Funmiade Bank Anthony is a wife, mother, entrepreneur, actor, movie maker, politician, relationship consultant and the founder of Rough Diamond Entertainment and Rough Diamond Charity Organisation. According to her, growing up was very interesting, you can imagine being born with a silver spoon, but my parents wanted us to be streetwise at the same time. So, it was a combination of “Aje butter” at home and forming “Aje Pako” street-wise.
She joined the movie industry over two decad3s ago and she is among the few Nollywood stars who have spent decades in the industry without scandals. A few weeks ago, this pretty screen goddess had an exclusive interview with City People’s Brands Editor, DAMILARE SALAMI 07033526688 where she opened up about her life, marriage, career and her current projects.
Below are excerpts from the interview, enjoy.
When did acting start for you?
Acting for me started a long time ago, it started in 2002. I actually started with an English movie where Gentle Jack and Stephnora Okereke featured. Zeb Ejiro was the movie producer, may God grant his soul eternal rest. That was how I started before I went back to school and thereafter, started featuring in Yoruba movies which is another ball game entirely. I never wanted to be an actress because of the stigmatization of actresses. I was actually an Executive Producer but my marketer then insisted that a play a particular role. That was how I started.
You had a stint in the English movie before you ported into the Yoruba sector. What’s the difference between both sectors?
Well, the English movie industry is more flexible than the Yoruba and more expensive too. There is no rule that says you must shoot your movie in English or Yoruba anyways. If you have your money you can shoot your movie either in English or Yoruba and if it flies, it can make you become popular. You don’t have to be an actor 100 percent before you can shoot a movie, you can be an executive producer or even a director. Both sectors of the industry are doing so well now. Although for security reasons, we can’t travel far again to Enugu, Asaba and all those places where they make majorly English movies but if you are in Lagos and you can do your own thing and make your own movies, why not? It can fly but penetrating might not be as easy as when you have good money to shoot a movie and take you to the cinema or change your face entirely.
Well, before we go deeper, which movie would you say shot you to the limelight and why?
I’m I in the limelight yet? I am not sure that I am in the limelight yet because I am not known by everyone. I still get some places and people will say it’s like I know you somewhere or I have seen you somewhere. Did you attend so so school or stay at so and so place? So I don’t think that I am in the limelight yet. I’ve done several movies and I can’t say that this is where this or that person knew me or saw me first. I believe that I am not there yet, I’ve not even done anything as far as I am concerned, I’ve not even produced a cinema movie that wowed people and made them like me. So, I am not there yet and that’s it for me.
I have been following you for a while and I’ve observed that you don’t play certain roles in your movies. You seem to be this reserved actor, why?
Sincerely speaking, it’s because of my husband, I want to keep my home and I like to respect his person. There was a particular movie I shot and I didn’t behave well in that movie and we didn’t release it till tomorrow. That’s because of the kind of person my husband is. He said I don’t like this kind of movie, you can’t show this kind of movie and the money just went down the drain. All the efforts and investments gone! If I am left alone, I would explore but because of the kind of man I am married to, and I want to keep my home because my home comes first. If not, you would have seen more of me.
So what was growing up like for you?
Growing up wasn’t easy for me, I was born with a silver spoon, my grandfather was the great Mobolaji Bank Anthony, the popular business tycoon and I enjoyed life from the beginning but everything changed when the silver spoon got missing and I had to face the reality of life because I grew up without my mum. Of course, coming from a wealthy background doesn’t determine where you will be in the future. Sorry, I quote the bible a lot. The bible says that the ways of God are not our ways, I lost her at the age of ten and then the reality of life dawned on me. It’s not bad, I just thank God for where I am today.
How did you survive those tough times, having lost your mum at 10 and trying to figure out life all by yourself?
I wasn’t all by myself; I had my day, my siblings and family members around me. Of course, when a child loses her mother at that age, there will be a lot of things that will still be missing but there are still other ways to learn. There are people that lost their mum during childbirth, they still lived, even though it is not always easy in such situations but thank God for my husband and family.
How long have you been married?
This is my second marriage, my first marriage was in 2016 and it lasted only 8 days. This is the first time I will be saying it publicly because I believe that everyone has their own challenges or problems. Because I am not out there, a lot of people don’t know. It lasted just 8 days, my husband travelled abroad, a lot of incompatibilities set in and then I met someone again four years ago, we got married and we are here today.
Wait, you married for 8 days, then what happened?
Well, we courted for 7 years and we got married. We actually did everything we were supposed to do before getting married and then he travelled. The travelling apparently was just an escape route for him because I don’t think he wanted the marriage. He actually even told me that he wasn’t going to marry me anymore but because as a young lady in her 30s, I wanted to get it done with, I was desperate, I had shown off my engagement ring, I just had to literally beg him to marry me because of the pressure from my siblings, my aunt and my family and he did it. He actually did it because I wanted him to do it and after then, he felt he had played his part and he left. I actually thought he was going to come back just as it used to happen in movies but in this situation, he didn’t. I went to the US to have my first child and he was in the US too, that didn’t make us come back together, which means it wasn’t ordained. Life goes on, I moved on and he also moved on too.
