He’s arguably the most handsome actor Nollywood has ever produced. He is perhaps the most versatile actor in the country. And perhaps, the biggest crush of most Nigerian female movie fans. His looks are luscious – from his scanty curly hairs to his perfectly placed chin and sideburns, he is a handful to feed the eye on. Always dressed to the nines, he cuts the figure of a glamorous personality; a ladies’ man. With an unmistakable mien of success and vigorous performance on the silver screen, Ramsey Nouah may well live and die as Nollywood’s most versatile and consistent poster boy. He proves that again in the movie, ’76, released in September 2016 as he led other Nollywood heavyweights like Rita Dominic and Ibinabo Fiberesima in an epic movie about the coup that killed a promising head of state in Nigeria. In this interview with Oge Ezeliora, Ramsey Nouah talks about the rigours of the film, the lessons, his love life and failed marriages in Nollywood
You acted in a new movie, ‘76’. Can you talk about it?
It is a highly celebrated movie. It is doing well in the cinemas. It’s gone to virtually all the films festivals you can think of around the world. It’s highly ranked when it comes to the cinema. The movie is a thriller that I encourage people to watch. Though very challenging, it came out great. It is a lot of work for me to act like a soldier in a movie which I acted so well. From two to three good months of rigorous military training, just to get into that military state of mind. It wasn’t easy at all to get into the military state of mind. The physical photography took us over six months or there about. There was a lot of workload that went down while shooting the movie.
During the training, did you ever feel like giving up at some point?
No. I did not give up but after serious military drilling from the sergeants that were training us at the camp ground, we got tired and we complained of stress. We actually shot the film in 2012; but it came out last year. At times, when the sergeants drilled us mercilessly, we screamed: ‘Please take it easy we are actors not soldiers’. Then, they would calm us down and continue with the training afterwards.
Why was it shot in 2012 and released 2016?
As a matter of fact, the movie took almost two years of pre-production. And for you to get the story right you have to grab the story from all angles. It took a while to get the support of the military. It also took us some time for the military to join us because of the storyline, which was focused on late Gen. Murtala Mohammed. And we needed to consult his immediate family before shooting the film; considering the fact that they had their own perspective of the story which was different from that of the public and the military. You need the whole of those to come together for you to raise a reasonable conclusion on how to tell the story visually. All of that took us a long process to push through. Based on that, the first Chief of Army staff refused to assist us. I think the second one was the one that gave us approval before we proceeded for pre-production of the story. We had planning upon planning, and it was shot at Mokola barracks in Ibadan, Oyo State. We worked against so many factors. For instance, we are talking about 1976, which was a long time ago, when there was no GSM to communicate to anybody. So we had so much to do. Having to shoot the movie properly without changing anything particularly the new for the old. Everything came out as old as the past and it was well done.
Did the military training in anyway change your mindset about life?
There is something about the military you must understand: they are disciplined people. They are loyal to the nation. They believe that discipline is the only way you can stand upright. Their pride is discipline; you don’t go against your word. It’s a lifestyle that you don’t find virtually in everybody. When you call someone a military person, it is like a no-nonsense man; a man who goes to work, get the job done and comes back. A man who obeys order and is not bent by corruption; he is not bent by anything. A man who is focused and never gives up – that is the military outlook. Every man will like that part because of the regular training. You are fit and strong at all times and physically alert too. As a military man, you have that loyalty to yourself, your family and to your nation. Those are the things that can attract you to military life. I wouldn’t mind being a naval officer or joining the Nigerian Air Force because of their looks. I love the Navy because of the white outfit. It looks good on them.
What scene do you love most in the movie?
I had a couple of scenes I love so much in the movie but the one I hold so dear to me was the part that the producer/film actor who was a military man came and caught us. His name was Captain Jaiye. He made a statement I can never forget. Immediately he caught us he said, ‘You heard something! You saw something! And you said nothing!’ It is one of those lines I found so interesting anytime I remember the movie.
What do you think is special about the movie, 76? What was your reaction when you first saw the script?
The first day I saw the script I grabbed it with all pleasure because the story is based on history. And I love our Nigerian history. Nigeria for some reasons does not have history and it saddens my heart. It is a sad reality of who we are. Because it is almost like saying if you don’t have a past how will you know your future? Most people we see everyday just think about their future; what they want to achieve and the rest of that. They don’t think about what their past was? What today is? Can I use my past to rectify today so that I use to have a better tomorrow?
Would you say that the movie made your knowledge of current affairs better?
To be frank with you, I didn’t know much about the story until I read the script. I just had same knowledge that every other Nigerian had about the assassination of our past head of state called Murtala Mohammed in 1976 that was just it. But the intriguing parts of the story, most people don’t know. I don’t even know the whole story until I got involved in the film. The movie also gave me an insight into what happed to our past president, the coup and all the saddening part of his death. The film didn’t take me too well on the assassination of Murtala Mohammed but I had a bit of it. It was just focused on the soldiers and how they suffered during the regime; the family of the soldiers, their wives, their children and how they suffered; what happened to them and other issues. How they became victims of treason and other touching aspects of the story.
