Nollywood: Stars of yesterday…where they are now?

Where are they now?

Like a galaxy of stars, they shone sprightly in their prime. But they left fans almost high and dry, craving for an encore of their golden moments on the screen. Though few of them still snake their way into other engagements to make cameo appearances or sometimes spend their holidays fulfilling their first love (acting), there are no doubts that a terrific era of cinematic enchantment had passed by. LANRE ODUKOYA and ADEDAYO ODULAJA take a look at the stars fans sorely miss.

 

LANRE HASSAN

I only restrict myself to A-class movies…

Widely known as Iya Awero, Lanre Hassan has featured majorly in the Yoruba section of Nollywood.

That, however, is not to say she does not feature in a number of English language productions as well, one of which is the widely-watched Dear Mother in which she plays the role of a grandmother.

Since she started her career with the Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group long before the advent of video tapes, Lanre has starred in multiple films, among which are movies like Jawonbe, Ogbologbo, Ojabo Kofo, Pakúté Olórun, Owo Blow: The Genesis, Aso Ásiri, Family on Fire and Omo Elemosho.

Speaking on her current role in the movie industry, Lanre Hassan, who lost one of her eldest children, a 46-year-old daughter to ulcer last year, said: “Yes. I stopped (acting) for some time after the death of my children and my husband but I continued because this is the only business I know how best to do.

Let me say I only restrict myself to acting in A-class movies or soap operas. You know when you retire from acting low class movies; you have left the platform for the younger ones to grow. Because if you continue rushing like upcoming  actresses, then you have stifled the industry for the younger ones. I am an old woman and I will be glad if we have more females in the industry who can act well.”

 

REGINA ASKIA

She was at a time to Nollywood what Angelina Jolie is to Hollywood. Askia’s acting break came in 1993, when she played a gold-digger, Tokunbo Johnson, in Nigerian soap opera, Fortunes (later Mega Fortunes) on NTA Network. That was a role which earned her critical acclaim and roles in Nollywood movie.

The hazel-eyed one made heads turn not only on movie locations but also on the runway as she doubled as model. She was Miss UNILAG in 1998 and the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria in 1999.

She graced the cover of many movie jackets in the ‘90s and 2000s. She has received several awards for her performances – including one for “Best Actress in Nigeria” by Afro Hollywood London in year 2000 – and has produced several television shows and films.

Her role in famous movies like Suicide Mission, Most Wanted, The President’s Daughter, Full Moon, Festival of Fire and a horde of others still resonate with many. But in the mid-2000s, the lady left for the United States where she would later become a certified nurse.

And since then, she’s yet to feature in any Nigerian movie. Her full name is Imaobong Regina Askia Usoro. She was born in 1967 and is a graduate of Biology from University of Lagos.

 

SAINT OBI

He was the Steven Seagull of Nollywood until he disappeared from the scene sometime in early 2000s.

Obinna Nwafor popularly known as Saint Obi, was a Nigerian actor, producer and director. Saint Obi is best known for his roles in State of Emergency, Candle Light, Sakobi, Goodbye Tomorrow, Heart of Gold, Festival of Fire, Executive Crime and Last Party.

But this is just a fraction of what he’d achieved in the Nigerian movie industry.

‘Take Me to Mama’ was the first movie he produced. The graduate of Theatre Arts from University of Jos, Plateau State, when contacted to discuss his new venture, declined comments and claimed he was in the heat of a very important meeting. We gathered that at a recent function, he remarked; “as one grows older, you realise that you do not need to be in all movies.

If you have been following my career, as years went by, from 10 movies in a year, I reduced it to six.

I later reduced to one per year, because I felt it’s not how many times you appear in a movie but how well you act. People call me all the time to come and feature in their movies but I decline. My reasons are that as you move around, you have other aspirations and other opportunities appear.

In Igbo parlance, you don’t watch a masquerade display on one spot. You have to move around to get a total view.

There a million and one businesses out there that align with one’s profession…I’m still involved in the industry even though it’s mostly behind the camera.”

Our checks revealed that he took a break from acting  and now owns a record label called Agwhyte which specialises in empowering young talents. In fact, according to him, “I started as a singer before my acting career kicked off.”