Let’s talk about the new marriage…
It’s very sweet, this is actually ordained. He’s a very private person, he was married too before he met me and that made us the same. He had his experiences, I had mine and we decided together that this was going to work and we are thanking God.
You as a movie producer, which would you say is the most challenging movie you ever produced and why?
It was a movie I produced with Ibrahim Yekini popularly known as Itele D Icon. I think it was Juba or Gba Kadara. Itele has a way of giving you some very difficult Yoruba proverbs that you have to recite over and over again and it wasn’t easy for me. This was the movie that I did that was very challenging for me.
What project are you working on now?
I just finished working on an English movie. You know I told you that I started my acting career in the English movie sector, I have now gone back to my first love. The movie is going to be ut very soon. I don’t want to mention the title now but it will soon be out. Also, right now, we are working on a cinema project that is titled “Ope Ni Ounje Oloun” although it’s still going to have a name to cap it, it’s a cinema project, it is a Yoruba movie. It’s going to be directed by Itele and Adebayo Tijani God’s willing Biodun Stephen. We are looking for money, City People come and sponsor it.
What should your fans and viewers expect from this new project?
It is a huge project that is very rich and going to showcase a lot of culture and tradition, the reality of life. This is my first cinema project and I know by the grace of God that it’s going to be a wow. Expect something spectacular, something out of this world, the storyline is awesome, I’ve been cooking this for seven years now so expect something unique.
Which of the popular faces should we expect to see in the movie?
For now, we have not done the casting but we hope that Toyin Abraham will be available. I think she is about the only person that is already assured of a role in the project.
You also run a foundation apart from being a movie producer. Tell us about it…
Yes, the foundation is called Rough Diamond Charity Foundation, it started in 2005 and what we do is go to rural areas where we give people free medications after medical tests. We give out free malaria, typhoid and HIV drugs and so on. We supply medical equipment to rural hospitals that lack such. We have supplied delivery beds, hospital beds and several other needs. So that is what we do at rough diamond because we believe that health is wealth. We have raised funds for people who have fibroids condition and need financial aid for surgery and several other aids too.
Why did you set up the foundation?
What actually inspired me was the fact a lot of people are carefree about their health in this part of the world. We don’t go for medical checkups, we just believe that we are strong and by the time we actually know what is wrong with us, it is always too late. So what we do is to take medicals to the people since they don’t like going to hospitals. Our healthcare centres are overpopulated, when people get there, they pick very distant numbers and get discouraged. SO what we also do is check the people’s health status and if we cannot handle the situation, we refer them to the appropriate hospitals. We make sure that people are fine health-side, our concern is to ensure that people are fine.
Which of the rural areas have you touched and how do you select the area to benefit from this project?
We just select randomly. I went to Takwa Bay, the beach there for relaxation and I realized that the place is densely populated and then we took our team down there to reach out to the people. We have also been to Kosofe, Agboyi-Ketu community precisely. We took to that place because it is a riverine area. By the grace of God, we shall also be there again in April this year for another exercise.
Why are you particular about the riverine areas?
Well, we’ve been to Makoko as well and we realized that a lot of people go to these nearby areas and offshore to render help but people rarely use the boat to cross to the other side of the islands within the rivers to render help and that was why I chose rural areas not necessarily riverine areas. But because it’s difficult to get there, whenever I get there, they will be like you are the first to come and do this for us, when are you coming back and the lacks. So I realized that I’m almost like the only one doing this for them in that vicinity, that’s why I’m passionate about it.
Having been on the two sides of life, you have been happy, you have known wealth and then you have also related with people who are just down there, how does that make you feel about life?
That’s a very tough question but then, it just makes me know that you can never predict life. Somebody can be very poor today and then tomorrow he becomes extremely wealthy and somebody can be very wealthy today and then tomorrow he becomes very poor. It all depends on the destiny of the person, so life has taught me never to look down on anyone. As much as you can try to be good, although some people might take your gentility for stupidity but then, you have to keep doing good because it will pay off at the end of the day. That’s my philosophy about life.
Has being a Bank Anthony opened doors for you in any way?
Absolutely, it has. My grandfather worked for that name and I hope that when I eventually change my surname to my husband’s name, I will be able to carry on with his legacy and I want my husband to carry on with the legacy of his family. The name Bank Anthony is a force to reckon with and I hope that it continues to open doors for me.
It’s been four years in the marriage, why haven’t you changed your surname?
Emmm because of some personal reasons anyways. Everybody knows me by the name Bank Anthony and it has already become a brand. Even though I have plans to change my surname this year. I already have some documents that bear my husband’s name but all my documents now will have to bear his name.
Do you consider yourself an A-list actor?
Because I’ve not started earning N2 million per movie now and I’ve not started walking on the street and people will start fainting. I still enter places and people will be like I know your face somewhere… My own belief is that if you are an A-list actor, you don’t need any introduction. Of course, there are places I go and people are wowed but not all places.