that's where the Fishes come in, a group of terrorists waging war against the British government. Led by Julian Taylor (Julianne Moore), the Fishes are fighting for refugee rights, and none are quite so dedicated to the cause as Luke (Ejiofor), a man who's willing to do anything for human dignity, even if it means killing a few of those humans along the way.

Luke's fanaticism really kicks into high gear when he discovers that a young refugee named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) is pregnant with the first baby anyone's seen in 18 years. While Julian thinks Kee should be taken to scientists working on a cure for the infertility problem, Luke believes the baby should be used for political purposes, as a prop to incite a revolution. But before Luke can enact his plan—which involves murdering a couple of people—Julian's estranged husband, Theo Faron (Clive Owen), saves Kee from the terrorist's clutches and makes a run for it.

Of course, the Fishes aren't going to sit around and twiddle their thumbs while there's a revolution waiting to happen, and Luke chases after Theo and Kee, gunning down anyone who gets in his way. Sure, his motives are pure, but his methods are bloody, and whatever you do, don't ask this guy to pull your finger.

American Gangster (2007)

Directed by Ridley Scott, American Gangster is a three-hour epic jam-packed with amazing actors. We've got Idris Elba, Ruby Dee, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, and Cuba Gooding Jr. And then, of course, there's Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, the crime lord and the cop. They're playing enemies who don't actually meet until the end of the film, but while they're separated by different morals and millions of dollars, these two rivals spend the entire movie dancing around each other, duking it out in the fight of the century.

Based on a true story, the film follows the rise of Frank Lucas (Washington), a New York gangster who becomes America's biggest mobster by purchasing narcotics directly from Thai producers, thus cutting out unnecessary middlemen. Crowe plays Richie Roberts, a New Jersey detective who's dedicated to ridding the streets of Lucas' "Blue Magic" heroin. As for Ejiofor, the British actor plays Frank's brother, Huey, a mechanic from North Carolina who moves to Harlem and quickly takes to the gangster lifestyle.

Of course, Huey has a lot to learn from his big brother. Throughout the film, Frank lectures his sibling on the importance of things like hard work and "never forgetting where we came from." And while Huey is initially shocked to see Frank blow somebody's brains out, he quickly starts running heroin, using drugs, and wearing superfly suits, outfits that earn him another Frank Lucas lecture. "It's a clown suit," Lucas warns his brother about his new get-up, "a costume with a very big sign on it that says 'arrest me.'"

It's advice that Lucas himself quickly forgets, leading to a series of events that ends with Ejiofor leading Crowe on a foot chase through an apartment complex. For a moment, it seems like Huey might get away, but he winds up "out at home" when Richie puts his baseball skills to good use.

Redbelt (2008)

David Mamet is the king of the con game. His movies are filled with foul-mouthed crooks out to fleece unsuspecting rubes of their money, gold, and mathematical formulas. But in this world of fast-talking thieves, Mike Terry (Ejiofor) stands out as an old-school martial artist, a jiu-jitsu black belt who still believes in antiquated ideas like honor.

Of course, being noble doesn't pay the bills, and in Mamet's Redbelt, Terry find himself caught between a choke and an armbar. His wife's in debt, his dojo needs fixing up, and he's all out of cash. Sure, he could take an MMA fight, but Terry is a purist who thinks "competition is weakening" and fighting for money dishonorable.

For a moment, Terry thinks he can use his unique training method to make some money, a system that involves drawing colored marbles out of a bowl to see which fighter will have his arms bound during a bout. It's supposed to teach his students about self-control and logical thinking, but (spoilers) that dream disappears when some entertainment big shots steal his idea for an upcoming MMA event. Desperate for cash, Terry finally agrees to take a fight, only to find things are even shadier than they first seemed.

As Roger Ebert put it, Ejiofor gives "a performance evoking intense idealism," and while the Brit is playing another samurai-like character, Mike Terry couldn't be any more different from Serenity's Operative. Terry is a man who believes in right and wrong, in making the correct choice, in searching for the perfect escape, no matter what chokehold the world puts you in.

Salt (2010)

After starring as geologist Dr. Adrian Helmsley in Roland Emmerich's disaster flick 2012, Ejiofor found himself in another supporting role for Salt, a Bourne-like thriller involving spiders, Manchurian candidates, and the Kennedy assassination. The film finds Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt, a CIA agent whose life is turned upside down when a Russian defector accuses her of being a double agent. While her CIA buddy, Theodore Winter (Liev Schreiber) thinks the Russian is lying, counterintelligence officer Darryl Peabody (Ejiofor) isn't so sure.

Suspicious of Salt, he orders the agent detained, prompting our hero to make her grand escape. Now, with Salt on the run, Ejiofor immediately goes into tracker mode, chasing the woman as she flees across the country. He's basically the Javert to her Valjean, the Gerard to her Dr. Richard Kimble. At first, Peabody is positive that Salt plans on assassinating the U.S. president and taking control of America's nuclear arsenal, so he does everything in his power to take her down. But as the film goes on, he starts to wonder if there's more going on than meets the eye...and so does the audience, as Salt's allegiances jump back and forth from country to country.

When asked about playing Peabody, Ejiofor said, "I like the idea of this counterintelligence agent being a bureaucrat...I enjoyed that there wasn't something hyper-violent about him. He was more of a desk-job kind of guy." He also seems to be the kind of guy who'll recklessly fire his pistol straight into traffic. Come on, Peabody. That's not cool.

