You'll recall Djimon Hounsou from his affecting turn in 1997's slavery drama, Amistad. Listening to the West Africa native's soft, sophisticated speech patterns, it's hard to believe his story of how he taught himself English. Hounsou — who plays Angelina Jolie's interpreter in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (opening Friday) — insists he owes his fluency to television.
"I watched a lot of documentaries," says the 39-year-old ex-model. "I liked watching anything about nature and learning about scientific stuff — Discovery, the Learning Channel, the History Channel. They have nice diction."
Hounsou landed on the other side of the language divide while filming Tomb Raider in a remote region of Kenya. Members of the Pokot tribe, many of whom had never even seen a movie before, served as extras. And they picked up the quirky setside lingo fast.
As Hounsou recalls: "The phrase they kept hearing after 'Rolling!' and 'Action!' was always, 'Back to one, back to one, back to one.'" (For you non-actors, that's simply the director's instruction to start a scene over.) "After a while," he adds, "they were getting tired of going back to one, so that's the only phrase they remembered!"