-talks about his multi-million naira movie, Witness
Gbenga Oyeyiga is a famous actor cum film maker whose career has spanned a decade. He has since become a force to reckon with as far as Nigerian movie industry is concerned.
He is though, media shy. ENCOMIUM Weekly got him engaged in an interview on Thursday, February 8, 2016, when we cornered him at an event in Obanikoro, Lagos. The Ishara Remo, Ogun born entertainer spoke on many issues, including his new movie, Witness (Eleri) and much more…
Not much has been read about you either in the newspapers or magazines despite your popularity. Does it mean you’re media shy or you have skeleton in your cupboard?
If you say being media shy, I will agree with you partly. It’s like 50-50. But the truth is that the kind of work load before me at times doesn’t permit me to meet the press guys or have time to grant them interviews. Not that I am arrogant or that shy.
And at the same time, I don’t have any broken hand I am hiding, no skeleton in my cupboard. And most times, you may want to avoid granting interviews if you’re cooking something you want to bring out in a new and unique style. You may not want to let the cat out of the bag when the time has not matured.
You have not been featuring in movies for quite a while, why?
I actually want to quickly correct that impression. It’s not as people see it because at times, if you feature in any movie, it takes at least eight months before the movie is out. But maybe because I am not working on a big project, that’s why I even decided to excuse myself from a lot of scripts. I felt I should be concentrating on my own project and work on it properly so that I can get a better result at the end of it all. So, that might have been the basic reason for not featuring in movies as frequently as my fans may want.
You produced quite a number of hit movies that movie lovers can’t stop talking about, are you working on something similar now?
Yes, by the special grace of God. I have a very big project I am working on at the moment. It’s entitled, Witness (Eleri). I want to make it unique, that’s why I call it Witness, it’s both in English and Yoruba.
Does it mean it was shot in the two languages?
Why is the movie bi-lingual?
It’s because we want the movie to cut across the world. That’s why it’s shot both in English and Yoruba. We’re definitely taking the movie outside the shores of Nigeria. And no matter how you start from home, I must still make it a Yoruba stuff, you still have to go back to English to make it more of international standard.
We learnt the movie was shot in Nigeria and United States of America. Where exactly are the locations?
At the moment, the part of the movie we’re about to release was shot in Lagos, Osogbo and Oyo.
Why the choice of Osogbo and Oyo and not Lagos only?
When the story line is deep, especially when it has to do with culture, it takes you far out of your location. We’re really talking about our culture, and things about our culture are very far from Lagos. So, it has to take us to as far as Oyo as well as Osogbo, because of the depth of the story.
What are the unique things about the movie?
We have a lot. I have never heard anybody talk about Bata drum since I have been in the industry. Also, there are some things white people get attracted to and they want such things at all cost. Maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re down in that part of the world. There are some things you don’t expect will make a difference because of our ignorance but at the end of the day, they speak volume, our lifestyles. Unlike all other movies I had produced, I had always talked about families and all that. We actually got deeper in this new movie.
Who are the cast?
Starting from my humble self, Gbenga Oyeyiga, I also have other famous actors in the movie, including Prince Jide Kosoko, Baba Ifayemi Elebuibon, Peju Ogunmola, Desmond Elliot, Bukky Wright, Rasak Olayiwola (Ojo Pagogo), Antar Laniyan, Peggy Ovrie, Howard, the white man, Wale Akorede and many more.
Why the inclusion of a white man in the movie?
Like I said, white people easily get attracted to our culture. And they want to go all out to get whatever we have in Africa. So, they have seen what they want and they really want it in America. You will actually find out what I am trying to say when you see the movie.
Does that mean Howard is really from the United States of America?
Yes, he is from the US. But I don’t’ really want to go into details of the movie now, until it’s out.
We’re sure, you have invested a lot of money in this movie. How much has it gulped so far?
I don’t want to mention any amount now because I still have a lot of shoot. If I tell you this is the amount I have spent on the movie, I may be talking about half of the budget. Let’s just say we have spent millions because Witness (Eleri) is a big budget movie.
Why did you choose to invest that much in a movie when you know that piracy is the order of the day, so to speak, as far as the industry is concerned?
At times, if you want to face challenges, you just have to go all out. I believe, for us to kill piracy, we need to go all out. That’s the reason I have gone all out in this movie.
So, you’re not afraid of piracy anymore?
I believe I am of God, and when you have God as your Alpha and Omega, nothing should strike you again. I am not in any way scared at all.
Is this your 10th or 11th movie since you started out?
This is my ninth movie.
Which of your roles shot you to limelight?
I will say my first movie, Ibeji Orisa was highly rated. But the other one people were so crazy about was Ebiti Opeera. Almost all my movies were fantastic and they all made me more and more popular.
But this new movie, Witness (Eleri) is the mother of them all. And it’s surely going to set the record straight as far as Nigerian movie industry is concerned.
You’ve been in the industry for like 10 years or more…
(Cuts in) I came into the industry 10 years ago precisely.
How would you describe the experience so far?
It’s been wonderful. There is no career without its ups and downs. But I believe it’s going to be better. It has been a kind of mixed experience.
What about the challenges?
One can’t run away from challenges. The only worrisome challenge facing the industry as a whole is piracy, and you can’t run away from it. Like I said, if you want to kill piracy, you go all out because piracy is everywhere. We all need to fight it with all our strength for us to survive in the industry.
When are you looking at for the premiere of the movie?
At the moment, I am looking at May 29, 2016, to be precise. But it can change because of the situation in the country. Nothing is stable now. But all other things being equal, we’re working towards May 29, 2016, for the premiere.
Who are the sponsors because the project seems to be bigger than what an individual can fund?
We have quite a number of sponsors, but we’re still looking for more.
After the premiere, what next?
After the premiere, we take the movie straight to the cinemas. After that, we will relax a bit to see what we can do before we go into DVD.
Let’s know a little of your background, where you’re born, your marital status and all that?
Some people, at times, think I am from Republic of Benin because of the unique marks on my face. But I am from Ishara Remo, Ogun state.
What of your marital status? Are you married or still single?
I am married with kids.
You’re young and handsome, are women not disturbing despite the fact that you’re married? How do you handle them?
Like I said, it’s a kind of mixed feel in the industry. There are challenges and there are challenges. That has been part of the challenges in the industry, but when you’re of God you know you have to overcome such challenges. I have a mother in the industry, Queen Ayo Balogun, she is so beautiful, and men are so crazy about her. She looks younger than her age.
Everybody will want to go all out to get her, but she knows how to manage that. She has been in the industry for long and she manages it perfectly. So, why can’t I as her son.
But that doesn’t stop them from coming….
(Laughs) Anyway, everybody with his or her opinion. They will surely come, but you should know how to manage the situation.
How do you manage your home front considering your fame?
If you’re of God and you know your limit, you won’t mismanage the situation you find yourself.