He started out as an actor, then became producer. Today, however, he is a director. And who knows, he may eventually go into marketing to complete the circle. I’m talking about Ifeanyi Lawrence Ikpoenyi, the producer of Evil Genius, Karishika, Enemies, Ekulu, Benita… AZUH ARINZE took him up on his career, and other issues at his Festac, Lagos home. Excerpts…
You started out as an actor. Then a producer. But today, you are a director. Why the metamorphosis?
I believe as a practitioner, the only way you can get better is to try your hands on acting, producing and directing. It’s only when you have tried your hands on all these and you flourish that you can call yourself a complete practitioner. Again, why I joined directing is because when I started as a producer, I came to realize that 50 to 60 per cent of the technical aspects of all my films, I normally handle. In fact, I edit all my films. And on set, most times I call the shots. So, I told myself that it’s high time I came out fully. The inspiration is from God. Not from any man and I give Him all the glory.
What was the experience like shooting and also having to direct for the first time?
Like I said before, it’s not a new thing to me because I’ve always been doing that. All my films, I did one or two things as per directing. The only difference this time is that I did it wholly. People have been writing, commending me and that goes to show that the work is okay. I’m not trying to hail myself, but as far as I am concerned, if Ekulu is not the best movie in Nigeria today, it is one of the best.
How is it doing in the market?
So far, Ekulu is topping every other film in the market. My marketer, Reemy Jes breezed into Lagos recently and told me that it’s still topping the chart.
Tell us about yourself.
(Smiles) Ifeanyi Lawrence or Larry Ikpoenyi is from Umuleri in Anambra East LGA of Anambra State. He’s an easy going person, an open person and by the special grace of God, a born again Christian. An actor, producer, director. What other thing do you want to know?
Tell us some of the schools you attended.
I attended UPE Primary School, Otuocha and Feggae Primary School, Onitsha; then, I proceeded to Metropolitan Secondary School, Onitsha and Ossisa Secondary School in Delta. From there, I proceeded to IMT where I did my OND in Architecture. And much later, UNILAG to read Mass Communication.
You said something about coming from Umuleri. How do you feel about the war going on there?
(Smiles again) Well, as a Christian, I see those things as barbaric. For two communities in the present dispensation to engage themselves in war over a parcel of land that does not belong to anybody but God is terrible and I know that the day the trumpet will sound, everybody will find his/her level. In a nutshell, I don’t like what is happening there, I don’t support them. As I’m talking to you now, I’m homeless. They’ve burnt down my father’s house, my brother’s duplex…everything is gone. I don’t have any village to return to right now. It’s like I’m now in exile in Lagos, pending when the war will stop. So, I’m appealing to the government to do something urgently to stop the war and also compensate the Umulerians who are the real victims. All those houses in my place were razed by the Agulerians and their Anam cohorts.
What are your likes as a person?
I like good things and I like good people and I like God as well.
What about your dislikes?
I hate pretenders. I hate greedy people. I hate usurpers and I hate dubious people. I hate Satan as well.
What do you hate about yourself?
I think God has done a marvelous job on me. I’m a perfect work of God, but what I may say is that as a born again Christian, I still find myself committing sins. And according to the Bible, the unrighteous can never see God and my prayer today is for me to make heaven.
What kind of sins do you normally commit?
So many of them. I don’t think I can name them so that people will not capitalize on them to criticize me. But I know I commit sins. Mind you, the Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, so whoever that says he or she is without any sin is making God to look like a liar. But God cannot lie, you know.
What and what do you like about yourself?
What I like about myself is the fact that I work very hard to make a living and also I commit all my life to God.
What are your hobbies?
Watching movies, reading novels, playing football and travelling.
Who are your role models?
I don’t think I have any role model because if I do, I will be limiting my talent and creative ability. I want to supersede everybody, even in Hollywood, by the special grace of God.
Do you have any regret?
I don’t think I have any. The only thing I’m regretting is trusting friends, giving all my trust to friends, only for them to turn around and show their true colour.
Mind telling us about these friends of yours?
Well, I don’t want to mention names, but I know what I’m talking about.
Tell us about your happiest day.
My happiest day was the very first day I did my movie (Ekulu) myself, without any sponsor. I handled everything myself, both financially and otherwise. Being an epic, it was something big, but God saw me through. People have been writing to commend me; some say it is the best movie ever done in Nigeria, some say it is one of the best and I give God all the glory.
Tell us about your saddest day.
My saddest day was the day I received the news of my mother’s death; that she’s dead and that her corpse is now in the mortuary. That was my saddest day (countenance changes) May her soul rest in peace.
When was this?
That was December 23, 1997.
What killed her?
Nothing. They said she just finished her meal, went in and that was it. But from what my dad told me, she just complained of headache, but I still don’t think that that is enough to kill a soul. But God knows best. He knows why He took her from us.
Which food is your favourite?
I’m a typical African man, so my favourite food is eba and ogbono soup or rice and plantain.
What about drink?
I don’t drink. I only take Fanta or Coke and at times, Malt Guinness.
Which car is your favourite?
I like Honda Accord, Bluebird and jeeps.
Which colours are your favourite?
My favourite colours are black and white.
What about music?
Christian songs. Both foreign and local. They give me inspiration and also draw me closer to my God.
What’s your dream in life?
I have a very ambitious dream which I will not want to discuss on the pages of a magazine. The only thing I will like to say is that with good direction, vision, hardwork and above all, with God on my side, I know I will definitely make it.
How did you start as an actor?
Okay, that was a very long time ago. Although while still a kid, I was so much in love with everything that concerns TV, actors, etc. At times, I will sneak out of my house to cinema houses to watch films. It was from there that the interest and the urge to become an actor started hitting me. After watching those films, I always asked myself: can’t you be like them? Can’t you even do better than them? But my problem was that my people discouraged me, telling me that acting was for touts and not for reasonable people. And because of the discouragement, I had to give up. But when I finished my secondary school and got into IMT, there was this close friend of mine, also called Ifeanyi Okubalu (a.k.a Alagbashege). So, he was a little bit closer to these actors and because I was always telling him about my dreams, one day, he said come; there’s an audition for a soap opera somewhere in Enugu by Chika Okpala and some other people. We went there together and instantly, I got a role and that was the beginning of my career in acting.
What year was this?
I can’t really remember, but it was in the early 90s.
Which of your roles do you think is your best?
I think the role I played in Evil Genius II and also my role in Enemies.
What about your worst?
My worst role was my role in Rolling Stone, one Igbo film that we did far back.
What’s that lowest fee that you have collected?
The very first film I did, I think I collected N500.
Which movie was that?
(Thinks) Bond of Iniquities.
What’s your highest?
That was my role in Karishika, Part 1, where I died on top of a woman.
How much did you get for that?
NB: This interview had earlier been published
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