MCM: Djimon Hounsou

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Djimon Hounsou is an immensely talented actor who is originally from Benin but now lives and works in the U.S.. Seeing him pop up in The King’s Man reminded me how I always enjoy his performances, so let’s take a look!

 

Cinque in Amistad (1997)

As the leader of a group of enslaved people who in 1837, rebel against their captors and end up in legal jeopardy. Based on a true story! OK so it’s semi-white savior-y, but Hounsou gives a heart-wrenching performance.

1997 Amistad 1997 Amistad 1997 Amistad

 

Juba in Gladiator (2000)

As an originally Numidian gladiator and second fiddle to Russell Crowe in this ancient Roman sword-and-sandals epic.

2000 Gladiator 2000 Gladiator

 

Abou Fatma in The Four Feathers (2002)

As a mercenary warrior in Sudan during the British Army’s Gordon Relief Expedition (late 1884 to early 1885). A truly terrible movie, although not Hounsou’s fault.

2002 The Four Feathers 2002 The Four Feathers

 

Woodhead in Renegade (2004)

A Western set in 1870 Arizona.

2004 Renegade

 

Caliban in The Tempest (2010)

I never think of this as a historical costume movie, but if I forget it, you all will remind me.

2010 The Tempest

 

Chief Mbonga in The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

As the leader of a tribe in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I have my doubts, but someday I will watch this if only in memory of the greatest movie review of all time.

2016 The Legend of Tarzan 2016 The Legend of Tarzan

 

Bedivere in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

A Guy Ritchie (director) boy version of the legendary British myth.

2017 King Arthur- Legend of the Sword 2017 King Arthur- Legend of the Sword 2017 King Arthur- Legend of the Sword

 

? in The Longest Day in Chang’an (2019)

This TV show is listed on Hounsou’s IMDB page, but without a character name. According to IMDB, “A former detective turned convicted criminal becomes China’s last hope to thwart mysterious invaders who threaten the empire’s capital city on the day before the Lantern Festival.”

2019 The Longest Day in Chang'an

 

Shola in The King’s Man (2021)

He plays a butler and member of an Edwardian spy network.

2021 The King's Man 2021 The King's Man 2021 The King's Man

 

What’s your favorite historical role played by Djimon Hounsou?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

25 Responses

  1. Roxana

    I heartily endorse lots more movies with African historical settings for this very sexy man! Shoehorning black people into European historical flicks becomes even more irritating when you reflect on the HUGE numbers of stories in African history and mythology! Could we be a little less parochial here? Set a film at the gorgeous court of Manda Musa, just think of the fabulous costume possibilities!

    Reply
    • Kat

      The problem with Hollywood is that even when they set a film in a majority PoC country, they still have to find a way to shoehorn in a white (usually male) character for audiences to “identify with” (see: Aladdin, Hounsou’s own Blood Diamond where he plays second fiddle to Leonardo Dicaprio, Silence, The Great Wall, etc.) I’d rather have films like the King’s Man where they can make a reasonable explanation for someone like Hounsou being a bodyguard/valet in England, than trying to cram a white person into the narrative where they wouldn’t have existed.

      Reply
      • Roxana

        I don’t want white or black people shoehorned in where they don’t belong. Hollywood is full of idiots. Speaking as a member of the audience we are fully capable of identifying with people of different colors and sexes.
        A white person in the Empire of Mali for example would be possible but unlikely and unnecessary. But there’d be a magnificent emperor and his deadly decadent court of characters to identify with.

        Reply
  2. Saraquill

    In terms of frock flicks, his performance in Amistad sticks out the most. Overall, it’s his voice that does it for me. Not at the level of Keith David or Idris Elba, but it’s close.

    Reply
  3. Carrie

    Though I loved Gladiator and Amistad, and his acting in both, I remember once reading an interview where Djimon said he never wanted to play another slave role. I’d love to see him in more frock flicks, whether set in Africa or anywhere else.

    Reply
  4. MJ

    I’ve tuned out The Four Feathers so hard I forgot he was in it! But will always remember being introduced to Hounsou in Gladiator.

    Reply
  5. Sharon in Scotland

    Side bar, read the review of “Tarzan”……..so very very funny, thank you for the heads up

    Reply
    • hsc

      Can you imagine sitting behind this reviewer in the theater for THE NORTHMAN?

      I’d swear I sat through WOMEN IN LOVE in a packed revival house with her many years ago.

      During the nude wrestling scene, a total stranger actually grabbed my forearm and held it for the duration of the scene. I think she may have even “gotten there” by the end.

      When it was over, I deadpanned, “Was it good for you, too?” She got up and left.

