Djimon Hounsou Talks BAGGAGE CLAIM, Marriage, Creating a Backstory for His Character, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, and More

     September 25, 2013


The romantic comedy Baggage Claim follows Montana Moore (Paula Patton), a successful flight attendant and a devoted daughter, sister and friend, who just can’t manage to get her love life together.  With the help of her two best friends, Gail (Jill Scott) and Sam (Adam Brody), they devise a plan to have Montana conveniently meet up with eligible ex-boyfriends to see if any of them have since become the perfect guy.  Directed by David E. Talbert, the film also stars Derek Luke, Djimon Hounsou, Taye Diggs, Boris Kodjoe, Terrence J, Jenifer Lewis, Christina Milian, La La Anthony and Affion Crockett.

At the film’s press day, actor Djimon Hounsou (who plays the wealthy and exotic Quinton Jamison) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about why this project appealed to him, the opportunity he had to create his own backstory for the character, that he believes people should get to know and enjoy each other before considering marriage, and how much he enjoyed working with co-star Paula Patton.  He also talked about how important it was for him to show some diversity in a superhero movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, how fun and entertaining Marvel movies are to watch, and how he hopes to get some of his own projects into production soon.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

baggage-claim-posterWhat was it about this project and this character that appealed to you?

DJIMON HOUNSOU:  I looked at it and thought to myself, “If they’re interested in me for the role, I really don’t want to play anything other than a very successful African businessman, who does equally as well in the West as he does on the continent of Africa.”  That’s where my conversation went with (director) David [Talbert].  When most people in the West think about Africa, is their first thought about the game reserves and who’s chasing gazelles, or are they looking at Africans as people who are equally equipped to do great things, as in the West?  

Were you able to contribute a lot to the develop of this character, then?

HOUNSOU:  Yes, we tricked it a little bit, with the help of David understanding the backstory that I was creating for my character.

Out of all of the different men that Montana (Paula Patton) crosses paths with again, Quinton is the one that seems like the most viable option, but she still has her doubts.

HOUNSOU:  Just because he says, “I won’t marry you.”  I like that attribute in him, and how that played out between us in the film.  In order for what she’s looking for to happen, don’t we have to find one another and enjoy each other’s company, before we see what tomorrow brings?  We all seem to jump into marriage so much faster.  “I want to get married.”  “Well, can we talk about having fun, first?”  Some of the reason why you have so many divorces is that we tend to get married, most of the time, not for ourselves, but for others, or for how it looks to others.  “I want to get married.  All of my girlfriends are married, so I need to get married.  I need to have kids.”  If it’s not about marriage, it’s about having kids.  That propels you into a very troublesome situation.  What is the essence of what you’re looking for?  Everyone seems to be chasing something, but what if it’s right here, with you?  Until you are somewhat comfortable and confident and embrace who you are, as a person, you can’t possibly love somebody else because you don’t like yourself that much.  Then, you pour your whole being and existence into somebody else’s life.  And then, your existence is defined by that person’s life, so when that person isn’t there, you’re completely lost and you’re never yourself.  It’s the Western search for marriage and kids, and your well-being.  We have kids and we don’t fucking take the time to raise them because we can barely take care of ourselves.

baggage-claim-djimon-hounsou-paula-pattonHow was Paula Patton to work with and play off of?

HOUNSOU:  She has great energy.  She’s the lead, so she had to be free.  We all had to feel connected to her, in some way.  She’s a cool lady.

At Comic-Con, you talked about how important it was for you to be a part of Guardians of the Galaxy because of your son’s recognition of the lack of diversity in superhero movies.  Does that make it extra exciting to be a part of the film and to be working on that now?

HOUNSOU:  The lack of diversity, specifically in genre films and the superheroes our kids grow up watching and emulating, they can’t really identify with.  When you see the same thing, over and over again, and it seems not to speak of you and your heritage and your culture, it leaves you out of this world, a little bit.  It gives a certain social distance with your world.  So, it was very shocking when my son said that.  It shocked me, but at the same time, it was not a surprise.  It’s one of those things that even I have been looking for.  I’m looking for a hero of my kind, and I’m looking for a shero of my kind.  Now, we have Zoe Saldana, who is a shero for minorities, and that’s kind of nice. 

What’s it like to be a part of the Marvel universe?

HOUNSOU:  We like to make the Marvel comics films because they’re fun.  Families can go see them together.  They’re entertaining.  They aspire to inspire, and that is cool.  At the same time, not all of us can identify and connect, necessarily.  But, Marvel movies are so much fun.  Those guys are creating fun stuff. 

Djimon-HounsouDoes James Gunn change the script much on set, or do you not have that kind of creative freedom on such a big movie?

HOUNSOU:  I don’t really think, because it’s that expensive, it’s necessarily less free, as far as the creative freedom.  The creative freedom is still very much alive and existing, especially with genre films, because you can do that interpretation however you see fit.  It comes from a world that we are completely creating, from the ground up, and conceptualizing, from the group up.  So, it can go any kind of way.  Guardians of the Galaxy is a completely different world.  It has no place in this world.  Even for us, coming to set and looking at it, you go, “Wow!”  Every other day, you feel like you’re in a different part of the galaxy.  You don’t feel like you’re on planet earth.

Because you’re creating so much of it, are you mostly on a soundstage, or have you also been shooting out on location?

HOUNSOU:  We’re mostly on a soundstage, but some sets were built on the outside.  We’re in a space world.  It’s pretty cool.  It’s really fun.

Did your son also inspire you to do a voice for How to Train Your Dragon 2?

HOUNSOU:  Yes, definitely.  Also, I so desperately wanted to do Black Panther (for Marvel animation and BET) because I felt like it was time for it.  If you look at the world of comic books, Black Panther is one of the characters whose continent and country was always being invaded and he was always trying to defend it.  He’s kicked everybody’s ass, really.  All those superheroes who have come, at one point in time, to try to invade his country in Africa for minerals, he’s kicked most of their asses.  But, that’s part of the story we don’t want to tell yet.  I thought it was fun, and that it would be great for my son to see that.  He did see it and he said, “Papa, that sounds like you!  That’s your voice!”  It’s fun.

djimon-hounsou-01As an actor, is it fun to find a balance between doing roles where you can be very physical, and then bring a character to life with just your voice?

HOUNSOU:  Yes, it’s very fun.  It is very different.  One carries a bit of a heavy load, and one is entertaining and fun and light-hearted.  They both are very fun to do, and I definitely enjoy the more human stories, overall.  Any social being that does not have a voice out there is pretty much non-existent. 

Is there a type of role that you’d really like to do, but haven’t gotten the opportunity to do yet?

HOUNSOU:  I’m working on them.  I just can’t speak of them.  I think things are best talked about when they come together.  Then, people can understand what you’re working on.  I have years of development on a few things that I’m looking forward to them eventually coming to fruition.

Is it important to you to have creative involvement?

HOUNSOU:  For me, it’s important.  I did not want to deal with the business side of it, but I find that it’s important for me to do that.  Also, dealing with the business side creates outlets for me without necessarily waiting on the studios to employ me.  Part of it is also that I’m a minority in this industry.  I come from a continent that lacks so much voice in the world.  That said, I feel like I’m an instrument here, and there’s a great opportunity for some of those stories to come to life.

Baggage Claim opens in theaters on September 27th.

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