Djimon Hounsou is getting very candid about how Hollywood has treated him.
In an interview with The Guardian, the “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” actor shared his feelings of being overlooked and underpaid throughout his career.
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After beginning his career as a model, the Benin-born actor found his first taste of success in Hollywood by landing a major role in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated 1997 epic “Amistad”.
Despite his co-star Anthony Hopkins getting a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Hounsou was left out of the running at the awards show.
“Yeah. Maybe I was early,” he said, looking back on that experience. “If my movies had come out today I definitely would have gotten an Oscar already.”
He would eventually find himself nominated for two Oscars, for Best Supporting Actor in 2002’s “In America”, and again in the same category for 2006’s “Blood Diamond”.
In the case of the latter film, though, it was Leonardo DiCaprio who earned a Best Actor nomination, despite the film focusing on Hounsou’s character’s storyline.
“I felt seriously cheated,” the actor confessed. “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.”
That lack of support has also included a lack of pay, a problem which has apparently followed Hounsou throughout his entire career.
“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.
“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,” he continued. “But it is what it is. It’s up to me to redeem that.”
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He added of the work he puts into getting good jobs, “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 recalled, “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. [She added a Grammy in February.] Film after film, it’s a struggle. I have yet to meet the film that paid me fairly.”
That said, the actor said there are times when Hollywood will look his way and show him more respect.
“From time to time, they themselves make the point of saying: ‘We should give him more, he’s a little underappreciated.’ I think they recognise that themselves,” he said, adding. “Hey, it’s the struggle I have to overcome!”