In one of the chapters of his book, Nollywood till November: A memoir of an insider, producer-director, Charles Novia details his experience with actresses, Genevieve Nnaji and Stella Damasus.
Novia reminisces about a face-off that was beginning to brew between the actresses and would have spoilt a production, had he not handled it with care.
In his narration, he told the story of how the duo had started on a warm note only to allow for ego to set in few days to the end of the shoot.
‘The Producer in me wanted to titillate the audience with a box office pairing never before seen in Nollywood. I had for a few months wondered how it would be like to have Genevieve and Stella Damasus in leading roles in the same movie.
They both were audience favourites for various reasons and the prospects of having another box office hit with both of them was quite appealing. Besides, the script ‘More Than Sisters‘ was just right for both of them to explore their creative abilities. Stella promptly signed up for the movie as did Segun Arinze, whose re-branding process was an on-going project for me.
The chemistry and energy between Genevieve and Stella was amazing. Both actresses gave amazing performances. They were literally smoking! Somehow though, I could sense an unspoken professional rivalry between both of them.
A certain competition to outshine each other, behind the friendship they had. When I noticed a bit of that, I had to consciously rein in artistic excesses where I felt their acting could become melodramatic so as not to lose the essence of the story. But incidents like this were few.
Though both actresses were friendly with each other, at that point in time, Genevieve was the bigger box office star. I expected some diva tantrums for her and was quite prepared to either curb such or handle it with the firmness I had devised for such but surprisingly, she was very co-operative and blended with cast and crew alike.
‘I remember when we went to Ikorodu village to shoot some forest scenes, it was getting late and we had one night scene left to shoot. The time was about 7.30pm and it was supposed to be the last scene for the day. Genevieve took some extra time on her make-up. Stella walked up to me in agitation.
‘Sir, please tell Genevieve to hurry up. It’s late, we are in the middle of nowhere and she’s still making up. I am a wife and mother. I have kids to attend to at home tonight. She should not waste our time.’ I looked at Stella in surprise. There was an unusual edge in her voice. I could not fathom out why she would sound a bit antagonistic
I knew she had a point on the time being spent by Genevieve in making up but I always assumed she had been okay with it. But she did have a point about the time being a bit late and we were actually miles away from the main town in a bush somewhere!
I walked up to Genevieve who was rubbing powder on her face, while the make-up artist stood nearby, warily telling her she had over-done her face .
‘Genny, lets shoot this. Its late. Come on!’ ‘Just a minute, sir’ she replied. She spent a few more seconds dabbing powder over a big pimple on her cheek.
Stella was behind me, scowling and tapping her foot, impatiently.
I took the whole incident between them as one of some brimming rivalry among actors which directors and Producers face at times on set so I did not pay much notice to it’ he wrote.
Novia’s memoirs, detailing his experiences during his active years as a producer and director, is a 155 page book published by Author house.