Though he boasts an extensive and applaudable Hollywood résumé spanning more than three decades, including his latest role in Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Djimon Hounsou revealed he feels “cheated” as he continues to attract low-paying acting offers.
In a discussion with The Guardian, Hounsou let his frustrations be known as he spoke about his financial struggles in Hollywood and feeling a lack of support from his contemporaries in the acting world.
Hounsou expressed his frustration with the limited parts he believes Black actors have been presented, having himself played a slave in multiple acclaimed films such as Amistad, The Gladiator and The Four Feathers. “I’m still struggling to try to make a dollar!” he 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.”
Not only does Hounsou feel he didn’t get a fair shake with being given well-paying roles, but he also believes Hollywood hasn’t given him enough recognition for his work. The Benin-born star’s big break came in Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, playing West African revolutionary Joseph Cinqué.
Though his performance was widely acclaimed, scoring him a Golden Globe nomination he was overlooked for an Academy Award nod in favor of co-star Anthony Hopkins, who vied for Best Supporting Actor. Hounsou later received Best Supporting Actor Oscar nods for his roles in Blood Diamond and In America. However, Hounsou insists he’s still viewed in a proverbial box by studios and executives, contributing to the pay disparity he’s experienced.
“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 said. “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.”
Djimon Hounsou’s DC Role
Hounsou later ventured into superhero franchises, becoming a familiar face in the MCU by playing Korath the Pursuer in Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel and the Disney+ series What If…? The acclaimed actor has also appeared in several DC movies, featuring as The Wizard in the Shazam! film franchise and Black Adam while voicing King Ricou in Aquaman.
He said he takes smaller roles these days because he wants to prove himself as a “man of today” and prove how well he can speak in an American accent. However, he feels he still has to work as hard to get noticed as an accomplished actor as he did when trying to break into Hollywood.
“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.'”
In Fury of the Gods, Hounsou reprises his role as Shazam, the last surviving member of the Council of Wizards who gave Billy Batson (Asher Angel) his powers after declaring him a champion. Billy’s adult alter-ego Shazam (Zachary Levi) and his Shazamily take on the Daughters of Atlas as the ancient gods look to reclaim the magic that was stolen from them long ago while threatening to use a weapon that could destroy Earth.
Fury of the Gods’ release comes amid a busy year for Hounsou, who’s currently filming the biographical coming-of-age film, Gran Turismo, which also features David Harbour, Orlando Bloom and Spice Girls singer Geri Halliwell. Gran Turismo, which is based on the successful video game franchise of the same name, premieres in theaters on Aug. 11.
Meanwhile, Hounsou will appear as General Titus in Zack Snyder’s Netflix space opera, Rebel Moon, which is slated for a Dec. 22 debut.