Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.
The Knockturnal: The movie, of course, has all that great action to it; as you’re so familiar with it. Because you’ve done so many action films, do you have a natural inclination towards films with big action sequences?
Djimon Hounsou: Do I have a penchant for that? Maybe so. I’m very athletic. I like to be quite physical; and so, it’s fun for me.
The Knockturnal: Does it get harder or easier for you with these action sequences? ‘Cause I know there’s so much choreography that goes into it …
Djimon Hounsou: Yeah; sometimes. Sometimes it gets really hectic and certainly when you’re battling with such a massive number of people coming together in which we also have an action sequence within that … You know; yeah. I mean it’s quite, in a dangerous way, it’s quite exciting. But in this film, I had less to do physically. It seems like so much-
The Knockturnal: It seems like a lot.
Djimon Hounsou: It seems like I’m doing a lot. But what I have to say, first of all, my training was different because I really didn’t have to do that much training. ‘Cause again, having had such a great background on sword fighting; mixed martial arts; kung-fu; boxing … Those things become quite handy when I’m doing a fight scene in a film. And I really don’t need much time with the choreography. I understand the dance of fighting. Yeah; it’s just something I like and it’s fun to do.
The Knockturnal: This version of King Arthur is by far … Completely different from-
Djimon Hounsou: I mean, by far the best interpretation of King Arthur. Because now I get to see the king rising. This man, rising to be a king. Which we never had that, in the previous interpretations.
The Knockturnal: No; exactly.
Djimon Hounsou: So, here we get to see him as a young man. A kid who’s raised in a brothel. Who’s a young man on the streets, sort of like, hustling. And we see a reluctant …
The Knockturnal: A reluctant leader.
Djimon Hounsou: … a reluctant leader. And his humility really adds to him as king; his demeanor as king.
The Knockturnal: What do you think people will relate to, from his story?
Djimon Hounsou: Well, the one thing that most of us can relate to, is looking at somebody coming from zero. Coming from nothing … which most of us folks … It is our make-up.
The Knockturnal: We have no choice but to deal with it.
Djimon Hounsou: And more importantly, we have to do much more. Ten times more than the other people, in order to be affirmed … Looking at that, obviously, most of us can identify with this king. But I personally, have a vivid recognition looking at this story when I was 15 years old, growing up in France. That was the first time I came to the story. The John Bowman interpretation. And I felt, “Wow; that sounds like some of the African kings.” And one particular king from my country was like that. Imbued with so much magical power. And he was like a gangster. Indoctrination of the French .. he was, back then, absolutely against slavery and the slave trade, also. And he was quite powerful. Quite a force to be reckoned with. Similarly, I thought that I could, at that time, identify with this story. But it took me … At the time, I thought this was a true king who once existed here. But any time a story, like this, you spend a long enough time telling … Eventually, it will, little by little, become real.
The Knockturnal: Right. Well, that’s the whole point of mythology, is to make it real.
Djimon Hounsou: So aside from those subtle messages of camaraderie, loyalty, friendship … They man up together, to go on a journey … It’s those strong messages.
The Knockturnal: Your character’s almost like a father figure to the future king, in a way. Did you take any of your own being a father? Or is it different?
Djimon Hounsou: It’s quite different because now I’m dealing with a man. He was born when I was a knight under his father’s kingdom. Uther Pendragon. I knew the Pendragon family. I was a knight under his father. So, obviously, I saw him growing up before. But now after twenty-five years of maturity for this born king … Eventually when I come to meet him, obviously, there’s a sense of responsibility that he must fulfill. That I’m trying to get him to do, to recognize and man-up to.
The Knockturnal: Push him along. Be a man.
Djimon Hounsou: Yeah.
The Knockturnal: You’ve done almost every type of movie in the world. From big action to drama … Which is an amazing thing. What kind of film haven’t you done, that you’d still like to do?
Djimon Hounsou: Well, my friend, I don’t know. But I know an extensive list of stories of our people that we haven’t seen yet.
The Knockturnal: So true. Any particular story you want to tell?
Djimon Hounsou: Well, there are quite a few. I’d like to tell the story, which I’m developing, of the Amazon women. Which also has something to do with my country of origin. Also, want to tell the story of this wonderful, interesting and enigmatic … Was once the president of DRC, Democratic Republic of Congo. Mobutu. His story. His legacy. And it is not so much that … Certainly, it’s an interesting story to be told. And certainly, it shines its light on the indoctrination of the continent. Or the aftermath of the indoctrination of the continent. Or the aftermath of independence, of Africa.
The Knockturnal: Talk about working with Guy Ritchie. He has such a specific filmmaking style. That’s really cool to see it adapted to the Middle Age. So, talk about working with him.
Djimon Hounsou: It was wonderful to work with him. I’ve known him for over twenty years. I’ve been, you know sorta like, hoping and begging to work with him. And the call came in, and it was him calling me. And he said, “Hey Djimon, How you doing, bro? So. I’m doing King Arthur and I’m thinking about you for Sir Bedivere.” and I said “Yes; I’m coming! Guy, I’m coming!” And then, that was it. So, I took my flight to London, to go meet him. And, yeah; I was quite intimidated by working with him. Obviously, I had such a tremendous respect for him. I mean, back twenty years when I met the man, he had just finished Snatch. And Snatch had a fucking, amazing success. And I’m thinking, “Man, I gotta work with this guy.”
The Knockturnal: Checklist.
Djimon Hounsou: Checklist.
The Knockturnal: When you come to these stories, like you have before, with comic book and now King Arthur, is there pressure sometimes from the fans to tell it exactly as, or do you think it’s more interesting to put a different spin on it?
Djimon Hounsou: Well, I think it was quite interesting to see the way Guy Ritchie put a spin on this King Arthur. Certainly, I did not see my kind in that story, up until Guy Ritchie calls me and say, ‘Hey, I want you to play Bedivere.’
The Knockturnal: And that you were sprinkled throughout that picture, probably.
Djimon Hounsou: That speaks volumes of today’s social issues, that we have in America. And across the world; certainly, having imagined … So, I guess how he put the ensemble cast together … That says a lot-
The Knockturnal: It does.
Djimon Hounsou: It also speaks volumes as the state of England. Which is one of the most cosmopolitan countries in the world.
The Knockturnal: Without a doubt.
Djimon Hounsou: Right? And New York City’s right behind it. So, there’s a great value in that
The Knockturnal: How do you go about picking parts? What is of interest to you?
Djimon Hounsou: You know, I don’t want to sound so … But you have to be mindful, that a lot of the stories that you end up making, sometimes those stories find you as well. Again; you’re only left with what’s available, at any given time. This happened to be a moment for King Arthur. And we had an amazing collaboration with Guy Ritchie, Charlie Hunnam, Eric Bana, Jude Law … I mean, imagine the ensemble cast! And then we had some cameos in the story, with David Beckham and
The Knockturnal: And Guy [Ritchie] pops up.
Djimon Hounsou: And Guy pops up. That was a surprise for me, ’cause I was wasn’t there the day they shot that. “Oh; that’s him.”
The Knockturnal: It’s kind of if you blink you don’t see him.
Djimon Hounsou: Yeah; if you blink you won’t see him. And if you blink, a little too long, too many times, you might not see Beckham, either.
The Knockturnal: Yeah; Beckham. He’s giving his lines.
Djimon Hounsou: That was good. That was great. I almost didn’t recognize him. Because they sort of destroyed him. Made him look so rough.
The Knockturnal: They gave him some scars. Some war paint. It was good….I’m excited for people to watch this movie.
Djimon Hounsou: It speaks friendship, camaraderie, loyalty … It’s powerful.