I’M NOT PERFECT, BUT I TRY NOT TO CHEAT ON MY WIFE –FRANCIS DURU
Francis Duru has been a part of Nollywood since inception. With movies like Eva, Rattle Snake, Missing Mask and Total War, he has made a mark in the industry.
But even as gentlemanly as he appears, he has been linked with some scandals. He tells 'NONYE IWUAGWU about them and how he has been able to remain relevant in the make-believe world You have left Lagos, which is the centre of entertainment, for Abuja; is this not affecting your career as an actor?
I just came back from Warri and I am supposed to move to Enugu. People still know where to contact me when they need me. All they need do is to show me the script; if I am satisfied with it, they pay money into my account and then I move.
Residing in Abuja does not affect the number of jobs you get?
No, it does not have anything to do with where I live. Remember, if I were living in Lagos, I would still come to Abuja to do some jobs, if I were living in Enugu, I would still come to Abuja to do some jobs. The most important thing is that one has established oneself to a point that when they need you, they call you up unlike in the early years when we had to go for auditions.
Yes, I know that Lagos is the centre of entertainment, especially in other aspects of showbiz. But things are happening here in Abuja as well.
But why did you move to Abuja? Was it that you felt you have finally 'arrived'?
I relocated in 2000 because I had some other things doing in the Federal Capital Territory. I had some other things I was doing and I found out that the place was stress free and quite conducive for me. It wasn't all about money. Who told you that all those who live in Abuja have money? I came to a new place and the place was conducive for me, it offers the kind of life you want to live. I have always loved a place that is calm and peaceful.
There was a time you went away for some while. Was there a problem?
I left in 2000. It was only between that 2000 and 2003 that I was away from Lagos. That was also the time I was away from the industry. The industry had even moved up by then. I went to Abuja for something else and, in the course of that, one thing led to the other.
You just did a new movie called 'Total War.
Yes. It is a two-in-one movie. It has a lion and the lamb's story line. It has to do with a Liberian refugee who came to Nigeria for political asylum, fell in love and became born-again – actually, a pastor in Nigeria. He met and fell in love with a Nigerian girl. On their wedding day, his sister- in-law found out that he was the one who killed their parents and raped her during the war.
You play your role very well, speaking like a Liberian. Have you lived in Liberia before?
It doesn't have anything to do with having lived in Liberia or not. The guy who did. The Last King of Scotland, which won so many awards, never lived in Uganda before he acted in that movie.
Are you a versatile actor?
Yes, let me blow my trumpet a little bit on that. My training has actually given me that. It is one major characteristic that every actor must have. You should have the ability to play hot and cold.
Why did you choose to study Theatre Arts?
It was divine in the sense that while you are trying to do some things, certain things don't happen the way they are supposed to. By the time you know what is happening, you would be where you are supposed to be.
It was, more or less, accidental right from the beginning. But as we progressed, we realised that was what God actually wanted for me.
Wasn't it that you couldn't qualify for other courses and had to settle for Theatre Arts?
To be candid, Theatre Arts was not what I wanted to study. I had wanted to do Law or Mass Communication and all that. But I wrote JAMB exams three times, and the cut-off point kept going higher whereas one wasn't getting any younger. I just couldn't take it any longer. When the opportunity came for me to study Theatre Arts, I had to find myself there. I actually did a certificate programme in Theatre Arts before I went in for the degree programme.
Come to think of it, it wasn't as if I intended studying Theatre Arts, the opportunity just came. I went to the theatre to see how they were doing their stuff and an opportunity came up for me to read someone else's script.
The whole thing was new to me. I stepped into it and, by the time I knew what was happening, I was going for auditions; and then I found myself in the university.
I don't regret any bit of it at all. I still think it was divine. If I had gone in for Law or mass communication, I don't think I would have done as well as I have done for myself now.
Most people thought you wanted to become a comedian.
You don't just want to become a comedian. The whole idea of entertainment is that once you are talented and versatile, you can be anything. I started with comedy and the truth is that comedy made me popular when I was in UNIPORT. I was a superstar in school then. We were wanted in every show. We started Night of a Thousand Laughs.
How did your parents take it when you decided to become a professional actor?
I was born in Cameroon. It wasn't as if my parents had so much grip on me and told me I must do a particular course. The most important thing for my dad was for me to be in the university. I entered the university and I was doing well. The movie thing came up and blossomed, and I thank God for that.
How did you get into Nollywood?
My first movie was the Missing Mask. I shot the movie when I was in the university. After that, I did Evil Passion; and then, Rattle Snake. There was an audition and there was a judge. I got the job. That was how I came into Nollywood.
How has it been since then?
It has been progressive. It is something I would want to do anytime and any day. At least one can pay one's bills from it, raise a family, build a home and lend help to the extended family members. It has been worth the while. We are doing our best and we leave the rest to God.