 

CLARION CHUKWURAH

I intend to work in and outside the mainstream Nollywood

A veteran actress who leaves her imprint on any movie set she is involved with, Clarion Chukwurah is also known for her unconventional ways and opinions.

Being the first Nigerian to win the Best Actress award at the 1982 edition of FESPACO Film Festival in Burkina-Faso, she has not just remained relevant but has impressed in nearly every role she has taken on since then.

As recently as 2014, the actress, who clocks 53 this year, was recognised as the Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 2014 edition of AMAA as well as the Danny Glover Humanitarian Award in 2016.

On furthering her career in Nollywood, she said: “I do have plans for that but I don’t want to look at it as producing my movies. I intend also to do a lot of collaborations.

I talked about how things are. I intend to work in and outside the mainstream Nollywood world and to collectively move Nollywood forward.”

And she summed up the essence of her career so far thus: “For me, I have achieved something that gives me a deep sense of satisfaction, a feeling that I have an edge above all this issue of fame.

I have risen above all that.” Now married for the third time and based mainly in the United States, the mother of celebrated film director, Clarence Peters, is one veteran actress many fans miss in multiple proportions.

 

SHAN GEORGE

I’m still very much a part of Nollywood

A Nollywood actress, who has transformed into a producer and director, Shan George is today an actress of over two decades’ standing following her debut in the movie, Thorns of Rose. Born in Ediba, a town in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State, George was born to a British father and Nigerian mother.

She studied Mass Communication at the University of Lagos and became mostly known for the movie, Outkast before she went on to produce her debut movie titled All For Winnie during her final year.

Speaking on how she became a Nollywood actor, she said: “I was privileged to be part of the movie industry at a time I found myself in it. I have been favoured by God in the industry.

When you talk about a typical village life, I have experienced it and when you talk about living in a castle, I have also enjoyed the privilege.” On what she has been up to of late, the 46-year-old said she is still very much a part of Nollywood but that she is solely concentrating on her own projects as well as mentoring the youth.

 

EUCHARIA ANUNOBI

She’s one of the quintessential actors whose star shone glowingly after her outing in the lewd flick, Glamour Girls in 1994. Anunobi’s swift word delivery is almost next to none, her temperament, effortlessly scary, was demanded for use by producers of the movies of that era, nearly stereotyped her as typical best act to play a short-tempered character.

But that was just a little to thrill you about the actor. Her modulation also seamlessly exuded confidence while her reign lasted as one of the queens of the screen.

But later on in the 2000’s, the lady slowed down in movie appearances. Indications were rife that she ran into trouble with producers who were willing to offer her a lot lesser fees than she demanded for roles.

If that was humiliation, she refused to be brought on her knees. In the mid-2000s, the self-styled lady announced she’s now given to Christ and would be more dedicated to the calling than anything else. In a chat with New Telegraph, she said: “I am an associate pastor with the Fresh Oil Ministry International Church at Egbeda in Lagos.

I am an ordained evangelist as well as an apostle; I am a speaker in and around the country. I had gone to minister in the United States of Amer- ica, a lot of West African countries, and I have ministered in a lot of churches i n and outside the country and some churches and organisations invite me to be their speaker at their various meetings.”

Though she argues she’s still very much on the scene, it’s obvious her moment in the star is long past. Born May 26, 1965, the graduate of English Language whose marriage packed up many years back would be remembered by some of her blockbuster movies like; Battle of Musanga (1996), Died Wretched (1998), Heartless (1999), Desperadoes (2001) and Death Warrant (2001) to mention but a few.

 

KANAYO O. KANAYO

I am doing some other things where I find my strength

Kanayo O. Kanayo is one of those reputed to have been involved from the beginning of Nollywood. The Mbaise, Imo State-born 55-year-old Nollywood actor belongs to an elite list of actors to have won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

In 1992, Kanayo made his debut film appearance in Living in Bondage, the film known to have kicked off Nolywood. He is currently a United Nations ambassador. Along with Kenneth Nnebue (producer of Living in Bondage), Olu Jacobs, Enoch Adeboye, Fela Kuti, Kanayo was among Nigerians honored by the government in 2014 during the centenary celebration.

Beyond Nollywood, Kanayo served as the chairman of the board of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR) until the board was reconstituted by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in 2016.

