Mzansi pulls the big stars

2014-06-22 15:00

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South Africa is set to host a galaxy of Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning stars in the coming months – among them Benin-born actor Djimon Hounsou, who likes the country so much he’s coming back to shoot another film.

The two-time Oscar nominee will join former winners like Sean Penn and Charlize Theron, who are working together on Penn’s latest directorial effort, and Colin Firth, who is the star of South African director Gavin Hood’s newest venture.

Hood, too, is an Oscar winner.

Hounsou filmed Blood Diamond alongside Leonardo DiCaprio here in 2005, a project that earned him an Oscar nomination in the best supporting actor category.

It was his second nod in the same category from the Academy after a nomination in 2002 for In America.

Now Hounsou, who lends his voice to a baddie named Drago Bludvist in the sequel to another Oscar-nominated film, How to Train Your Dragon 2, is preparing to cap off a busy year with another big role.

In late September or early October he’ll be in the country to shoot a sci-fi film backed by South African producer Greig Buckle.

Buckle co-produced Life, Above All, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival official selection in 2011 and was South Africa’s official submission to the best foreign language category at the Oscars. Hounsou will star alongside Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect) in the new film, One, which is touted as a post­apocalyptic adventure and is the first co-production to come out of a treaty signed between South Africa and Australia in 2011.

“I can’t wait,” said Hounsou. “I’m coming soon. I’m looking forward to making another film in South Africa.”

He’s comfortably established in Hollywood, also appearing this year in the Guardians of the Galaxy series and the latest instalment of The Fast and the Furious.

But Hounsou remains committed to Africa.

“My passion is more about bringing the stories out from the African continent mixed with the West,” Hounsou told City Press during an interview at Cannes last month, where he was promoting How to Train Your Dragon 2.

He’s worried that not enough films from Africa get an international platform like the one provided at Cannes.

“The stories have to have a relevance in Africa, or with Africans, but they have to be as universal as any Hollywood story,” he said. “That’s the only time we are going to find African cinema transposing to Hollywood.”

Several big name projects are being shot here in the next few months, like Sean Penn’s latest directorial effort with his partner Charlize Theron and Spanish star Javier Bardiem, which starts filming in August.

South African director Hood will work with British actor Colin Firth on a project called Eye in the Sky, about a military intelligence officer charged with remotely commanding a top-secret drone operation in the name of preventing a terrorist attack.

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