Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry is the third largest in the world, just after Bollywood and Hollywood, churning out thousands of movies per annum in a highly competitive straight-to –DVD market.
It’s also home to divas, pretentious studs and wannabes. Ordinary people who have been plucked from obscurity, and overnight, have become household names, their egos and fortunes, alarmingly, streaking skywards.
With fame and fortune comes excess, the big opulent houses, the big top of the range cars, the designer clothes, the ostentatious parties and the showing off.
In a land where a great many live in poverty its not uncommon to see a Nollywood celebrity ‘oppressing’ the poor, and everybody else, with their fame and wealth.
They take ‘ keeping up with the Jones’ to another level. Their lives are played out on Twitter, their Facebook page , with thousands following, is full of pictures of their fabulous lifestyle, the clothes, the parties and the foreign jaunts. Their Instagram accounts are also full of selfie pictures of a fairy-tale lifestyle. They’re on the front page of Ovation and in every gossip magazine. They just love to rub it in as if to say;’ we’re rich and you’re not!’.
Money comes and goes. A fast lifestyle is often an expensive lifestyle. And when movie roles dry up the money ceases to flow in, the fame disappears and its back to square one.
Many Nollywood stars have fallen from grace. Some have had to go back to their previous day jobs, others have gone cap in hand begging, others have fled the country and others have sunk even lower and turned to crime.
Wole Saint James had it all, the top movie roles, the girls, the money, the cars, everything. He even had his own talk show and then he blew it.
Lekki and VI girls aren’t cheap and neither are strip clubs, wine bars and a celebrity lifestyle.
With fame gone to his head, arrogance set in and he became increasingly difficult to work with. As a result directors didn’t offer him any new roles and his talk show was cancelled after a session. He found himself unemployed and unemployable.
Having frittered his money away on the good things of life with no further work coming in he ended up broke and ended up selling his assets to survive. He sold his cars, houses and share of a boutique he co-owned just to survive.
His financial situation might not have been that dire had he ditched his ostentatious lifestyle. But the shame of him not being in ‘the crowd’ meant he was living beyond his means.
In less than two years it was all gone and he ended up living in a friends boys quarters and surviving on hand-outs. He had called in every favour and there was no offer of work, ‘cept one.
Piers Willow, the South African director, was in town casting for a new film and Wole was persuaded to go for the audition.
Wole shuddered at the idea. He and Piers had crossed paths before. When times were good he had insulted him and stormed off a film set in anger costing the director millions in damages and lost revenue.
Now they were to meet again. A beggar , they say, rarely has a chance.
A friend had brokered the deal. If he auditioned for the part and passed the screen test he’d work for a quarter of his usual fee. He’ll also sign an NDA, non-disclosure agreement, binding him to be on best behaviour at all times and he’d be liable for any costs should his ‘bad boy’ image cause any disputes or disruptions.
The South African reluctantly went along with it given all assurances. If he could pull it off it meant making a top film with a top actor at half the cost. And for Wole it was a chance to get back into the limelight. He would ‘have arrived again’.
The film was to be a parody of the Big Brother reality TV programme and to cut costs the BB house in Ikeja was being rented to use as a film set.
As was to be expected Wole was the star but as a precaution the director had also hired an understudy.
Filming commenced as soon as the contracts were signed and Wole found himself back in Nollywood. Crack this, he thought and make a box office hit and he’d be back in the business. Back to commanding starring roles and big fat pay cheques.
He was doing a scene where he had to wander around the BB house wearing a lion costume. Normally a boom directional microphone would be used to capture sound but because of the awkwardness of it, a remote microphone was sewn into his outfit. A switch inside meant he could switch it on and off as filming required.
After filming non-stop for nearly three hours the director shouted ‘cut’ and gave everybody on the set an half hour break before filming re-commenced.
With two further scenes left to shoot Wole decided to keep his costume on and went outside to get some fresh air.
Against regulations he had smuggled in his phone and it was vibrating silently, for the umpteenth time, in his pocket.
He decided to answer it. It was Jaz an old friend he hadn’t spoken to for a while.
‘Whats up Jaz ?’, he bellowed down the mouthpiece,’. Long-time no hear’.
‘How’s the new acting job going ?’, asked jaz having heard on the grapevine something had come up for him.
‘ its total rubbish man, the plot is stupid and laughable, the other actors are amateurs and I wouldn’t even give the director a commercial to shoot!’.
Jaz laughed on the other end, ‘ so what are you going to do then ?’.
‘ I’m just going to roll with it’, bragged Wole,’..and take the money and run’.
‘ So have you got something else coming up after this ?’, Jaz asked.
‘ Nothing really but I reckon if I can impress that homosexual racist South African director well enough he’ll pass the word round and get me some roles’.
‘Make you suck up to him well well’, encouraged Jaz.
‘Trust me bro’ I’m going to suck up to him big time that he’s going to think I want to suck him !’.
Both of them laughed at the tasteless joke as Wole rounded up the call. It was time to go back in.
Waddling back on to the film set in his costume he was surprised to see another actor wearing a lion outfit just like his and all eyes were on him as he came in.
‘What’s the matter ?’, Wole asked casually, sensing something was wrong.
Piers white face had turned a shade redder with anger,’ you’re fired ! Get off my film set immediately !’.
Wole was confused,’why? What have I done wrong?’, he asked no one in particular, looking round at all the angry faces staring back at him.
‘ You left your microphone on’, said one of the production assistants,’..we heard everything you said’.