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Exclusive: Djimon Hounsou Downplays Comedy in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ Says There is “Quite a Bit of Action”

Djimon Hounsou Guardians of the Galaxy
Millennium Films/Marvel

Djimon Hounsou isn’t playing the first black superhero put on film, but he’s determined to make sure that he isn’t the last. At the 2013 Comic-Con panel for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ Hounsou recalled the time that his son wished he could be light-skinned so he could play Spider-Man, and the sobering anecdote inspired him to play Korath for writer-director James Gunn – and further, to introduce a character that would give comic fans of color a hero to aspire to, impersonate and admire. With filming almost completed on the adaptation, Hounsou seems pleased with his work, and appreciative of the opportunity to play in the toy box of the Marvel Universe – as much for fun as the chance to create a role model for his son.

At the recent Los Angeles press day for ‘Baggage Claim,’ in which he plays a successful hotelier who attempts to woo flight attendant Montana (Paula Patton), Hounsou sat down with ScreenCrush to discuss his work in the upcoming comic book movie. In addition to talking about what prompted his recollection about his son, he observes some other hard truths about the moviemaking business, and reveals a few details about the kinds of challenges he tackles in the film.

At Comic-Con and you talked about taking Guardians of the Galaxy because your son told you he wanted to be light-skinned so he could play Spider-Man.

I just thought about that story when I was there. I mean, obviously it’s been disturbing me for some time that my son said that. So I’ve been on a journey to try to show him other superheroes that are of our color, that are diverse, and I find it difficult to find something online. The only thing I found was my own voiceover of Black Panther that I did for an animation for BET some time ago. But it was interesting to be there for that and remembering that my son once said that. That was the first thing that shocked me and realized that we as a minority don’t have heroes. Yeah, that shocked me.

Guardians of the Galaxy is such a outlier for the Marvel Universe. Do you feel like that gives you a broader license to create a character that is your own, or is there a certain amount of obligation that you feel to make him fit alongside those maybe more conventional heroes?

Not really, creatively not. I think that’s what you’re saying. Creatively not, but at the same time, it is a great place to be. [These are the] vehicles of today, making films of that nature – nobody’s making nice, human stories anymore, it’s all about superheroes. And I guess it’s a period that we’re going through, and that’s all right – it’s not to be cursed anyway. But at the same time, I’ve been wanting to enter the Marvel Comics world, and this was a nice opportunity, shooting this. And certainly my character in Guardians is pretty cool. So I like that.

How has shooting been so far?

It’s been great. I mean I got to go back and finish, but it’s been great.

How much of your stuff have you shot at this point?

Most of my stuff, yes. I shot and I still have one more week left, one more big scene to do.

How much physicality is there to sort of the stuff that you’re doing? Is there a lot of action or, you know?

Well, there is but not a lot – I’m doing a quite a bit of action but it’s not that much compared to some other films that I’ve done with kicking and boxing. But this is more contained, yeah, it’s quite fun.

James Gunn has such an idiosyncratic sense of humor. How does that manifest itself in the role that you play? Particularly because in the context of ['Baggage Claim'], it seems like you’re making a transition into material that has more comedy to it.

Well, yeah. I’m not really concentrating or thinking about the comedy aspect. I’m just thinking about the variety of flavorful work, if you will. And again, the Marvel world always is interesting for anybody, really. And for your son to see you almost like a superhero, I mean I’m not playing a superhero but like, you know, to see you in that sort of like world is quite fun. And it’s fun for us as grownups as well to be playing tough boys. At the end of the day it’s all about cowboys and Indians.

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