Hounsou, Djimon (Constantine)


Though not a huge name in our genre, Djimon Hounsou has certainly been in some cool films before taking the role of Papa Midnite in Constantine. He played one of the guards in Stargate, and took a turn beating up Kevin J. O’Connor in Deep Rising. As part of the Constantine junket we got to sit down and chat with him about his part opposite star Keanu Reeves.

Question: Did you just like the overall project or were you interested in doing a fantasy, supernatural thing?

Djimon Hounsou: Yeah, I liked the overall project, but my attraction to the story has to do with its the ultimate question, whether some of us get the chance to go to heaven, and what heaven is.

Q: Where is it anyway?

DH: Heaven? Somewhere (laughs).

Q: How did you like the costume?

DH: I loved it. Obviously it was perfect for Papa Midnite. It was cool.

Q: Did you do any research, read any comics?

DH: No. I strongly believe that this is one story that you don’t want to do any research. With all of the attributes to the story, I think it’s the aspect of having to deal with heaven and hell. Hell is certainly not appealing to research.

Q: Did you look at the comics at all?

DH: No, I didn’t know about Hellblazer before this story. But certainly I believe that, like in the case of John Constantine, there are very few people who have the ability to see beyond this realm. It could possibly be the case also when it comes to Jesus Christ’s story. Maybe he was one of the few chosen to really have that gift and have the use for it.

Q: Did you see Papa Midnight more as a clergyman or more as a businessman?

DH: I really thought I saw him as a politician. I saw him as somebody who understood his own limitations and respected others to co-exist. His politics were really not bad. There’s really no negative connotation to it. It’s through his politics really that they are all allowed to co-exist. That’s what creates the bonus for him.

Q: How well did you get to know Keanu?

DH: Um, well enough to kick his ass at ping pong (laughs).

Q: Where were the ping pong games played at?

DH: Oh, you know, from time to time when we had to shoot at the studio, they had a table next door so we could do that. During our downtime we could play a couple of games.

Q: What was the wager at the ping pong game?

DH: We didn’t have a wager. No bets. All I wanted to do was kick his ass. Just the fact that I knew I was eventually able to accomplish that and talk about it.

Q: Was it that you’re that good or he’s that bad?

DH: No, he’s good and that just makes me better! He’s a ping pong fanatic. He really loves it.

Q: You taught yourself to speak English; you’ve had quite a journey. Could you have ever imagined that you’d be on the journey that you are now?

DH: No, if I have to imagine starting all over now, it would be difficult. Not knowing anything and not knowing the direction that the course is going to take later, if I knew it would end up like this now I’d probably do it again. But not knowing is the most challenging part of it. And being here today, that’s why you sometimes do like a question whether some of us are really destined to do certain things because things happen in the way they happen. Given my background and where I came from, where I was born and my life condition at the point and my life condition now, it’s unbelievable. I mean, it’s just night and day. So, yeah, it’s been an amazing journey.

Q: You’ve done period pieces and contemporary pieces. Does this one feel more contemporary or more like a period piece?

DH: Constantine doesn’t feel like it has any period to me. It does feel contemporary, but it also feels period. It doesn’t feel like it has any defining moment in time. You see what I’m saying?

Q: It’s kind of timeless?

DH: Yes, it’s kind of timeless. That’s what I’m saying.

Q: Is there a message you hope the audience walks away from the movie with?

DH: It’s difficult to weigh because we’re not really preaching anything. If anything, we’re just questioning a certain condition of us as human beings on earth and whether the next life does truly exist. But I think other than the awareness that people can maybe walk away with having to really redefine their own lives that’s about it, really.

Q: What about The Island?

DH: The Island is a Michael Bay movie with Ewan McGregor starring and Scarlett Johanssen. I’m on the chase, I’m a special agent hired to pursue them, to bring them back to the island.

Q: So is it a very action intense role?

DH: It’s an intense role. It’s full of action. It’s fun. But I think we’ll probably sit here again and talk about that later. It’s going to be a very challenging story and subject matter for that matter. It deals with cloning and deals with us coming to terms with wanting to live life forever or live young forever. So, that’s where it takes place, you know. The rich people are essentially buying themselves a certain policy to live long and for them to live long and have themselves cloned, so that when something goes wrong, they can go and take.

Q: So, it’s a Michael Bay movie with a message?

DH: A very strong message.

Q: You’re pretty physical with Keanu at a couple of points. Do you enjoy blocking fight scenes and do you get to do all of your own?

DH: I like to do all of them, but lately I’ve been finding out that I should just let people do what they’re hired to do. I should just not do certain things, you know. But yeah, I like to…it’s fun, you know. That’s what we’re in the game for really; to play. We’re just a bunch of kids who like to play on a daily basis.

Q: How into it can you get before you get too rough with the other actor?

DH: That’s the problem. You do get carried away in hurting people. I mean, I’ve hurt people and I’ve hurt myself as well in the process in so many movies that I’ve done so far.

Q: On this one?

DH: Constantine, no. Hopefully I didn’t hurt Keanu. Just ask him about my powers (laughs).

Q: There’s a couple of spots where you’re physically grabbing him and slamming him into the wall.

DH: Yeah, I know. No, I didn’t hurt him. I just burned his $200 shirt, but I didn’t hurt him.

Q: Would you be up for reprising your role if they do a sequel?

DH: Oh, definitely. I think Papa Midnight needs to be revisited. I think Papa Midnight needs to be defined. He hasn’t been defined yet.

Q: Could Papa Midnite have his own movie?

DH: Ah, I think Papa Midnight could exist without John Constantine, but I think there’s more of a dynamic there when they’re together.

Q: Did you know anything about the religion Papa Midnight comes from?

DH: No, because we’re creating something completely new here. I just dug into my own experiences and my background.

Q: You were nominated for an Oscar, what was that experience like?

DH: It was amazing. I’m still remembering it. It was a beautiful thing.

Q: Are you looking for those kinds of roles again?

DH: Of course, not specifically, exactly the same thing, but of course. That’s the artistic side, if you want to talk about work. We do some action pictures to sort of satisfy other sides of us.

Big thanks to Warner Bros. for allowing us to chat with Mr. Hounsou and to the man himself for taking time for us. Constantine opens everywhere on February 18th. Be sure to visit its official site right here for more cool stuff!

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