On what he does with his time these days apart from filming once in a while, the October 1 actor, who currently dazzles in the sitcom, Professor Johnbull, on weekly basis, said: “I am a law student at the University of Abuja presently and I am doing some other things where I find my strength. All these, coupled with KOKMA are what take my time.

I am also a public relations consultant, a life coach, and a public speaker. Another thing I would like to do when I retire from acting is speaking for those who cannot speak. I want to be the face of those who feel they are not getting the best of the bargain. I have always wanted to represent those who feel they are being put under the table.”

 

CHARLES OKAFOR

You would be unfair to say Okafor merely joined the carnival; his acting has always had some decorum since the days he starred in the racy film, Domitila. Movies like Sting, End of the Wicked, Boiling Point, Rituals, Oracle 1 and 2, and Igodo are sufficient testament of his versatility.

From the early ‘90s when he earned the plaudits as one of the most sought-after, he carried on till mid-2000s when the news broke that the man had left the theatre for the pulpit. Charles Ezechukwu Okafor was born on July 23, 1960.

The actor cum movie director had starred in quite a number of movies before heeding the spiritual call. “I’ve been lying low for a while because I diverted into Advocacy and human-angle films as a consequence of my new found faith. I’m still a career actor and a film maker but I am mindful of the scripts I do.

A time comes in the life of any professional when he seats back and takes stock of his professional issues and the legacy he wants to leave behind from the spiritual standpoint of view. You cannot just do any kind of film anymore if you’re going to be the light to the nations of the world,” he said when asked why he’d taken the back seat in Nollywood.

 

BOB-MANUEL UDOKWU

The creative industry now has a clear representation…

Known as an actor and producer through the years, Bob Manuel-Udokwu has added the toga of a politician in the last few years. In 2014, he received the Lifetime Achievement award at the 10th edition of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA).

Known for his dexterity when it comes to acting and impressive aura when directing, Bob-Manuel Udokwu has also played the role of host of hugely popular reality TV show, Gulder Ultimate Search.

Having acted as a Senior Special Assistant to former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi on Creative Media, Udokwu was re-appointed by current governor of the state, Chief Willie Obiano as a Senior Special Assistant on Movie/ Entertainment Industry. While making the appointment known, the elated actor wrote: “With this appointment, the creative industry now has a clear representation in the government of Anambra State.

I therefore call on all movie/ entertainment professionals in Nigeria, across Africa and all over the world to feel free to berth in Anambra State to ply their creative and talent driven enterprises…I am here to serve you, Anambra State, Nigeria and beyond.”

And he has been doing that since then.

 

SEGUN REMI

Kehinde Segun Remi, widely known by his showbiz moniker, Chief Kanran, enchanted lovers of Yoruba movies in the 80s and a considerable part of 90s with his prowess.

Chief Kanran popularly played the roles of a well-todo man and this he delivered seamlessly in numerous movies. Almost stereotyped to play the king or the rich man to the extent that people confused him for a really wealthy man outside the movie sets, Chief Kanran believes that his generation was not adequately compensated for all they’d been through in about four decades.

The actor and filmmaker confessed that acting is not a lucrative business in Nigeria, stressing: “If you want to be an actor because you want to make money, then you must be a joker.”

He said he’d rather channel his last energy to championing the cause of reviving the theatre culture. “I will not waste my time and energy to continue doing some two hours home movie for pirates to feast on. Never again! We have got about 76 acres of land to build a film village and I also have Segun Remi Foundation and that’s what has been taking my time.”

He started acting in 1975, starring in a stage play, Kunrunmi, written by Prof. Ola Rotimi while he made his TV debut the same year with an appearance as a rich businessman in a soap opera titled Images.

He acted in Langbodo, Nigeria’s drama entry to Festac’ 77 at the National Arts Theatre Iganmu, Lagos. On television, he acted as Alaafin Kanran in a drama shown on Lagos Television, October 1, 1988. Regarding movies, he has starred in movies like Vigilante, Eri Okan, Itunu, Ayanmo (by Hubert Ogunde), Ofa Oro, Obaluaye, Shattered Bridge and 150 Million among a horde of others.

 

IDOWU PHILLIPS

Popularly known as Iya Rainbow, Idowu Phillips is on top of the pile among veteran actors in Nigeria. Now 75 years old, the Ijebuborn mother and grandmother got her popular stage name from Osumare (meaning rainbow), the name of the theatre group founded by great theatre icon, Hubert Ogunde and of which she was a member.

