‘Shazam 2’ Star Djimon Hounsou says he feels ‘tremendously cheated’ by Hollywood, ‘still struggling to make a dollar’
Ever since his extraordinary performance in the lead role of Cinqué on Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film Amistad, the acting profession has been a major challenge for Djimon Hounsou.
Signs were almost immediate that his journey would be a difficult one. Despite receiving universal acclaim for the role, he was snubbed for an Oscar nomination. It’s unfortunately no surprise that Honsou has been one of Hollywood’s greatest talents that gets constantly overlooked, partly because he is West African.
The 58-year old Hounsou was recently interviewed by The Guardian and, though staying optimistic and grateful for the roles he has received — such as his recent role as the Wizard in the upcoming Shazam! Fury of the Gods film — he was very honest with how he views his career since, concluding, “Hey, it’s a struggle I have to overcome.”
Born and raised in Benin, he journeyed to Paris on a student visa but things didn’t go as planned. He ended up homeless before catching a break in the world of modeling. He then headed to the United States, despite not knowing how to speak English, to pursue an acting career. Shortly after landing an appearance in Janet Jackson’s music video for “Love Will Never Do,” he secured his career-defining role in Amistad.
Years later, he did indeed receive Oscar nominations for his roles in Blood Diamond and In America, respectively. However, he would constantly win other awards, such as two NAACP Image Awards, two Black Reel Awards, one Independent Spirit Award, and a National Board of Review award. In relation to the lack of serious recognition from the Oscars, combined with his struggle to find significant roles despite being one of the world’s best at his craft, Djimon Housnou stated, “I felt seriously cheated. Today, we talk so much about Oscars being white, but I remember there was a time where I had no support at all. No support from my own people.”
He added that it seems as if the industry was telling that he “should be happy that you’re nominated.”
As his frustration grew over the lack of roles, he ended up playing a slave again in Gladiator and then yet again in The Four Fathers.
He also noticed something else. He would meet other actors who were very well off despite them, as Hounsou puts it, having “very little of my accolades. So I feel cheated, tremendously cheated, in terms of finances and in terms of the workload as well.”
Honsou even journeyed to China for a role where he plays a leader in the criminal underworld of the Tang Dynasty in the series The Longest Day in Chang’An. The show, which ran its completed story over the course of 48 episodes in 2019, ended up being a smash hit in China where it was the most watched show of the year. It’s arguably one of the best shows anywhere of the last several years, winning an incredible 22 awards, and placing Hounsou in yet another overlooked role in an award-winning story, despite him bringing international attention to the series.
“I’m struggling to make a dollar,” Hounsou told The Guardian. “”I still have to prove why I need to get paid.”
Despite his aggravations, Hounsou is mostly a humble man who also recognizes the improvements made in the industry over the last couple decades and ultimately chooses to not focus on the negative while staying hopeful for his next opportunity, one that he will no doubt excel in.