Djimon Hounsou’s acting career spans 30-plus years, includes two Oscar nominations and roles in myriad prestige and blockbuster projects such as Amistad, Gladiator, In America, Laura Croft, Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy, Furious 7, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, Shazam!, A Quiet Pace Part II and Day One, Black Adam, Rebel Moon and this weekend’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods. Yet Hounsou told the Guardian in a recent interview, “I have yet to meet the film that paid me fairly.”
He elaborated: “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.”
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Specifically, the actor says, “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.”
As a result, Hounsou maintains, “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.’ “
And it’s not just him. Even actors who’ve broken through at the Oscars find equal pay elusive, Hounsou notes.
“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. [Davis won a Grammy in February for EGOT status.] Film after film, it’s a struggle. I have yet to meet the film that paid me fairly.”
The actor says his experience with the Shazam! franchise has been a bit different.
“Out of them all, the DC universe has a level of respect,” he said. “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.”
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