​12 Years a Slave (2013)

In 12 Years a Slave, Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, and without a doubt, it's the actor's greatest performance to date. Based on a true story, Northup is a freeman, a New Yorker who earns his living playing the violin, and one day, he gets a job offer that's too good to be true...because it is. Soon after accepting the gig and traveling south with two white men, Northup wakes up in chains, and Ejiofor completely sells the horror of realizing that everything he's ever loved is about to be ripped from his hands.

As he's passed from owner to owner (one of whom is played by Dr. Strange himself, Benedict Cumberbatch), Northup finds himself subjected to beatings and degradation, all made worse as his years in slavery stretch on and on. "[The movie] moves from a journey about a man who thinks he's in a battle for his freedom," Ejiofor told Vulture, "to one about a man who's in a battle for his mind." But even though every single day is like waking up in Hell, Northup continues to stand strong, vowing to never "fall into despair."

Really, it's hard to imagine any actor inhabiting the part of Northup so completely as Ejiofor. Writing for Entertainment Weekly, critic Owen Gleiberman praised the actor, saying, "It is Chiwetel Ejiofor's extraordinary performance that holds the movie together, and that allows us to watch it without blinking. He plays Solomon with a powerful inner strength, yet he never soft-pedals the silent nightmare that is Solomon's daily existence."

In fact, his acting job was so staggeringly impressive that Ejiofor was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, and while he lost to Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave would win the award for Best Picture, an achievement largely thanks to Ejiofor's star-making performance.

The Martian (2015)

Eight years after working with Ridley Scott on American Gangster, Chiwetel Ejiofor reunited with the English filmmaker for The Martian, the big screen adaptation of Andy Weir's best-selling novel. Starring Matt Damon in the lead, the film focuses on Mark Watney, an astronaut who's forced to survive by himself on Mars after being abandoned by his crew. (Hey, give 'em a break. They thought he was dead.)

While Damon is definitely the center of the story, The Martian is full of fantastic actors, each one bringing a special skill to the "Rescue Mark Watney" mission. There's Jeff Daniels as the director of NASA, Donald Glover as an eccentric astrodynamicist, Jessica Chastain as the lead astronaut, and of course, we've got Chiwetel Ejiofor playing Vincent Kapoor, the head honcho in charge of the missions to Mars.

When NASA discovers Watney is still alive, Kapoor is the guy tasked with bringing the spaceman back to Earth. Working with the likes of Jet Propulsion Laboratory director Bruce Ng (once again, played by Benedict Wong of Doctor Strange), Kapoor tries to develop ways of communicating with Watney, of supplying him with food, and finding a rocket to rescue the astronaut before he starves to death.

In addition to learning Kapoor is a quick thinker and skilled at his job, we also learn he's a major Tolkien fan when he names a secret NASA meeting "Project Elrond," which is pretty funny considering that Boromir is in the room. Laughs aside, the choice of casting here did cause a bit of a controversy, as many believed the character of Vincent (named "Venkat Kapoor" in the novel) should've been played by an Indian actor. Still, while it would've been nice to see someone like Irrfan Khan in the part, there's no denying Ejiofor did a brilliant job of bringing Kapoor to life.

Z for Zachariah (2015)

Based on a novel by Robert C. O'Brien Z for Zachariah slipped by most moviegoers when it opened in 2015, earning just $121,461 at the box office. And really, that's a shame, because this moody sci-fi movie is an underrated gem that you should totally check out. Set in the post-apocalypse of the eastern U.S., the film finds Margot Robbie as Ann Burden, a woman who survived some sort of nuclear catastrophe and now lives on her family's farm, with just her books and dog for company.

But as you might expect, Burden realizes she's not alone after discovering a deathly ill scientist named John Loomis (Ejiofor). The farmer nurses Loomis back to health, and soon, the sexual sparks between the two start flying. However, Burden and Loomis aren't 100 percent compatible, as she's a Christian and Loomis is an atheist, a division that's made all the more clear when the two disagree about whether or not to tear down a nearby church.

Religion aside, Loomis hopes the two can become the Adam and Eve of their new world, but his dreams of a bright future start falling apart after Lucifer shows up. When a third survivor named Caleb (Chris Pine) arrives at the farm, the two men immediately start vying for Ann's affection. The situation gets even trickier for Loomis when Caleb professes his belief in God, giving him the inside track. As he watches the two grow close, a jealous Loomis grapples about what he's going to do next...whether he should accept Ann's choice or take matters into his own hands.

Triple 9 (2016)

Right after starring with Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman in the thriller Secret in Their Eyes, Ejiofor showed up in John Hillcoat's Triple 9, which has one of the most impressive casts in recent memory. There's Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Norman Reedus, Aaron Paul, Michael K. Williams, and the massively underappreciated Clifton Collins Jr. And that's not even mentioning Chiwetel Ejiofor playing one of the most brutal characters of his career, a Special Forces soldier-turned-heist leader named Michael Atwood.

Like most great villains, we totally understand where Michael is coming from. As the leader of a merciless bank robbing crew, the man is being blackmailed by a Russian mob boss (Winslet) into pulling off a dangerous job. She wants Michael to steal some files that will free her imprisoned husband, and if Michael doesn't cooperate, she'll take away his son and murder his crew. Basically, Michael is a desperate man, which drives him to some pretty dark places.

Forced to hit an impregnable target, Michael and his gang decide to murder a cop in order to draw the police's attention away from their heist. It's a pretty despicable scheme and a truly dark role for Ejiofor, who described the film as a story that "constantly plays with moral ambiguities." Perhaps Michael isn't quite as bad as the mob boss ordering the robbery, but he's just as ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to make sure the job goes off without a hitch. And while the film itself divided critics, Triple 9 is one of Ejiofor's most interesting performances, a role that allows the actor to explore a truly nihilistic character.