Why I’m more active in Nigeria than my country – Van Vicker, popular Ghanaian Nollywood actor
His mother is half Ghanaian and half Liberian while his father is a Dutch. But Van Vicker has become one of the faces that dazzle in Nollywood. He tells 'NONYE BEN-NWANKWO why he stays more in Nigeria than his home countries, and explains his relationship with actresses Nadia Buari and Tonto Dike.
You are almost always in Nigeria. What is the reason for that? Producers in Nigeria book me ahead of time. Apart from that, when you get into the country, people get to know that you are around and they bring their scripts. Those scripts, of course, will not be shot immediately; you will have to wait for three months or thereabout, and it keeps rolling over. You will end up spending a little more time in the country than you had expected.
So, you don't work for the Ghanaian film industry again?
With regard to that, I would love to work in Ghana. It brings back a lot of memories like we had in the early days we started. I miss that so much. But the problem I am facing is the lack of planning with regard to my schedule. They don't call me ahead of time. You can't call me today and expect me to shoot tomorrow or next week. They fail to realise that my schedule is quite tight. That is the problem I have been facing for the past two years. I have not shot in Ghana for about two years, apart from the one I shot in November last year. The guy I shot for had planned it since July of that year. I was in the US then. That is what I wish Ghanaian producers would do.
Some people could think you have problems with the producers in Ghana…
Fortunately or unfortunately, some of us are quite busy. We only need ahead-of-time booking. It is not as if I have any personal problem with any producer. It is not as if I don't want to work with them any more. It is also not because people say that the pay is poor. It has nothing to do with that. It is simply because the timing does not work for me.
If you don't meet them half way, don't you think the movie industry in your country may not advance like Nollywood has?
No way. I want to believe that Gollywood is not about that. With or without my input, work will still go on, even though I would love to add my quota. But I don't think Gollywood is about Van Vicker. It is bigger than me. My contribution will add to its advancement, I agree. But it is still bigger than me.
To whom do you owe your rise in acting?
I owe an obligation to Gollywood. But I have paid my dues, I think. I can liken my case to an international footballer who was in a local league before he went international. Would we say he does not owe his success to the local league because he doesn't play for them any more? I have not abandoned Ghana. I would love to work in Ghana. I miss them so much. It all has to do with timing.
How come you are yet to move your family to Nigeria?
It is not possible. My wife does a nine-to-five job in Ghana. My kids are in school. What if I move my family to Nigeria and I start doing a lot of production in Cameroun? Will I move them again? I just think they should stay where they are. We have established Ghana as my home and my base.
How come people say you are very arrogant?
When I hear the word 'arrogant', I cringe. I hate the word. You have met me. Do I look arrogant? Do I sound arrogant? I don't think I am arrogant. It is the last thing I will ever be. Even before I became the 'star' Van Vicker, I have been humble. I believe in humanity. What you have is not what makes you.
Did you expect to hit stardom the way you did?
The whole acting thing was just an accident. I wanted to be a medical doctor. But when I was done with school, my wife, who was my girlfriend then, saw the advert in the papers. They were looking for a presenter for a new TV programme that was coming up. I tried it out and got the job. I have been in showbiz since 1997. I did radio alongside.
How did movies come about?
One thing led to another and to another before I landed here in 2007. Venus Films came and said they had a role for me in a movie. The producers of Beyonce said they wanted the movie to be released in Nigeria. Their strategy was to introduce Nadia and I to the Nigerian market. They felt that people fell in love with us and they had to release the movie. From there, everything went rocket high. It was by accident that I got into the movies. But I know it was ordained and it is a blessing.
Now that you mentioned Nadia, is it true that you guys once dated?
No. No disrespect. It is just like somebody saying that Genevieve and Ramsey Noah are dating. The gist came up because Nadia and I have done many romantic movies together. We never dated, but people speculate.
We learnt you said that you are bigger than RMD and Ramsey Noah when it comes to acting…
I think somebody is trying to be mischievous. It is impossible for me to say that. I am in a foreign land. Will it not be stupid of me to come into somebody's land and not say well of their topmost stars? That is the most stupid thing I would do. Even if I want to say so, I must be dumb to say it publicly. To me, the whole rumour does not make sense. There is no way I could have said that. I must really be brave to say that. These guys can get pissed off with me and say I should not come back to Nigeria. What will I do then? The rumour does not hold water at all. I respect RMD and Ramsey a lot. These are guys who have been in the industry for a long time before I came in. I cannot disrespect them.
