Lately, Nollywood star, Ramsey Nouah, wears the director’s hat on movie sets. Since he made his directorial debut with the sequel of Nollywood classic, ‘Living in Bondage’, the actor appears to be enjoying his newfound love for directing.
At the digital press conference for the remake of Amaka Igwe’s 1995 hit movie, ‘RattleSnake, on Thursday, the actor spoke about his directorial role in the movie and why he agreed to do the job.
Play Networks’ boss, Charles Okpaleke, bought the rights to ‘RattleSnake’ five years after he acquired the rights to “Living in Bondage’’.
‘RattleSnake’ was a 1994 Nollywood classic directed by the late Amaka Igwe and produced by Austin Awulonu. It told the story of a young boy named Ahanna Okolo (Francis Duru), who got into the life of crime as a result of unfortunate events in his childhood.
The movie star jokingly said that although the executive producer of the film, Charles Okpaleke, had to literally put a gun to his head to make him agree to work on the film, he appreciates works of art and he decided to work on the remake.
This will be Okpaleke’s third movie. His first, “Living in Bondage: Breaking Free” made over N140 million within the first few weeks of its release in cinemas.
“Charles of Play shared the idea of making replays of old Nollywood movies with me. We made Living in Bondage and it was a success and we decided to make others. Living in Bondage was a sequel, Rattlesnake is a remake. The producers of the film believe in works of art and the sense of nostalgia that these films bring also contribute to their appeal,” he said.
He added that the strength of nostalgia was what Mr Okpaleke saw that influenced him into making the remake, instead of allowing the good old classics to go to waste. When they succeeded in making a sequel, they decided to also do a remake.
He said, “I love the fact that we can actually speak our dialect. That is nostalgia. Any movie that can actually stand the test of time, is worth remaking. Imagine if our classics were made on strong formats then there won’t be reasons to remake them. The format Rattlesnake was made in then is not good enough but the format we are making now, in 20 years’ time, I’d still watch it.”
Mr Nouah also said the film is a way to celebrate the memory of the producer of the original movie, the late Amaka Igwe, who he said was one of the best to ever make movies in Nollywood.
He said, “We also celebrate the original producer of the movie, Amaka Igwe. Right from the start, I knew she was way beyond Nollywood. She was one of the best hands we had in the industry. Making a remake of her film will definitely bring back those memories.”
Chris Odeh, one of the producers of the movie also said he joined the crew of the movie because it is an indigenous movie that promotes the culture and it is deserving of a remake so it can be made better for viewers in the present generation.
“One of the reasons I came on board is that we have 93 dialects with different cultures in this country. Most of them are left untouched waiting for the western world to come tell our story. I appreciate the way we all came together and spoke our language to promote our culture.
“Also, I watched the initial and it was very blurry because it was made for cassette players. If you come now and see this, you’ll be amazed to see a clearer picture with better music, better cinematography, and all,” he said.
The screenwriter, award-winning Nicole Asinugo, talked about the challenges of writing the story for the movie. She said she found it much easier to write the story for Living in ‘Bondage: Breaking Free’, for which she co-won an award at the AMVCAs.
She said, “The process was different, based on the time. I wrote Living in Bondage in 2015/16, I was much younger. This one was different because I had so much more going on but what made it unique is the fact that there was a team. Several times, I was on zoom with Charles, Ramsey, and Chris, discussing the story. Then, the story wasn’t like starting from the scratch but putting the original story in the context that we are looking at.”
The director, Ramsey Nouah, also said it was quite challenging interpreting the story to fit into the current era.
“A story that was made in an era being remade in another era when the demography is completely different. We had to make it to appeal to the viewers of this era. The good thing about Rattlesnake is that it is a story that remains relevant at any period because the ills that were addressed then are still very much in our society today,” he said.
Mr Odeh talked about the challenges of having to shoot the movie during the COVID-19 pandemic, taking into consciousness every preventive measures they could, in order to be safe.
He said, “We had to be extra conscious of hygiene. Moving here and there and having to sanitize and wash our hands at every point. We had a PR Health, they gave us sanitizers, text kits, face shields, and masks. It was not easy but we had to do that just to be safe.”
Choosing actors to play different characters in the moving was equally taxing, they said, as they had to find the right actors to fit with the kind of energy they want in the film.
The producer, Mr Odeh, said they put extra efforts into finding the characters for the film because a story can only be told with proper casting.
“While Nicole was writing, she created very strong characters for the story and we had to find actors that match the energy. It was during the COVID time, it was very challenging, we went online, looked for actors, invited them for reading, and each time we found an actor we shared with the crew members,” he said.
Judith Audu, a line producer for the film commended the choice of characters, saying they brought their individual energies to create a fire.
“They came together and brought their energies with them. When the director saw them for the first time, he was impressed by the energy. He already had the kind of characters he wanted in his head and they all met up to his expectations,” she said.
The director added that even though there are lots of great actors in the industry, there are no sentiments attached to choosing characters in Play Network.
Sonny McDon, the only character from the original movie that is brought into the remake said playing the role again, 25 years after the first one, makes him feel young again.
“It is wonderful. I feel like a Gee right now. I feel younger than everybody there. It is like a man seeing his franchise being born. I feel elated, I feel happy. I can only say thank you to God for making me witness this. Thanks to my director, my producer, and the entire family. 20 years ago, I directed Ramsey and in 2020, Ramsey is directing me. It is like being young to old and then back to young again,” he said.
Mr McDon played the role of the main character’s father in the original movie and is returning with the same role in the remake.
The award-winning Nigerian music producer, Larry Ndianefo aka Larry Gaaga, is producing the movie’s soundtrack. The movie will premiere in cinemas nationwide on November 8.
See some behind-the-scene photos from the set below: