Djimon Hounsou

Active - 1990 - 2022  |   Born - Apr 24, 1964 in Cotonou, Benin  |   Genres - Drama, Action, Thriller

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Biography by Ryan Shriver

Actor Djimon Hounsou first gained acting attention in Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997). Born April 24th, 1964 in West Africa, he moved with his family to Paris, France, at age 13. When he left school, he became homeless and spent a couple of years wandering the streets of Paris before being discovered by fashion designer Thierry Mugler. After he resettled himself, Hounsou moved to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting.

While on the way to stardom, Hounsou appeared in music videos, including those of Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Steve Winwood. After his turn as a rebellious slave in Amistad, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, he found increasingly steady employment on both the big and small screens, becoming a semi-regular on the hospital drama ER and appearing in such films as the historical epic Gladiator (2000). After such high-profile projects, Hounsou's success in the following two years would prove no surprise to anyone who glanced at his filmography. Aside from prominent roles in such high-profile French films as 2002's Le Boulet (Dead Weight) and the following year's Muraya -- l'Expérience Secrète de Mike Blueberry (The Adventures of Mike S. Blueberry), Hounsou's bid for screen stardom was simultaneously on display in such stateside features as The Four Feathers (2002), Biker Boyz, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider -- The Cradle of Life (both 2003).

In 2003, Hounsou received his first Oscar nomination for his acclaimed supporting role in Jim Sheridan's In America. And while he spent much of the next three years appearing in films that earned mixed reactions from both audiences and critics, he was back in top form in 2006's Blood Diamond, which found him opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. The film appeared on a number of Top Ten lists, garnered Hounsou accolades from countless critics groups and snagged him his second Oscar nod.

Following the success of Blood Diamond, Hounsou made several guest appearances on th popular television show Alias, and joined filmmaker Michae Bay’s 2005 action drama The Island, which co-stars Scarlet Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Sean Bean. In 2009, Hounsou played the rle of n aget determined to thwart the plans of a group of telekinetic American ex-pats. The actor joined the Academy-award winning actress Helen Mirren in the 2011 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in which Mirren played the traditionally male role of Prospero.

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  • Was sent to France by his parents at the age of 13 to live with his older brother and get an education.
  • After dropping out of school and spending a year living on the streets of Paris, was spotted by a fashion photographer who helped him secure a job modeling for French designer Thierry Mugler.
  • Appeared in several high-profile music videos early on, including Madonna's "Express Yourself," Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" (both directed by David Fincher) and Janet Jackson's "Love Will Never Do Without You."
  • In 1990, landed a minor role on Beverly Hills, 90210 and made his feature-film debut with a small part in Sandra Bernhard's little-seen Without You I'm Nothing.
  • Won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards for his role as Cinqué in 1997's Amistad.
  • Won Best Supporting Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards, the San Diego Film Critics' Awards and the Satellite Awards for 2002's In America.
  • Attended a 2009 United Nations summit and spoke about climate change and his concern for Africa's environment.