We learnt Majid, your fellow Ghanaian actor, is your greatest rival.
I don't see Majid as my rival, I see him as my colleague. He is into acting. He is following his path and so am I.
Is he your friend?
Yes. I was directing a series sometime ago and I asked Majid to play in it. The series never came out though. I had to stop somehow. I may not really call him my friend because we don't hang out and we don't call ourselves on the phone. But when we meet ourselves, we greet very well. I don't remember having any fight with him. I have not had any problem with Ramsey or Desmond as well, unlike what people have speculated. Nobody has tried snatching my wife for me to fight the person.
We heard you are not friends with some Nigerian actors.
I don't know about them but I don't have any problem with anybody. I have heard a lot of stories which I don't want to believe. I have made a lot of efforts to call those individuals and ask them what happened so that we trash it. I was able to reach one. I learnt he didn't want to work with me. I called him and asked him what the problem was. He told me about the rumour he heard and I told him I never said such. We sorted it out and we did that job together. There are others though. I have been trying to reach them. It is not as if they began acting before me. But here in Nigeria, they are ahead of me. It is only cool and polite if we sort everything out.
We hear you and Tonto Dike were caught in bed. There is an intimate picture of you guys circulating on the Internet.
We were not caught anywhere. I saw the article on the Internet. Please, the picture on the net was a movie picture. I was in bed with her in that movie. The story was very stupid. It just doesn't make sense. There is no way that picture could have been taken without us seeing the photographer. That was a close up shot. If I am in bed with my colleague, would I be wearing my jeans and shirt?
Do all this rumour get to you?
I understand that being a celebrity comes with a lot of scandals. It is a price to pay. I can't help it.
How does your wife take it?
It is tough for her. If I were in her situation, I could do worse. I totally understand when she complains. It is tough. It even gets tough with me, then I imagine what my wife is facing. Her friends call her and tell her how Van was kissing one girl in a movie and such things. I understand the way she feels at times. She is human.
Have you ever thought of quitting?
No. I have not. As much as it was an accident, I am enjoying it. I have found a passion for the arts and I think I will be in it for a long time. I might stop acting but I don't think I can stop directing and producing.
We hear you also abandon movie sets and take off most times even when you have been paid for the job.
From the way you asked the question, I would say it is not true. It has happened only once. But then, I didn't abandon that set as they put it. I had an arrangement with the marketer of that movie that I would leave at a particular day. He agreed. It got to the day, the movie hadn't finished. I even added three more days to the day I was supposed to leave and they still hadn't finished the movie. I had something really urgent to do in Ghana and so I had to leave. The day I thought we would finish the movie, a colleague of mine also left the set to attend to something else. I had to leave as well. Regardless, I came back and we have completed the movie.
How was it like growing up without a father?
It has been tough. I wish I was old enough to remember who my father was. I don't have a good memory of him. I still wish I had somebody I call father the way my son calls me. But it has taught me a lot of things. It made me tough and it made me make a lot of decisions I might not have made if he were alive. I learnt a lot of things on my own. People say people of my complexion are heart breakers, flirts and Casanova. But I tried to stand out. I didn't want to be in that category. That was one of the reasons I never smoked or drank. I still don't. That was one of the reasons I got married early. I wasn't under any peer pressure.
We hear your long lost brother has been found…
What a joke. I asked my mother if she and my dad had another son somewhere and she said no. I think the guy needed some help. He wanted to get into the movie industry. He is a Liberian. He heard I have got some Liberian background so he wanted to take an advantage of that. The first time he approached me, he told me he wanted to get into acting. I told him to work on his accent if he wanted to go international. He decided to change his plans by claiming he was my brother. Even a blind mine would know that I and that guy are not related in any way. My father was already dead going by the year he said he was born. He was trying to play a fast one on me thinking I would panic. He has been calling me since then, begging me to forgive him. I have forgiven him but I have told him to stay away from me. He was trying to use my name to get popular.
Do you intend to get a university degree since you don't have one yet?
I have decided to further my education but not getting a university degree. I have decided to advance my education. I don't have to go to school to learn certain things. I don't think I have any intention of going to the university. I will advance myself in the profession I have found myself.