Malawian actor shines in new Hollywood flick: Eugine Khumbanyiwa

After starring at the stern drug-lord Obesanjo 7 in ‘District 9’ sci-fi, the South African based  Malawian actor, Eugine Khumbanyiwa is drawing rave reviews for his role in ‘Death Race 3’ in which he plays race driver Nero.

And once again, the Zomba-bred actor just can’t representing Malawi as he throws in a couple of Chichewa lines during the thick of the action.

‘Death Race 3’ was released in the US last week and was shot in the South African coastal city of Cape Town.

In the movie, Frankenstein (Luke Goss) is up for his final race for his freedom. In a hostile takeover Weyland (Ving Rhames) has sold the company which sponsors the races to Niles York (Dougray Scott) an immediately unlikeable person. Niles plans to franchise Death Race around the globe, but to have an audience he needs Frankenstein. Frankenstein is given the ultimatum by Niles: Lose or Die.

Eugene Khumbanyiwa (left) is at it again.
Eugene Khumbanyiwa (left) is at it again.

The race takes place in South Africa through friendly and unfriendly shanty towns as well as desert. Frankenstein races against people who would rather see him dead than win the race. Names like: Razor, Nero, Joker, Pretty Boy, Olga, and Psycho. Prior to the race the female navigators are placed in a caged death match as 16 Xena looking/dressed women fight each other until 10 are left.

Khumbanyimba said it felt great working with Hollywood stars Danny Trejo, Luke Goss and Ving Rhames on set.

“To me meeting Danny Trejo was a humbling experience. Seeing him in person took me to my childhood days as a boy watching movies like ‘Con Air’, ‘Replacement Killers’, and so forth in Malawi. You get together with the boys, look for someone who has got a VHS player at home and whose parents can allow us all to come and enjoy the action movies or maybe the parents are not home at all.

“Danny reminded me of those days when it was a dream to be in a movie one day. I remember we used to fuss a lot about the big tattoo on his chest (long before tattoos were common) and wonder how scary he is like in real life.”

Khumbanyiwa says he was surprised that the seemingly scary actor on TV was actually an ordinary guy.

“The Danny I met on set was never the tough scary guy I once thought he would be like or the one you see in ‘Con Air’ or in movies like ‘Machete’. In real life he is as harmless as a puppy, very friendly, and so down to earth, even after decades in Hollywood and numberless big movies under his resumẻ, the guy is just plain humble. I was very impressed.

“As for the lead actor Luke Goss, we were chatting about his singing days, him and his twin brother during their teen-boy-band days as Bros, how they influenced our teens days together with other pop boy-bands like New Kids On The Block and so on. They were quite a hit for those who remember them. As for his acting I enjoyed him in ‘Blade 2’ alongside Wesley Snipes and in ‘Hellboy 2’, he is a fantastic actor and a very humble human being.

“As for Ving Rhames, I am a very big fan of his work, I always will be. Though, I didn’t get to share a scene with him but just seeing him on set made me count my blessings and realise how far I have come. So, to answer your question let me just say being around them felt like home .”

Khumbanyiwa had his first acting experience as an uncredited extra in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda, where he met Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo.

Prior to the 2009 film District 9, Khumbanyiwa appeared in Crime Safari and Jerusalema. He also acted in various TV commercials and South African soap operas like Generations and Scandal.

His role in District 9 attracted newfound attention. Following the film’s release, he shot an American TV commercial for a security product, Identity Guard.

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