I’ve found a new life
I've found a new life
Francis Duru's remarkable performances were a dominant feature of Nollywood at one time: From The Missing Mask to Rattlesnake to Sergeant Okoro, he never failed to deliver the value that kept film buffs and directors calling. But, suddenly, he disappeared. Adia Ukoyen re-discovered him in Abuja and got him explaining what has been happening to him
What happened to you? You simply packed your bags and left town, and left everyone wondering what had become of you. Why?
I didn't leave my fans. I simply relocated from Lagos in search of greener pastures. No, but to be candid, Lagos was a little bit too choked up. There was no contention any longer and there was a hunger for what I couldn't place my hands on. I was working on a project, then, in Abuja and everything was going on fine. But with the change of Ministers, everything crashed. Then, I still had a flair for other things, to do other things, and by the time I knew what was happening, I was stuck in Abuja. In the beginning it was rough, but gradually, things started unfolding and I started to see other horizons that I had never seen before. I was comfortable with it. Comfortable, in terms of the fact that there was so much peace in my heart. It wasn't rewarding at the initial stage, but it was a building stage for me in the areas of event and stand-up comedy. But the most important thing was that I found God and that was the beginning of greater things in my life. Being born-again at that time and being planted in a church that had so much vision towards changing persons, unconsciously I changed into a new born. My acts were refined. I started seeing things from a broader perspective and that was it.
Is that saying that Lagos was too rough and a handicap to your spiritual growth?
Lagos was too rough. I was also away from the whole thing about trying to impress people in Lagos which is the main thing that is done there. Here, I was able to try out new things and if it failed, get up and give it another try. There was a need for me to withdraw a little bit from the limelight then. I thank God and I am content with what I am , although I am still not there yet. I can see the future and there is so much in store for me.
With you at this event, are you about making a comeback to the industry that brought you so much fame way back?
I am already in the industry. I never left the industry. I resurfaced a long time ago. I have shot so many movies in the past years, while in Abuja. I have shot three movies. But between last year and this year, I have made about five films.
Have they been released?
Three have been released. Otundo, Price of Destiny, Cold War have all been released. Give or take, I am back. I am waiting.
Tell me about your family?
Well, I am happily married to a beautiful woman, and we have two beautiful children: a boy and a girl, Sotonye and Frances.
Was it really because of them that you moved to Abuja?
Like I said, my movement to Abuja was a drive towards something better. There was a project which failed. Then, in the process, I found this other thing. But the most important thing that kept me in Abuja was when I found God.
Now looking back to the days in Lagos, you were unbeatable for your crying roles, which you did excellently. Which of those roles, when you look back, can you say you gave your best?
Sergeant Okoro was one big one. Set Up, Rampage, Rattlesnake and The Missing Mask, my first movie, remain my best.
The films then and the ones we have now are so different. There is more colour, more glamour, but the older ones seem better. Why do you think this is so?
There is no passion in the things we do now. Money has taken over passion. But those days, the days of Rattlesnake, there was so much passion for the job. The money was not as much as it is today, the glamour was not as much as we have today, the idea of artistes traveling abroad, fine, it is all good but there is no passion now. The clamour for money has taken that away.
Could passion be taken to mean professionalism?
Well, passion is quite different from professionalism. You could have the zeal for the job and you are not a professional and you strive to put in your best. Right now, professionalism has been thrown to the winds. Why would anybody want to wear the best designer clothes just because of his status and not the status of the character in the movie.
But between the director and costumer, that should be sorted out.
You mentioned professionalism and that is the problem with professionalism. Where money comes to take that place, then professionalism will not be a thing. The glamour aspect of it is the thing that is being projected. Fine, the local content, the things we discuss and highlight, the subtext and all that are enough to pull people together, but, looking at it from a critical perspective, what do you do? You know it is not that way. I may know that this clothe does not fit, not how can you give me this. It is true that there are moments when you, the artiste, cannot wear certain clothes. But where it becomes a recurring decimal, then you place yourself in that costume rather than the role in that costume. The costume may not fit a role, and this I will bring to the notice of the director, and will not put it on. There are so many things to professionalism: a cry towards in-depth characterization, a cry towards discipline, respecting call time, a cry towards knowing too well that even if your director is a small boy, he calls the shots. These are all the dictates of professionalism. It is too common the rate at which people have come into the business. On set you see things that are unacceptable and you feel like puking. This business, without discipline is dead. So it is the discipline that actually amplifies the heritage of the profession.
As a child, did it ever occur to you that you would end up an actor, and did your background, in any way, influence your decision?
No, a far cry, to be candid. I never believed that in life, I would chart this course. But I remember that in secondary school, I was more or less an Arts inclined student. Literature was more or less a great motivator towards this end.
What was growing up like?
It wasn't a bed of roses, but it also was not a bed of thorns. My parents are still alive. I attended school in Cameroon, that is, primary school up to class three of secondary school. Then I came back to Nigeria to complete my secondary education. I have a certificate in Theatre Arts as well as a degree in Theatre Arts, from the University of Port-Harcourt.
What would you be working on this year? A lot of MCing jobs I suppose?
The Mcing jobs are there. But this year, by God's grace, I really want to utilize the movies. I have made up my mind that I am back, full force.
Will you be producing your own films?
Yes. Producing, one, because I have a great partner in Izu Ojukwu and I respect people who are skilled in their areas. Having him around me is a plus for production. It is more or less like a partnership. We are compatible and our skills are alike.
Where will you be getting funds from?
Personal funds. Contact relationships that I have been able to build.