Djimon Hounsou’s acting career spans 33 years and includes two Academy Award nominations (“In America” and “Blood Diamond”), action blockbusters such as “Furious 7”, superhero films such as “Shazam!” and collaborations with Steven Spielberg (“Amistad”) and Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”), but he told The Guardian he still feels “hugely cheated” when it comes to Hollywood salaries.
“I’m still struggling to try and make a dollar!” said Hounsou. “I got into the business with some people who are absolutely right and have very few of my awards. So I feel cheated, hugely cheated, both in terms of finances and workload.”
“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 real actor,” Hounsou continued. “When you hear things 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’s up to me to capitalize on that.”
“I have yet to prove why I should be paid,” he added. “They always come at me with a really low ball: ‘We only have so much for the part, but we love you so much and we really think you can bring so much’… Movie after movie, it’s a struggle. I have yet to meet the movie that paid me fair.
Hounsou said Hollywood overlooked him from the start, starting with his breakout role as a rebellious enslaved person in Spielberg’s “Amistad.” Despite receiving 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 leading actor, despite the film being equally focused 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 got nominated,’ and that’s that.”
Hounsou is now back in theaters as a wizard in Warner Bros.’ “Shazam! Anger of the Gods.” It’s a supporting role that’s expanded greatly compared to the limited screen time he got in the first “Shazam!” movie.
“Out of all of them, the DC Universe has a certain amount of respect,” said Hounsou. “In the beginning there wasn’t much to the role, and I did it and it was fun. But the second time it was a bit more respectful.”
“From time to time, [Hollywood] say themselves: ‘We should give him more, he is a little undervalued.’ I think they recognize that themselves,” Hounsou concludes. “Hey, it’s the battle I have to win!”
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods’ is now playing in theaters across the country.