Djimon Hounsou’s acting career spans 33 years and includes two Oscar nominations (“In America” and “Blood Diamond”), action blockbusters such as “Furious 7” and superhero films such as “Shazam!” and collaborations with Steven Spielberg (“Amistad”) and Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”), but he told The Guardian that he still feels “hugely cheated” when it comes to Hollywood salaries.
“I’m still struggling trying to make a dollar!” Hounsou said. “I’ve come up with a business with some people who have really good opportunities and have very few of my accolades. So I feel cheated, hugely cheated, both financially and in terms of workload.”
“I’ve gone to studios for meetings and they’re like, ‘Wow, we felt like you just got off the boat and then came back [after ‘Amistad’]. We didn’t know you were here as a real actor,” Hounsou continued. “When you hear things like this, 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 my job to redeem that.”
“I still have to prove why I need to get paid,” he added. “They always come at me completely low ball: ‘We only have so much to play, but we love you so much and we really believe you can bring so much’… Film after film is a struggle. I have yet to meet a film that paid to me fairly.”
Hounsou said Hollywood has ignored her since the beginning, starting with her breakthrough role as a rebel slave in Spielberg’s “Amistad.” Despite universal acclaim, his co-star Anthony Hopkins received the film’s only Oscar nomination. In 2016’s “Blood Diamond,” the Academy nominated Hounsou as supporting actor and his co-star Leonardo DiCaprio as lead actor, although the film also centers on Hounsou’s character.
“I felt seriously cheated,” Hounsou told The Guardian. “We talk so much these days 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 person, no support from the media or the industry itself. It felt like, ‘You should be happy to be nominated,’ and that’s it.”
Hounsou is now back in theaters with 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.
“For all of them, the DC universe has some respect,” Hounsou said. “At first there wasn’t much to the role and I did it and it was fun. But the second time it was a little more respectful.”
“At times, [Hollywood] themselves say: “We should give him more, he’s a bit underrated.” I think they will figure it out themselves, Hounsou concluded. “Hey, it’s a struggle I have to win!”
“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” is now playing in theaters nationwide.