After starting life as a certified nurse, she ventured into full-time acting after the death of her husband, becoming one of the most notable female actors in Nigeria in the process. Apart from an almost innumerable list of movies she has acted in these past few years, some of her iconic movies include Apaadi, Eru and Aje ni iya mi.

Speaking on what she is into at present, Iya Rainbow said: “I am working on a movie, Aye Rabiatu, which will chronicle my life history from A to Z. As you’re getting older, you need to make preparations for something you will like people to remember you for.

Even if you’re still alive, let people have something to point at about you. So, that’s the main reason I decided to shoot Aye Rabiatu, a movie that will tell people, especially my fans, everything about my life, whether I am still alive or I have gone.”

 

SADIQ DABA

I am a television man

He typifies distinction in the art he’d chosen to pursue and you cannot but agree that Sadiq Abubakar Daba, known simply as Sadiq Daba’s gait hides his age and creative prowess. That the slim actor is robust in his craftsmanship is not in doubt and this he’d proven at Nigerian Television Authority, where he worked as a broadcaster.

For those who have been around long enough, you’d recall his acting career came to prominence in the late 1970s while starring in Cockcrow at Dawn.

His brilliance was made manifest in soap operas and films including Behind the Clouds, A Place like Home, Soweto and Moment of Truth.

2015, he won Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Inspector Waziri in Kunle Afolyan’s gripping October 1. The lead character of the film, Danladi Waziri, particularly posed a challenge during casting as the director had a particular look he wanted for the character.

Daba was eventually selected for the role after a series of research, thereby marking his return to the big screen after over a 10-year hiatus from the industry. When asked how long ago he’d been to a movie location shortly after his outing in October 1, he replied, “I am a television man. So, I am always on my job.

But if you are talking about movies, that is different.

 

HILDA DOKUBO

I took a break for a while but I never left completely

Who sobs like Hilda? Belle of the Niger Delta and one of the leading lights of Nigerian theatre before Nollywood earned its name; this actor had also scampered off the radar, though her comeback attempt was recognised a little while back when she appeared in the movie titled ‘Stigma’.

She was one of the actors to whose eyelids tears were the closest. Majorly stereotyped to act the vulnerable, Hilda was either at her best as a widow or an abused housewife at a time.

That wasn’t also to mean that the Theatre Arts graduate lacks versatility. Not many remember that she was appointed as a Special Adviser on Youth Affairs to former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili.

Just like many others, she doesn’t believe her reign is past. In a chat with our reporter, she argues thus: “I don’t know if you’re aware of my role in a movie I did three years ago titled ‘Stigma’ and that movie won me a whole lot of awards including AMAA. It came at a time when I’m beginning to receive awards again for coming back. I took a break for a while but I never left completely.

So, once or twice a year, I can do a job or two and that’s it. And again, I was looking for the right kind of movies. I didn’t want to be in just any kind of movie.”

And about where she earns her livelihood at present, she answered: “I run a training centre where I train people in various areas; lifestyle, creative arts, business growth, entrepreneurship and all of that.”

The following movies: Jezebel, Black Maria (1997), Evil Passion, End of the Wicked (1999) and Light and Darkness (2001) out of many riveting others resonate more with movie enthusiasts.

 

LILIAN BACH

I purposely took a break from doing movies

Lilian Bach might look relatively young but for someone who has been acting since the 90s, she is a veteran in her own right. One who sets fire to embers with her acting skills and poise, Bach was for years, one of the most desirable women in Nollywood.

A former beauty queen, who starred in numerous English and later, Yoruba movies, the woman born to a Nigerian mother and Polish father, said she decided to leave the industry for a while a few years back.

According to her,: “I purposely took a break from doing movies. I became a producer and I wanted to be doing my own movies but piracy couldn’t allow me.” But with her fans missing her and her passion seeking an outlet once more, she soon announced a return not long ago.

“I am not always in the country because I do other businesses. Maybe, the time they want to call me for a job will be when I am jetting out. But now, I am home. I am fully on the ground unlike before. I am available if any producer needs me. It is just that I feel sorry for them how they would recoup their money.”

