For nearly three decades, Djimon Hounsou has made a name for himself in Hollywood with an established acting portfolio. Hailing from Benin, the two-time Academy Award nominee first starred in Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad” in 1997, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Drama.
Following his breakout role, Hounsou went on to act in “Blood Diamond,” “Gladiator,” “Shazam!,” and more. The 58-year-old star has worked with some of the best in the business. However, he still feels he hasn’t received his proper due.
Hounsou’s road to success has been a fight, to say the least.
Prior to starring in films, he faced 18 months of homelessness until landing a pivotal modeling gig in Paris, according to The Guardian. Although being a model helped keep a roof over his head, his passion was in acting. Despite barely speaking English, he chased his childhood dream and moved to Los Angeles and the rest is history.
The film “Amistad” was life-changing for Hounsou as it led to more movies but he openly shared with The Guardian about his experience of being frustrated by the limited roles for Black actors.
What’s more, even with award nominations, critical acclaim, and an extensive work portfolio, Hounsou finds himself fighting for his coins to this day.
“I’m still struggling to try to make a dollar!” Hounsou told the outlet. “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,'” he recalled. “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.”
While Hounsou has been on the big screen in box office hits, he noticed the pattern of being cast as the sidekick or henchman, which he believes stems from English not being his first language. On top of still having to prove he’s fluent in English, he has had to stand up for himself and his pay.
“I still have to prove why I need to get paid,” he said. “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.’ Viola Davis said it beautifully: she’s won an Oscar, she’s won an Emmy, she’s won a Tony and she still can’t get paid. [She added a Grammy in February.] Film after film, it’s a struggle. I have yet to meet the film that paid me fairly.”
It’s been a long winding round of trials and tribulations, but Hounsou sees light at the end of the tunnel. The outlet notes that he’s having high hopes to be cast in the “Gladiator” sequel. Additionally, he has found he’s received reverence from the DC universe following his return to the franchise with “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” which was released on March 14.
“From time to time, they themselves make the point of saying: ‘We should give him more, he’s a little underappreciated.’ I think they recognise that themselves,” he says, before brushing it off. “Hey, it’s the struggle I have to overcome!”