So acting has really done a lot for you?
It has, I must confess. There is no regret. Every job has its own hazards. As for me, my philosophy of life is what you can call 'like this like that'. Life is a bittersweet sandwich. It has a bit of hard, sweet, sour and salty taste. But you don't have to waste your time dwelling on the negative aspects of life. You have to concentrate on the positive aspects. The negatives must come, because they are the things that fortify you as a human being. I don't see those things as a problem, since life itself is not perfect.
Which movie gave you your best shot?
I don't joke with any movie that I do. I give my very best in all the movies I do. I love to do challenging movies because such makes me do something extraordinary. I give every movie so much respect.
How does it feel being a star?
To be candid, I don't know how to answer that question. But I always want to be me at any given time. I don't like to lose my individuality as a person. Yes, being a star, a celebrity is wonderful; there is nothing like being celebrated and I love it so much. But it can never stop me form being who I am. My individuality comes first, because it is the thing that makes me who I am. The moment I leave it to want to be like some other person because of maintaining the life of a 'star,' I lose out on what life means to me.
Being a star is worthwhile, but it is not something that could make me go crazy. You are a star in whatever area you are so long as you establish excellence and you have passion towards what you do, and then people see you and identify with you.
Stardom has made some of your colleagues do strange and bad things like drugs and same-sex relationship. Are you on that train?
Being a star does not make you immune from your own internal weaknesses. I don't think it is stardom that drives people to do such things. Whether you are a star or not, if you have a bad habit, you have a bad habit.
As colleagues, we should be able to understand the nature of what we are doing. The public demands so much from us. The larger-than-life attitude that is expected of us from the public is something that we should constantly try to avoid. Once you are able to constantly maintain that equilibrium and make people understand that you are as human as any other person, such problems will not come your way. When you indulge in self-glorification and a little problem comes your way, you become so vulnerable and people will say, 'Why did he do something like that'.
You mentioned drugs. I know the person you are talking about, he has been my friend and brother. He still remains my friend and my brother, I cannot deny him because he made a mistake. Our past should not be a place of residence but a place of reference from where we move on. There is no perfect human being.
That is my take on that. It does not have to do with whether you are a superstar or not. Self-glorification makes one live a cosmetic life. If you live a cosmetic life, then you will have a cosmetic problem and you will get a cosmetic solution.
But you in particular have not been able to avoid scandal.
Yes. There was a time I was badly hit. That was when I was having problems with my ex-girlfriend and my wife now. But these are the things that come with stardom. You cannot run away from scandal, both the ones that are true and those that are not true.
While some people are celebrating you, some others are waiting out there to pull you down. When such happens, what do you do? Do you just begin to concentrate on the negative forces and lose out on other things you have to do?
There was a time two women were fighting over you. Did you feel hip that women were fighting over you?
How can I feel on top of the world that women were fighting over me? It didn't make me a greater man? I don't build my character on such. I want to build my character on morals and values, and not on such issues.
But we hear that you ditched your former girlfriend, who was so nice to you when you were not really made, as soon as you became a star.
Thank God you have done your researches, but there is a part of that research that is not correct. Like I said, things were blown out of proportion. There comes a time in life where you just have to move on. My ex-girlfriend is an ex-affair, it is gone. The relationship did not work out and that was it. Nobody ditched anybody. We parted ways, that was what happened.
How did you feel when those scandals were on?
I felt so bad, because things were blown out of proportion. People were not interested in what really happened. But I have a very strong character, I cannot allow such to break me. I just look at those things and I move on with my life.
How do you cope with female fans many of whom may not even care that you are married?
It is the grace of God that keeps one. Whether female or male, my fans are my fans. We are not perfect, there are times you are broken and there are times you are able to stand. You should have the grace of God in your life, so that you would be able to fight it. For every entertainer in this business, this is our constant fight. It is not as if it is that horrific, but you have to be very diplomatic in all you do.
You keep mentioning God, are you that religious?
I know my God and I am faithful to Him. I cannot do anything without Him. I don't joke with Him. He is the most important thing in my life. Since I relocated to Abuja, my life has not been the same.
Can you say that you do not engage in extra marital affairs?
Being born again does not give you immunity. The flesh is in constant need of gratification. We are weak human beings. I am not a perfect guy, but I am conscious of the fact that I need to remain faithful to my wife and children. I am trying my best.
Is it going to be movies for life for you?
I am into other things as well. I am into events management. I am into consultancy and events packaging. By God's grace, I want to go into general supply.
As a showbiz person, how come you did not pierce your ears or wear dreadlocks?
Simplicity is just my style. I try to be mild and not wild. I am not into all those stuff just for being a celebrity. I believe in a subtle acceptance of my person.
How was growing up like?
It was not rosy, but it was not stormy either. My parents were not all that wealthy. We had so much respect for our elders.