 

SUNDAY OMOBOLANLE

His sense of humour is iconic and this he has always brought to bear in all of his works from dramas in Yoruba to those in English and even Pidgin as a medium of expression. Sunday Omobolanle a.k.a. Papi Luwe, a Member of the Order of Niger (MON) was born October 1, 1954 and he’s a Nigerian comic actor, playwright, film director and producer.

This fine actor was a husband to two women, first to Kudirat Folasade Omobolanle until she passed on in 2006 with whom he had three kids, Kemi Olayemi, Victoria Bello and Sunkanmi Omobolanle and the second wife is Peju Omobolanle with whom he has a son named Sola.

In 2002, his outing in Nollywood flick, Love of My Life became a testament to his versatility especially at a time many thought he could merely deliver on folk films. Some of his popular Yoruba movies include, Ogun Adubi (2003), Latorunwa (2003), 36 Kiniun (2003), Lanleyin (2004), Adun Ewuro (2006) among several other enthrall- ing others.

P a p i Luwe is now more into automobile sales, promotion of lotto et al as these enterprises seem more rewarding for the veteran actor who’d spent nearly 40 years acting hence his lull from the scene.

 

KENNETH OKONKWO

I’m never far away from Nollywood

Okonkwo’s lead role in the movie, Living in Bondage (1992), signaled the birth of Nollywood.

The Nigerian movie industry was long born before this time, but it’s worthy of note that the said film was era-defining. And ever since he made that massive breakthrough, his rise in the industry has been phenomenal.

From playing a rich man, poor husband, cultist to a traditional ruler, Okonkwo has never disappointed his cult-like followers. He’s one of the most prolific actors around whose outing in Nollywood and Igbo movies is almost innumerable.

“I’m never far away from Nollywood. Now as a lawyer, I have to pay some attention to the briefs I have in my chambers which may slow things down a bit. Nevertheless, I’m first of all an actor before being either a lawyer, a politician or a businessman,” he’d previously responded in a chat with New Telegraph.

Okonkwo now has his finger in other pies; he contested as House of Representatives member to represent Nsukka/ Igbo Eze South federal constituency in Enugu State while acting by the side. He’s obviously not featuring in movies on commercial quantity like previously but his cameo appearances and occasional acting speak volume of his prowess.

Born on November 6, 1968, Okonkwo has featured in many Nigerian movies including: Nollywood Babylon, Dumebi, Family Hero and Wives on Strike among many others.

 

LIZ BENSON

She’s a big miss from the scene. Though not totally gone, Elizabeth Benson’s hiatus is utterly remarkable. A lot explains that this actor is in the league of none. After her role as Mrs. Agnes Johnson in the famous sitcom, Fortunes, in 1993, Liz Benson effortlessly wormed her way into the hearts of pundits.

Benson’s reign on the screen was for a whole era. She played just about everything, but was more patronised by producers who thought she was best at acting as the ‘toast of all men’. From ‘Glamour Girls’ of 1994, True Confession in ’95, Witches and Diamond Ring 1 and 2 released in 1998 to ‘Eeku Ida’ in 2004, she left no doubt that there was something enigmatic about her.

But sometime in the late ‘90s, she began to wind down and was paying more attention to the gospel. In the long run, the Efik-born actor took a second shot at marriage in a quiet court ceremony and got married to Bishop Great Emeya in 2009 at the Rainbow Christian Assembly in Warri, Delta State.

She’s currently working as a minister of God by her husband’s side. Liz lost her husband (Samuel Gabriel Etim) while around her midtwenties. Liz said that she actually gained strength from his character and that made her be able to carry her and her kids through the loss. As though the theatre was her home, she saunters in and out at will. One of her most recent outing was in Stephanie Okereke’s multiple award-winning movie titled ‘Dry’.

 

FRANCA BROWN

Another actress thousands of fans miss in Nollywood movies, Franca was notable for her mother and wife roles even if she is not married in real life. She is one of those believed to have defined what film making is all about as she was acting and producing movies at the same time.

Franca Brown was at a time a member of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) executives.

However, the actress, who started 2016 in a terrible manner, as her housekeeper was reported to have intentionally set her house on fire, has been missing from the movie circles as well in public.

Her last major outings were during the campaign season of the 2015 Presidential elections as she joined other notable Nollywood figures to canvass votes for Goodluck Jonathan.

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