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Feature: Blood Diamond

Blood Brothers

Djimon Hounsou and  Leonardo DiCaprio

Heat exhaustion, gruelling physical work and death threats. All in a day’s work for Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou on set…

Djimon Hounsou is pretty proud of his co-star and sometime bodyguard Leonardo Di Caprio. “I found out that he stood up for me when somebody threatened to shoot me at a place in South Africa,” the African-born star explains. “He said, ‘You’re going to have to go through me because I know this guy and I’m sure he didn’t do anything wrong to you’. The guy showed him his gun and said ‘We don’t do things like you do in Hollywood. Bling, bling. Here it’s bling… pow!’ And what did the mild-mannered Hounsou do to receive such a dire threat from his fellow countryman? “To this day, we can’t find out. We don’t know,” he laughs.

Welcome to the world of Blood Diamond, director Ed Zwick’s (The Last Samurai) new action-thriller that takes place against the background of civil-war torn Sierra Leone in the 1990s. DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, an ex-mercenary from Zimbabwe who allies himself with Mende fisherman Solomon Vandy (Houson) to find a rare and extremely valuable pink diamond. For Danny the gem could be his key to escaping the unstable and deeply dangerous country but for Solomon the stone could be the only chance he has to save his family from poverty and violence. The two men, born on the same continent and yet worlds apart, set out through dangerous rebel territory seeking the precious jewel that will change their lives.

For Hounsou, who is probably still best known for his appearances in Amistad (1997) and Gladiator (2000), Zwick’s film offered the opportunity to tell a story that is very close to his heart. “A major Hollywood studio taking this on it was a blessing for me personally,” says the actor, who hails from Benin in West Africa. “Reading [the script] I realized it wasn’t so much about the blood diamond. It enveloped so many other attributes, so many other issues about Africa; issues about child soldiers, issues of refugees, the displacement of millions of people, throughout the continent. Being an African and being in Hollywood making movies, these are the kinds of stories I love to take on, to bring more awareness to the world.”

DiCaprio, who has been on a winning streak of late with acclaimed turns in Martin Scorsese pictures The Aviator (2004) and The Departed (2006), may not have such close ties with Blood Diamond’s subject matter, but the actor’s similarly ardent about the importance of the film’s message. “I wasn’t personally going out seeking films with a social and political message just to do it for the sake of doing it,” says the LA born actor. “It has to be a good movie and it has to convey a message without the audience feeling they are being preached to. And to me it was very representative of a huge sort of issue in the world today of corporate responsibility. Here was this character that was exploiting others that were less fortunate than him, dealing in the black market and not really being conscious of the world he lives in.”

by Jim Reynolds

Read the full interviews in
Film Review (Feb)

Images © Warner Bros Pictures
Feature © Visual Imagination 2007. Not for reproduction

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Film Review (Feb), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Feb)
#679, February 2007
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