Oscar Actors: Hounsou, Djimon–Background, Career, Awards

Updated July 14, 2020
Djimon Hounsou Career Summary:

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Film Debut: Without You I’m Nothing. 1990; age 26

Breakthrough Role: Amistad, 1997; age 33

Oscar Role: In America, soo3, age 36

Other Noms: Blood Diamond, 2006; age 39

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Djimon Gaston Hounsou (born 24 April 1964), a Beninese actor and model, began his career appearing in music videos.

He made his film debut in the Sandra Bernhard film Without You I’m Nothing (1990) and gained recognition for his role as Cinqué in Spielberg film Amistad (1997). He gained further recognition for his roles in Gladiator (2000), In America (2003), and Blood Diamond (2006), receiving Best Supporting Actor nominations for both the latter films. He also had a minor role in Furious 7 (2015). He has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award and three Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Djimon Hounsou plays an important role as well in the French film Forces spéciales in 2011.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he plays the role of Korath the Pursuer in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Captain Marvel (2019). Additionally, in the DC Extended Universe, he played the role of the Fisherman King in Aquaman (2018) and the wizard Shazam in Shazam! (2019).

Hounsou was born in Cotonou, Benin, to Albertine and Pierre Hounsou, a cook. He emigrated to Lyon in France at the age of 12 with his brother, Edmond.

Soon after arriving in France, Hounsou dropped out of school and became homeless for a time. A chance meeting with a photographer led to Hounsou being introduced to fashion designer Thierry Mugler, who encouraged Hounsou to pursue a modeling career. In 1987, Hounsou became a model and established a career in Paris.

He moved to the US in 1990.

Between 1989 and 1991, Hounsou appeared in the music videos for “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul, “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” by Janet Jackson, and Madonna’s “Express Yourself”. He also appears in En Vogue’s music video for “Hold On”.

Hounsou’s film debut was in the 1990 Sandra Bernhard film Without You I’m Nothing. He had television parts on Beverly Hills, 90210 and ER and a guest starring role on Alias. Hounsou had a larger role in the science fiction film Stargate.

Hounsou received wide critical acclaim and a Golden Globe Award nomination for his role as Cinqué in the 1997 Steven Spielberg film Amistad. He gained further notice as Juba in the 2000 film Gladiator.[2] In 2004, Hounsou was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for In America, making him the fourth African male to be nominated for an Oscar. In 2005 he played a mercenary in the movie The Island alongside Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. In 2006, he won the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Blood Diamond; he received Broadcast Film Critics Association, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Academy Award nominations for this performance.[2][8]

Hounsou acted in a supporting role in the 2009 science fiction film Push, as Agent Henry Carver.[9] In 2011, he starred as a French commando in the French film Forces spéciales.[10]

Director Tim Story told IGN that if he were to do a third Fantastic Four film, he would like to have Hounsou as the Black Panther.[11] In November 2008, it was announced that Hounsou would be providing the voice of the Black Panther in the television series of the same name.[12] Hounsou had signed on to play Abdiel in the film version of John Milton’s Paradise Lost with Benjamin Walker and Bradley Cooper. The film however was scrapped in early February 2012.[13]

In 2013, he appeared in the comedy film Baggage Claim alongside Paula Patton. He also voiced Drago Bludvist in How to Train Your Dragon 2 and portrayed Korath the Pursuer in the Marvel Studios film Guardians of the Galaxy, both in 2014.[14][15] He played villains in two 2015 films, Seventh Son and Furious 7, the seventh installment of The Fast and the Furious film series, the latter where he played the role of Mose Jakande, a Nigerian-French mercenary.[16]

On 17 February 2016, it was reported that Hounsou would join the second season of the television series Wayward Pines.[17] Also in 2016, he played Chief Mbonga in The Legend of Tarzan movie.[18]

In July 2018, Hounsou joined the DC Extended Universe, voicing the Fisherman King Ricou in Aquaman (with the character being motion-captured by Andrew Crawford), as well as replacing Ron Cephas Jones as the Wizard Shazam in Shazam! (2019).[19][20] Also in 2019, he reprised his role as Korath in the Marvel Studios film Captain Marvel.

Modeling
On 24 February 2007, it was announced that Hounsou would be the new Calvin Klein underwear model. At the time, Hounsou was being represented by Los Angeles modeling agent, Omar Albertto.[21][22]

Other work
In 2010, Hounsou was featured as the narrator in ESPN’s running series of “32 teams, 1 dream” commercials for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Hounsou spoke at the Summit on Climate Change at the United Nations on 22 September 2009.[23] On 1 December 2009, Hounsou told French media that developed countries “need to be held accountable” for their contribution to climate change.[24]

In 2007, Hounsou began dating model Kimora Lee Simmons, who gave birth to their sonin 2009. Hounsou and Simmons visited his family in his native Benin in the summer of 2008, where the two participated in a traditional commitment ceremony. The two emphasized that the ceremony was not a wedding. In the début of Kimora Lee Simmons’ show, Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, he was billed as her husband. Hounsou and Simmons, who were never legally married in the US separated in November 2012.