      Reply
  6. Jessica A

    I know this is fantasy but it’s kinda sorta based on history, but Djimon Honsou played one of Ra’s minions in Stargate (1994)

    Reply
  7. M.E. Lawrence

    Thank you, Kendra–that “Tarzan” review was pretty damned wonderful. I’ve seen little of Honsou, but he clearly deserves more frock-flick roles in which he’s not a slave and not having to endure white saviors.

    Reply
    • Sarah P Combs

      LOVED the review! More like this, please to all who are responsible. Emily does write with a snappy, funny tone–much like Frock Flicks.

      Reply
    • Roxana

      While I completely understand where the reviewer is coming from I must say that going by the images I think Chief M’Bonga gives Tarzan a run for his money. I mean look at those pectorals! And the biceps!

      Reply
  8. florenceandtheai

    I’ve only seen Gladiator. I thought “who is that beautiful person?” (obvs not referring to Pudge Crowe). I’d like to see King’s Man, if only because he looks like he’s having fun. The makeup in that still from The Tempest is truly wild!

    Reply
    • Kat

      King’s Man is definitely less about the historical accuracy and more about the wild fight scenes (Rasputin’s sword battle was entirely based on Russian ballet, which is awesome). Still it’s a good popcorn movie and Hounsou’s character isn’t shoehorned – it’s set up that he meets Ralph Fiennes as a guide while the latter is working for the Red Cross during the Boer War and then travels back to England with him. Plus he gets a very nice shirtless fight scene that seems to have been put in entirely for the eye candy.

      Reply
  9. Bev

    The Legend of Tarzan really isn’t a good movie at all, but Emily’s review of it is chef’s kiss.

    I want her to review all the bad movies ever.

    Reply
  10. Lily Lotus Rose

    OMG——DELICIOUS!!!!! Absolutely DELICIOUS! I’ve seen most of these movies and it’s hard for me to pick a favorite role. He’s always good and always stately. It’s just a part of his presence that’s in his roles no matter who he plays. For anyone on the fence about seeing Guy Ritchie’s version of King Arthur, I say go for it. As one of 10 people on planet earth who paid to see it in the movie theaters, I’d say it’s a good popcorn movie–and also about what you’d expect from Guy Ritchie + lots and lots of hot guys. I like him in non Frock Flick roles too, especially In America. And can we give a shot out to him looking fine as hell in Janet Jackson’s Love Will Never Do Without You video. Back to FrockFlicks, I’m LOVING his look in The Longest Day in Chang’an. FABULOUS MCM choice!!!!

    Reply
  11. Orian Hutton

    Love him in the films I have seen, but I suppose ‘Gladiator’ stands out. First time I sat up and noticed. A very talented (and handsome) man.

    But what’s with the ‘OK so it’s semi-white savior-y’ comment on the film ‘Amistad’. How would these men have won back their freedom without the support of the ‘white’ men who argued their case? It also helped that the supposed slaves had been kidnapped from Sierra Leone, a colony set up by the British government (more white men) to take in those freed from slave ships by the British West African Squadron, specifically set up to blockade the Atlantic slave trade. (and when that was stopped, the squadron moved around to the East coast).

    Africans sold into slavery were originally abducted by other Africans. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, it isn’t the colour of your skin that makes you a good or a bad person, but the content of your character. If a person, whatever the colour of their skin, does the right thing, why demean it?

    Reply
    • Kendra

      Everything you write is true, I’m just even more aware these days how many films fail to center non-white experiences. This is an amazing story and I’m glad it was told, but it’s definitely framed for the American/European viewer. We don’t even get subtitles on the enslaved Africans’ dialogue, as I recall. Instead of centering THEIR experience, from their point of view, we mostly get a Western interpretation of the events. So while it’s a noble and good movie, it would be even more relevant if it was told through the experiences of Cinque and his compatriots. Does that make sense?

      Reply
      • Roxana

        I see what you mean and you’re right. There was definitely a story in the white folks wrestling with their ideals and their prejudices but the story of the Africans adrift in an alien culture, lost, scared and determined is equally compelling and should have been told.

        Reply
  12. SarahV

    That is indeed the most awesome review of all time. I quite in pertinent part: Alexander Skarsgard because he always looks so sad. And then he would say – nothing because you’re my wife. And then we would bang..

    Reply
  13. Liv Z

    Just wanted to give a shout-out to The Longest Day in Chang An- his character Master Ge is a ruthless ruler of the city’s underworld. It’s a relatively minor role in the overall series and His voice is dubbed in Mandarin by another actor but his performance and presence absolutely kill it!

    Reply

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