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Djimon Hounsou - The Island


The Diva's interview with
Djimon Hounsou
On of the Stars of
The Island (2005)





Copyright Kamal Larsuel, 2005


We've all seen him and admired his performances in movies like: Constantine, In America, Beauty Shop, and and Gladiator yet, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ll tell you one thing I didn’t expect – I didn’t expect to be scooping ice into my glass and fell my jaw drop when he walked in. I also didn’t expect to continually miss the glass and dump ice on my hand as I watched him command the air as he walked by me. I didn’t expect to have trouble breathing when he looked at me and cracked that smile. I didn’t expect to need the strength of the counter to hold me up when he said “hello”. I didn’t expect to look like a wide mouth Bass gasping for air as I search for the appropriate response. Who knew it was so hard to say, “Hi”? Even though, I managed to get myself together quickly enough to participate in the interview and I do expect to be sleeping in the guest room when my husband reads this.

First things first; Can you tell us how to correctly pronounce your full name.. Dijmon: *sigh* that’s so much work!

[Room laughs]

Djimon: Well first of all it depends on where in the world we are. My name is Jeye mon Hoonsue in America and the French call me JeeMon which is quite closer to the African way of pronouncing it.

Glad we got that cleared up. On to the discussion:

In The Island Djimon plays a ruthless assassin, yet deep down, he is conflicted. So deep down in fact even Djimon was unable to really clearly grasp where it all came from:

You get to play a bad guy who has a good side. Did you like that about the character?

Djimon: You have to like that about the character you have to have an Arc or it’s not interesting.

When does he make that transition? Is it under the surface?

Djimon: you know. It’s a process. Of course we’re talking about clones that are only 3 days old and how they are able to escape from a facility that is so heavily guarded. This is baffling to me and then I began to realize that Sean Bean’s character ain’t telling me the full story. I also know to some extent the government wants to keep the whole thing hush-hush. So obviously we aren’t dealing with a vegetative state type of human being. So yeah it is questionable.

We’re dealing with a person who doesn’t really have a conscious. I mean he kills people for a living. Why would he change?

Djimon: You mean in terms of my character?


Djimon: Not really. My character is doing his job. He doesn’t have any conflicting thoughts about getting rid of people, really when it comes to national security. That stuff is pretty normal for him.

But why would he make an exception in this case?

Djimon: Because he is unethical. Eventually somewhere down the line, these clones we are talking about are human beings. Period and he realizes that they have feeling and emotions just like me, but were trying to oppress and shut them down. And we try to believe that they are human vegetables, which they aren’t. Did I answer your question?

It just seems like he comes across as hardcore –

Djimon: Well that’s what he is…
It just seems like he would do anything for money.

Djimon: Yeah in a certain fashion.

But at a certain point he seems to be converted to an idealist and I’m sure why they and how that happens. The fact that they are human beings doesn’t seem to answer it.

First of all, he is not trying to kill them at first. He is trying to bring them back for insurance policy reasons. Hmm good point, but I think it remind him of when he was a slave and that time period. Hmm I don’t know.

Djimon let us into his heart on this day and we saw a very thoughtful man who thinks before he speaks even if there it means complete silence for a few moments. He may be a little puzzled by his characters motives, but he is definitely not confused about the responsibility of being a black man and that of being a human who can change the world.

What kind of movies that you haven’t done are you interested in doing?

Djimon: My only interest… I shouldn’t say my only interest (long pause for thinking) We are in the business to make money. And unless we can generate … we can all be productive and make money for the studios, then I’ll have work. I’m mostly interested in… Because I come from 3 continents Africa, Europe and America it is a luxury that needs to be exploited. Meaning that I would love to do mean that have great integrity that also have ways of educating middle America about Africans. That Africans are not just what they see on The National Geographic Channel. And that we are men with a certain Savoir-Faire. [ I think I nearly fainted when he spoke this teeny bit of French]

So are you saying that you want to do a movie that puts out there a positive image of Africans?

Djimon: Africans and African Americans. I certainly don’t want to be playing oppressed men all the time. We need to move on and we need to move up. But I want to play great characters, that’s the bottom line. That are not slaves or whatever. It’s not that I have a specific part in mind. We actors want to play in dramatic pieces and fun pieces. Movies lie the Island.

Are you okay with that greater sense of responsibility that a lot of African American actors and actress have to shoulder – or feel that they have to shoulder to make sure that there are positive images out there and not wanting to be oppressed or slaves – do you think you have double the responsibility because of your ethnicity?

Djimon: you can’t help it whether you want to be responsible or not. It comes with it. It’s my make up and I’m trying to redefine myself as a human being. And that’s part of it. It’s going to come along. I don’t know if I answered your question, but definitely you can’t help but be responsible for yourself, African American and Africans in general.

Would you sacrifice money for art?

long pause

If someone offered you 20 million for an image that you are not quite comfortable with or here comes a little indie paying you 2 million for the role of a lifetime.

Djimon: Yeah I would. I mean the 20 million ain’t gonna get me anywhere. I mean 20 million would be nice, but it ain’t gonna define me in life. But before I turn it down, I’m going to try to get them to change the charater and give him a bit more integrity. You see what I’m saying?

So what does define you?

Djimon: What does define me? In what way? What defines me..?

Well you said money doesn’t define you –

Djimon: Money doesn’t really define – it doesn’t make you a great person. You know? I mean rich people – I’ve come across rich people and I feel sorry that money doesn’t help them, you know? You can have all the money in the would and not have any taste as well. You see what I’m saying? But money doesn’t really define a human being. Or we would all be in trouble.

Okay so I guess I’m asking what makes you happy? What encourages you to wake up in the morning and take on the world?

Djimon: *long pause* Hmmm. I guess this is the best time of any to talk about this. I have the luxury of being part of a team that started raising their voice on behalf of the continent of Africa at the G8 Summit. We are asking for 100% debt cancellation and helping the country more, but in a way that it will become self-sufficient because Africa can not become sufficient tomorrow without trade – fair trade. You must allow fair trade between the developed world and Africa. And make sure that we end extreme poverty in those countries and certainly in the continent of Africa. So that is what keeps me – hopeful and humane. You know? I find that when you are in the position to do something and help save lives and you don’t, your life is pretty pointless. So Africa is on the map at the G8 Summit and for the first time in history of the world Africa is on the minds of people and the leaders of the developed world are trying to find ways to better and end extreme poverty in Africa.

Are those what the wristbands signify?

Djimon: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s all related to the live 8 concert as well.

How long have you been involved in this?

Djimon: I’ve been involved for a few months now. Since Bono called and asked me to come onboard. So we started campaigning for The One. You know doing the commercials and getting people to sign on to theone.org and makepovertyhistory.org it’s been the past few months in terms of the concert together to before the g8 summit takes place to generate a strong movement. To get the leaders to do the right thing. It’s ongoing journey. It will go on. And we have to end the corruption in the continent as well. You have to get together to help bring attention to it and find solutions.

Look for The Island in theaters on July 22nd.

Developed by Francis Doody

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