Djimon Hounsou’s acting career spans 33 years and includes two Oscar nominations (“In America” and “Blood Diamond”), action blockbusters such as “Furious 7”, superhero films such as “Shazam!” and collaborating with Steven Spielberg (“Amistad”) and Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”), yet he told The Guardian that he still feels “hugely cheated” when it comes to Hollywood pay.
“I’m still struggling trying to make a dollar!” Hounsou said. “I’ve come up in the industry with some people who are absolutely fine and have very little of my accolades. So I feel cheated, badly cheated, both financially and at work.”
“I’ve gone into 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 real actor,” Hounsou continued. “When you hear something like that, you can see that some people’s view of you or what you represent is very limiting. But it is what it is. It is up to me to redeem it.”
“I still have to prove why I need to be paid,” he added. “They always come at me with complete low-brow: ‘We only have so 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 slave in Spielberg’s “Amistad.” Despite achieving universal acclaim, it was his co-star Anthony Hopkins who received the film’s only 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 focusing equally 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 when 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 you’ve been nominated,’ and it is.
Hounsou is now back in theaters as a wizard in Warner Bros.’ “Shazam! Wrath of the Gods.” It’s a supporting role that’s greatly expanded from the limited screen time he got in the first “Shazam!” movie.
“Out of all of them, 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 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 underrated.’ I think they recognize it themselves,” Hounsou concluded. “Hey, this is the battle I have to overcome!”
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is now playing in theaters nationwide.