“I’m still struggling to try to make a dollar,” the two-time Oscar nominee said, citing assumptions that he “just got off the boat” following his breakout role.
Djimon Hounsou is calling out Hollywood over its (many) double standards.
The “Blood Diamond” star and two-time Oscar nominee reflected on his acting career following his breakout role in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film “Amistad.” Hounsou played a slave and conducted his audition in the West African language Gun.
“I was taken aback, because I had spent so much time trying to articulate this in English,” Hounsou told The Guardian, adding that when he later met director Spielberg, he was like, “‘Whoa, what the fuck!’ And my life changed dramatically after that.”
Yet Hounsou noted that the film was perhaps too “early” to receive awards recognition for his performance. “Amistad” was nominated for four Oscars including Best Supporting Actor for Anthony Hopkins, Best Original Dramatic Score for John Williams, Best Cinematography for Janusz Kamiński, and Best Costume Design for Ruth E. Carter.
“Yeah. Maybe I was early,” Hounsou said. “If my movies had come out today, I definitely would have gotten an Oscar already.”
He added, “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.’ 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.”
Hounsou was later nominated for performances in 2002’s “In America” and “Blood Diamond” in 2006.
“I felt seriously cheated,” the “Gladiator” actor said. “Today, we talk so much about the Oscars being so white, but I remember there was a time where 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 that you’ve got nominated,’ and that’s that.”
He added, “I’m still struggling to try to make a dollar! 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. I still have to prove why I need to get paid. 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.’”
Hounsou concluded, “Viola Davis said it beautifully: she’s won an Oscar, she’s won an Emmy, she’s won a Tony and she still can’t get paid. Film after film, it’s a struggle. I have yet to meet the film that paid me fairly.”
He noted of starring in the “Shazam!” DC films, “Out of them all, the DC universe has a level of respect. There wasn’t much to the role at first and I did it and it was fun. But the second time around it was a little more respectful.”
Samuel L. Jackson, who has only been nominated once for an Oscar for his turn in “Pulp Fiction,” revealed in July 2022 that he views the Academy Awards as a “popularity contest.”
Jackson said, “‘Django’ was probably my best shot because it’s the most evil character I’ve ever played and they generally reward Black people for playing horrendous shit.”
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