Jaiye Kuti is one of the top Nollywood actresses endowed with rare comeliness. She is a household name, particularly among movie enthusiasts. As a wife, mother, actress and producer, she is, undoubtedly, an inspiration to her fans. TOKUNBO OYELEGBIN met the mother of two. Excerpts:
Can you live solely on acting?
I can live comfortably on acting.
I guess it is because you are a crossover actress. I am saying this because the thinking is that Yoruba actors don’t receive fantastic fees.
They pay o! People like Fathia, Femi Adebayo, Odunlade are paid very well.
How much could they be getting compared to the actors in the English home movie industry?
Yes, our fees might not be big compared to what our counterparts in the English home movie sector earn. The reason is that Yoruba movies are not sold globally.
Apart from this, they are not business-like. I mean what obtains in the industry is a case of you-help-me-I-help-you, so to say.
I don’t do that and it is not everybody that does that. Nobody will say that I have called him or her for a job and I didn’t pay him or her.
And you pay well?
Yes, I do, and they all know. If an artiste is doing five scenes, I know how much I give him or her, which he or she can’t get from any other person. That is why nobody has ever called me for a job without paying me.
Are you saying you are the highest-paying producer in the Yoruba movie sector?
No, I am not saying I am the highest-paying producer because I don’t know how much others pay. But I pay reasonable fees. If I am giving you 20 scenes, I know I can pay you at least N150, 000.
What is the least that you can collect as an actress?
It depends on the production house. You know, some production houses are just coming up and they want to use your face. But in some instances, you will have to show some understanding?
Have you received N500, 000 for any role?
No, I haven’t.
If we agree that the Yoruba actors don’t receive fat fees, you wonder if most of them are not living a fake life, considering their lifestyles…
Do you know that in one week, you can do two productions? I have done 20 scenes in four days before and I was paid N 200,000. Two days after, another person called me to do 15 scenes in a movie and I was paid N120, 000. That month alone, I made about N 500,000. In some months, you can make about N200, 000. But for an artiste of my standing, you don’t make less than N300, 000. For instance, I just finished an English movie and I was paid over N600, 000. I understand where the producer of the film is coming from and the film is going global. In fact, the director came from England.
So, is acting all you do?
No. I do other things, including real estate business.
What role brings out the best in you?
It is motherly roles because they help me to speak the hearts of the women.
Why is it hard for actresses to keep their homes?
I know people will always blame the actresses, but honestly, the men are responsible. If the man wants to get you into marriage, he will pretend; he will promise that he won’t prevent you from acting. But by the time you tell him you are going to a location for one week, he will go like, ‘Who is going to take care of me?’ Is it that he didn’t consider that before? So, it becomes difficult to manage. In other words, the man will now ask you to choose between your job and him. So, that is the issue.
What is your view about premarital sex?
I don’t know o… In those days, I tried to keep myself. In my church then, they said we should not make love before marriage. But can anyone do that now? But in my time, may God forgive me (pauses)…. I used to ask for forgiveness of sins. To me, it was as if I was starving my man (pauses)…You see, I always felt for him then. But I think we should just not do it before wedding.
Acting has almost become an all-comers’ affair. As a stakeholder, what’s your view about this?
I think a lot of them have lost their bearing. Some of them feel they have got some things to sell and they are looking for an opportunity to sell them. I have seen some roles and wondered if there were directors on the sets. You call yourself a student and you are carrying a ‘mini-miniskirt’ and wearing a pair of 10-inch shoes. It is because they don’t have the education or training before coming into the industry. I am a producer, and you can’t just come into my movie, except you are screened. But when you talk, they say it is probably because we are ‘old school’.
So, what is your association doing about this?
Our guild has not been in place for some time. Some people are doing what it is right, while some are not. I don’t know why. But now that we have a new ANTP president, maybe they will look into it. I know a lot is wrong with our films. Even the way we interpret is so bad. When they say you are poor, you have to look like one; and if you are a student, you have to live it. But the idea of walking naked in movies is not in our culture. Though they say it is a borrowed culture, we are not supposed to do it inasmuch as it doesn’t enhance our culture.
I think it is also because they are not passionate about their profession…
(Cuts in)They don’t even need the money you are paying them. They just want to advertise their nakedness; so, they don’t mind doing the job free-of-charge.