Are there aspects of the story that weren’t featured in 76 but can be explored in another movie?
Yes; we didn’t really shoot the whole story behind Murtala Mohammed in 76. The rest of the story is still pending. If anyone wants to shoot the movie on Murtala Mohammed the person can still go head to shoot it. It is still there. It’s the drive that affected the soldiers behind the movie. We focused on the plotting of the coup within the low-ranking officers. We have not told the story from the point of view of Murtala Mohammed himself. I hope it was clear.
How did you see yourself when you were costumed with moustache to look exactly like Murtala Mohammed?
We are actors; so we are used to all kinds of costumes to suit the character we are acting. For the moustache, it was placed so well that I was looking truly like an old man. But the wig that looks like the Afro hairstyle refused to stay on my head until after several attempts. It didn’t look realistic to my director so he ordered that the wig should be removed not to disturb production.
Aside movie production, what have you been doing?
I have been spending more time with my family; I have also been doing business and taking a lot of rest. Another thing is getting involved in humanitarian stuff. Whenever the need arises to get into humanitarian projects I don’t decline because I want to give back to the society what I have.
It is learnt you are picky about the films you act in?
I don’t just act any movie brought to me. I do a lot of random selection in terms of acting in a movie. I don’t want to lose my integrity in the industry. I don’t want producers to take advantage of me because I am a strict person by nature. I take my time to act and any movie I act will be a highly celebrated movie. So I don’t accept all scripts.
What is your view about young actors and actresses making bold statements in the industry?
They say the young shall grow. It is a good thing. Nollywood must grow; we must continue to train the younger actors so that they can be professionals. People want to see new faces in Nollywood. So, it is a good development and Nollywood must continue to expand.
What do you think about failed marriages in Nollywood?
A whole lot of people cannot stand the heat in the kitchen anymore that is why marriages are crashing. Women can no longer endure because they believe they are making more money than the man. Everybody wants easy life now. Nobody wants to endure. Today, most marriages are based on equality. The woman now believes she can compete with the man because she is getting the same 50 per cent with the man. That is happening everywhere not just in Nollywood. Back then our mother used to be the woman who ran the home and managed it. Our mothers were in charge of the home and they never complained rather they believed in working hard. They took charge of everything for us. Today’s women don’t want that kind of stress. Hence, it is affecting marriages. So, most of them believe that assisting their husband means slavery. They don’t respect their husbands and they prefer to be alone. Marriage is supposed to be beautiful, honourable and a weapon against the enemy and life’s challenges. But if we don’t get it right it will bring nothing but shame.
You have been married for years. What has kept your marriage intact?
My wife is a unique woman. She is not just an ordinary woman. She is amazing, just like my mother. She takes care of everything and I am comfortable with that. I just give her the money while she manages the home. She believes in holding her marriage so dearly and respecting her man. She owns the home; I cannot even come up with any decision on how to take care of my children; her decision is final. However, she wants to run the home is her business. My own is to assist financially. And that is our little secret. A lot of women say, ‘oh, your wife is trying.’ I tell them, that’s why she’s better than me. What sustains my marriage is companionship and that is why my marriage is still intact. Of course, we still quarrel and scream at each other but we always make up. If you cannot find companionship in your partner from the beginning, the marriage will never work.
What is your advice for those in Nollywood whose marriages have failed?
Don’t run after a man or woman because he is handsome or beautiful; someday the beauty will fade. You must run after the companionship that binds the two of you together for your marriage to work. For some reason you cannot do without her; for some reason, there is something about her that brings you back home. Her sense of humour, either the way she cares for you; her method of cooking or the love that binds the two of you together. There must be something that brings you back to your husband or wife. There must be something that compels you together or else your marriage will never work. Women should be careful and prayerful before running into a man’s home. Don’t stay or marry just because you want to be married woman. Women need to start empowering themselves, holding good jobs, and show respect to their husbands. Most women believe because they are financially independent, they cannot respect their husband. Being financially ready and secure does not mean you should neglect your husband or compete with him. Remember, the man is the head of the family so you must respect him and continue to work under him. Some women, because they are financially capable, do not want to be under a man. Africa still has culture, and our culture sees the man as the overall breadwinner of the family and not the woman.
Which movie will you say made you famous?
I have two movies that brought me to limelight. I can never forget ‘Silent Night’. It was my first in the industry and it made everybody to know me while the second one is ‘Dangerous Twins’.
Which one has sold more?
‘Dangerous Twins’, because I had to act Mr A and B at the same time; dressing up and coming back on stage to reply what I had earlier said was not easy at all but I enjoyed it. It sold more because it had parts one and two.
I play golf, basketball, football, tennis; engage in martial arts, boxing, swimming, and cycling.