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Tony Umez "I didn't see it as soft porn," actors discusses movie role

Following his break out role in a 1994 movie, actor Tony Umez has maintained a strong presence in the movie industry ni Nigeria.

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Tony Umez first became famous after his 1994 movie, Died Wretched. Since then, he has maintained a strong and influential role in the industry.

READ MORE: 5 things you probably don't know about Tony Umez

In a recent Vanguard interview, he spoke about his career and a controversial 2013 movie he featured in.

We haven't seen you very often on the screen:

 I don’t know what you mean by missing on screen! But if I have to agree with your observation, I am back on track. The industry is evolving and younger actors are springing up everyday. But that doesn’t mean, I haven’t done some jobs in recent times. It’s just that I haven’t been as prolific as I used to be in the past. I have been involved in other projects. Nonetheless, I am back in the industry.

Do scripts still come your way?

For an A-list actor who used to feature in about thirteen to fourteen movies per year, if he starts featuring in about four to five movies, his face would cease to be regular on screen. That’s why you said, my face has been missing on screen. It wasn’t actually missing on screen.

Living your dream after debuting in Nollywood in 1994?

“Died Wretched: Buried in N2.3m Casket, “ wasn’t my first movie. But it was the movie that brought me to limelight. As an actor, I am more focused  and disciplined now than ever before. But contrary to what people believe, an actor is the most  disciplined person on earth. It has also made me more rounded as I play different characters in movies. My world view has changed too. I don’t see things from just one perspective. I used to read a lot and I’m still maintaining that culture of reading. The industry has also made me to understand that life itself  is transient, and not all that glitters is gold.

Why can't you speak Igbo?

I don’t speak nor understand Igbo.  It’s a long story which I wouldn’t want to talk about now. It’s sad but there is nothing I can do about it. In fact, the little I understand is as a result of my wife. My wife is from Okija.

I am from Ogidi in Anambra State. I speak English and Efik fluently because my mum comes from Cross River State. I grew up in Lagos and as a result, I speak Yoruba too. I have done some Yoruba movies. I have also done an Efik movie. It is not as if I  never had Igbo friends while growing up. But I thank God for His mercies. I have never for once run away from my roots.

How do your colleagues react this?

My Igbo brothers know that I don’t understand Igbo as much as I should. They are very accommodating and it doesn’t make me a worthless person or alienate me from them. They respect me for who I am, and I respect them for who they are. Basically, they don’t discriminate against me. That I don’t feature in Igbo films is because  I am not very fluent in speaking the language.

‘What starring in soft-porn movie  ‘027’ taught me’

What prepared me for what I am doing today

Basically, nothing prepares you for anything. But education is very important. When you are educated, it means you are trainable. I  read English as well as International Law and Diplomacy, as first and second degrees respectively, at University of Lagos.I did some courses in drama and participated in command performances.  So, I wasn’t new to production,  but I was new to commercial production when I came into the industry. But at the time I graduated from the university, I wasn’t thinking of becoming an actor.

I wanted to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at that time. Then there was an embargo on employment. I embraced my first course of study- English and started doing private tutoring until 1994, when I featured in a church movie. The movie got me stagnated. But in 1995, I did my first  major movie,  “ Chief Ikenga” which was directed by Steve Aginoche.

I played the lead role in the movie. Interestingly, I met my wife while starring in that church movie. She played  my wife in the movie, and to God be the glory, she is my wife  today. We have been married for about 21 years now. We courted for five years, from 1994 to 1999, before we finally walk down the aisle. I am a one woman man.

To God be the glory, I don’t  have any scandal in the industry at the moment. I love my wife and I love my family. I don’t want anything to interfere with the peace, joy and happiness that I share with my family.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t paid any fee after featuring in my first two movies.  We negotiated but till date the producers did not pay me a dime. As a result, I left the industry because I felt it wasn’t a place I could survive in. I returned to the industry in 1997, featuring in a movie titled, “The Princess.”  After which I starred in “Died Wretched: Buried in N2.3m Casket,” in 1998.  I have been relevant in the industry ever since then.

The role I played in that soft-porn movie, 027

It is something I wouldn’t want to discuss now because there has been a lot of brouhaha about the film. So many misconceptions. I did a movie, and I didn’t see it as soft-porn. Those who are labelling the film as ‘x-rated movie’  have not watched, till the end. They only watched the trailer and concluded that it is  soft porn. I read the script, which was written by one of the very best in the industry Dami Joe Efe Young. It was a wonderful script. The lady in question played the lead role in the movie.

It was a 2-hour movie, but people are  focusing on that particular scene which just happened. And it wasn’t as if there was sex on set. Everything was basically make-believe. It was made to look  real and people believed it too. I don’t blame them because they have their own opinions while I have mine.

It wasn’t as if there was sex all through the movie. It was just an aspect of the whole movie. The movie generated a lot of controversies when it was released. Some people commended it while many others were against it.

I received some foreign calls, commending the movie because they watched it till the end. But a lot of people  who criticized it watched only the trailer online. Like I always tell people, I have weathered the storm and I have moved on.

My wife’s reaction

It wasn’t pleasant news  for her because she is a woman. But like I said before, I have weathered the storm, and I have moved on as an individual, and my family has moved on too. May be, what it had taught me is to be more circumspect in the things I do.  I should not just look at the creativity embodied in a script. But I should also look at the societal reaction to it.

See also Pulse TV video below, for more on how Seyi Law spoke about dancing naked in front of his wife.

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