Djimon Hounsou’s acting career spans 33 years and includes two Academy Award nominations (“In America” and “Blood Diamond”), action blockbusters like “Furious 7,” superhero movies such as “Shazam!” and collaborations with Steven Spielberg (“Amistad”) and Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”), yet he told The Guardian that he still feels “tremendously cheated” when it comes to Hollywood pay.
“I’m still struggling to try to make a dollar!” Hounsou said. “I’ve come up in the business with some people who are absolutely well off and have very little of my accolades. So I feel cheated, tremendously cheated, in terms of finances and in terms of the workload as well.”
“I’ve gone to studios for meetings and they’re like: ‘Wow, we felt like you just got off the boat and then went back [after ‘Amistad’]. We didn’t know you were here as a true actor,’” Hounsou continued. “When you hear things like that, you can see that some people’s vision of you, or what you represent, is very limiting. But it is what it is. It’s up to me to redeem that.”
“I still have to prove why I need to get paid,” he added. “They always come at me with a complete low ball: ‘We only have this much for the role, but we love you so much and we really think you can bring so much’… Film after film, it’s a struggle. I have yet to meet the film that paid me fairly.”
Hounsou said Hollywood has overlooked him from the beginning, starting with his breakthrough role as a rebellious enslaved person in Spielberg’s “Amistad.” Despite earning universal acclaim, it was his co-star Anthony Hopkins who got the film’s sole Oscar nomination. With 2016’s “Blood Diamond,” the Academy nominated Hounsou for supporting actor and his co-star Leonardo DiCaprio for lead actor, despite the film equally focusing on Hounsou’s character.
“I felt seriously cheated,” Hounsou told The Guardian. “Today, we talk so much about the Oscars being so white, but I remember there was a time where I had no support at all: no support from my own people, no support from the media, from the industry itself. It felt like: ‘You should be happy that you’ve got nominated,’ and that’s that.”
Hounsou is now back in theaters as a wizard in Warner Bros.’ “Shazam! Fury of the Gods.” It’s a supporting role that has been greatly expanded compared to the limited screen time he got in the first “Shazam!” movie.
“Out of them all, the DC universe has a level of respect,” Hounsou said. “There wasn’t much to the role at first, and I did it and it was fun. But the second time around it was a little more respectful.”
“From time to time, [Hollywood] themselves make the point of saying: ‘We should give him more, he’s a little under-appreciated.’ I think they recognize that themselves,” Hounsou concluded. “Hey, it’s the struggle I have to overcome!”