In this interview, Kunle Afolayan, an indisputable actor, director and movie producer in Nollywood, takes Adunola Fasuyi round his world as he speaks on his life and the award winning movie, FIGURINE.
You seem to be more of a director and producer than an actor. Why is this so?
Yes, you are right. I am more of a film maker than an actor and it is because I have always been very selective when it comes to the kind of movies that I want to act in. My belief in professionalism makes me choosy and selective when it comes to the script I would feature in, because it must be next to flawless.
I like perfection and because of this, some producers look at me from afar and even think I am arrogant, but it is not so it’s just that I like good, sense-making and highly professional films. That is why I am concentrating on making my own film as a film maker and also featuring as an actor.
I get some scripts in the aspect of acting and there are some that I featured in that just came out; so, very soon, people are going to see my face in more movies.
Directing and acting, which is more fascinating to you?
Let me put it this way, I prefer both because I started as an actor and I am sure a lot of people would want to see my face on the screen. Film making is something I also have passion for, so, I will just like to combine the two, whichever way.
Did you go into the business because your dad was one? Is it a family thing?
Well, I didn’t go into movie-making and acting because my father was one. In fact, when we were growing up, we did a lot of travelling with dad and going to the set with him, I never got fascinated about it, I never imagined then I would take it up as a career. We were just going with him then, though, it was also fun, but not to groom us to become one. Much later, I developed interest in acting; I discovered I had flair for it, so I left my banking job and started acting.
So, you left the lucrative banking job for acting?
Yes, I did and that is because I had to follow my desire and what I have passion for; basically, I felt the industry needed a change for innovation, creativity, dynamism and a change for the better. That is why, even though, I studied Business Administration at Lagos State Polytechnic, I went ahead and studied digital film making from New York Films Academy. This, I believe, instilled the professionalism in me, though I also learnt thoroughness from my late father. I started acting in 1998 but started film making in 2005.
Your award-winning movie, Figurine, is, no doubt, a hit. How did it make it?
Figurine is a movie we started writing and putting together for four years before we shot it last year. The movie is all over cinemas in the country and all over the world. It is basically shot for the cinema and so far, the recognition is superb.
I think the success has to do with the content which is good and the film is really entertaining, that is why the people keep talking about it. We started promoting the film from production stage and not after we finished.
When we went to do the location work, I uploaded the pictures and did some write-ups on facebook and some other platforms, coupled with the recent achievement with the nominations for award from AMAA. It got ten nominations, which was the first time a Nigerian film will be getting such number of nominations in a very competitive structure because, now, they get films from all over Africa and they are all well-made. And I just got an award as the best producer and director from the City People’s Award of Excellence not quite long too. All these would keep people wondering and those who have not seen it would definitely want to see it. I give God the glory.
The making of the film must have cost you a fortune?
The complete making of Figurine cost N50 million.
That is much. All that into one movie? How did you raise that sum?
Yes, all that into one movie and that is because I believe in professionalism. Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well. I got a loan from the banks and I also got sponsorships from some corporate companies and individuals. It was really drilling, but I am happy it’s worth the effort.
Do you think you can recoup your investment and even make profit with the level of piracy in the system?
Oh yes! I will. I will even make very good profit because as we speak, I have already realised half of the total investment, yet I have not released the movie. All that we do for now is showing it at cinemas. So, by the time I finally release it, I would have made good profit before any pirate thinks of running down my business. So, I am smarter than the pirates.
How can piracy be reduced to the barest minimum in Nigeria?
The Nigerian Copyrights Commission (NCC) and all stakeholders in the industry should come together and brainstorm on how to put a good distribution framework in place. The present framework is not reliable and it is susceptible to piracy. There must be a simultaneous release and distribution of works of art at the same time all over the country. With that, pirates will have no business as usual.
Do you think Figurine can pick nomination in Oscar?
I don’t think we can pick nomination in Oscar because the film does not have enough exposure.
For a film to have nomination in Oscar, it must have been done by one of the big overseas studios. Oscar involves a lot of politics, you have to be in the business, you have to have an agent that will push for you and lobby or work with the studio for them to give the film all the promotion it deserves, unlike in Nigeria where we do everything ourselves. You will create content by making the film and you still promote the film and look for a marketer as well.
Would you consider yourself a romantic person?
I am not! I am a complete African man. I don’t believe in buying roses, kneeling to propose to a woman and all those funny things oyinbo people do, but I can be if I want to but I really don’t believe in it. Even my wife says that I am not romantic. But I am very loving, caring and responsible at home.
Are there some roles you can’t act in a movie, like making love, smoking, etc?
As a professional actor/actress, you must be able to act any role. I am a professional and there is no role I cannot play, just mention it. It is not real as much as you try to make it real, so it’s just acting a script, so why not?
So, have you kissed or made love in a movie before that got your wife jealous?
I have been acting before I married her, so she knows I am just doing my job. But there was a particular one that she queried that I kissed too much and too close, but I reminded her it was just acting.
While trying to be professional, you kiss tongue-to-tongue. Can’t it cause you to be aroused, you are blood and flesh?
Well, for me, it cannot cause me to be aroused because I am highly professional. You cannot even get aroused because it is boring, you do it over and over again and you are being caught in the middle of it until you get the perfection the producer or director wants. So, it’s boring except if it is with a lady or guy one already desires. In that case, some people may do it for real behind the scenes, then it is no longer acting. But, I am professional with my job.
Any international actor or actress you really wish to feature in one of your films in the future?
Yes, I wish to feature Denzel Washington in my film in the nearest future. God knows I love that guy.
Do you have any regrets in life?
None at all until two weeks ago. I was watching one of my dad’s films, Taxi Driver. While watching it critically, I discovered some technical errors and I got really emotional and moved to tears because I felt if he was around, we would sit and analyse it together. I also regret that my dad is not alive now to see how well his children are performing.
Your happiest moment?
I have so many, but I think the day my wife first told me she was pregnant, I felt really good that I am strong and potent.
How was growing up like?
Well, I grew up just like every average Nigerian child, went to school like other kids out there. I was not a “butter child” and was not raised poorly too. We travelled a lot with my late dad and mostly on the set with him and it was fun.
Are you a car freak?
I love cars, good clean solid cars! But, now, I don’t have the money to afford them. I only have four cars for now.
Do you like more of formal wears or casuals?
Because of my background in the banking industry, I really like to be corporate. I like semi-formal dresses like shirts and trousers with blazers. Even when I put on jeans, I want to wear shirt on it. I really don’t like to look too casual.
I only wear T-shirts on weekends, but when I go for meetings or presentations, I have to look formal or semi-formal. I try to be conscious of the fact that I am combining creativity and business, so I have to find a level to balance both.