Sunny McDon W… Garlands for ‘strong man’ of moviedom
Nollywood literarily stood still on Wednesday. Not that the practitioners declared a strike; far from that. They only took time off to celebrate an illustrious son of the tribe Sunny McDon W, who was a year older.
There was a barrage of goodwill messages on several social media platforms for the Igbani, River State-born actor, producer, director and motion picture programmer. Indeed, felicitations have continued to pour in for the accomplished director, who should be rightly listed as a pioneer of the Nollywood industry.
A gifted, committed, passionate, versatile and long-standing member of the Nollywood family, Sunny, who keeps a beard and loves wearing hats as much as he loves eating seafood, personifies focus and typifies a man, who had spared no time in working at achieving a goal which he has set for himself. Even Sunny alludes to the fact that much of his success as a motion picture practitioner has come from the fact that he was brought up to be steadfast, set a target and to work assiduously at attaining set goals. Those tenets, as Sunny agreed, has largely accounted for his emergence as one of the popular players of the Nigerian motion picture industry.
Raised in Port Harcourt, Rivers State where he also had his early education, Sunny had a childhood ambition of becoming popular.
“I wanted to be a popular person and lawyers then were very popular. There was a lawyer, who used to come to our church to give talks; he was very popular. But I later found out when I started acting that I could also become popular through filmmaking. So, if I were not into filmmaking, I would have been a lawyer because, as I said, that was one profession I thought would help me achieve my ambition of becoming popular,” he recalled.
A devout Christian, Sunny had a stint at John Holt Shipping in Port Harcourt. He recalled that he took the vacation job “just so as to make ends meet.”
Although at some point, Sunny contemplated joining the army, he got a tacit ‘no’ from his mum, who wanted him instead to become a medical doctor. But Sunny would later become a stage and screen actor and a recognisable one at that.
He revealed that his incursion into the acting vocation began when he arrived Lagos in the early ’90s, a period when television drama production was the in-thing. At the time, the portable cabins at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), most especially cabin 9, was home to a lot of today’s established actor.
“That’s where we met people like ‘Skippo’ Chris Obi Rapu, John Ndanusa, Peter Igho and the rest; that was how it started. Then, we were combining it with stage acting at PEC Repertory Theatre at Onikan, Lagos, and at the National Theatre. We were at that before the boom in the home video industry in 1992,” he recalled.
Naturally, Sunny and his peers moved over to the home video turf. He speaks of that era of the boom in movie production
“When we started, it was basically vernacular films; Living in Bondage started it for some of us. Immediately after that, we did Dirty Deal, then Taboo followed before Unforgiving Sin and then Evil Passion. Those were the first five films that were done in this industry. So, the birth of Nollywood came as a big relief for some of us.”
Described by his wife as a humble, kind and loving husband, Sunny started out primarily as an actor. But as he grew on the job, he branched out to production management and directing. Today, he has featured in several productions as an actor and has produced and directed several movie productions.
Best known for his efforts in critically acclaimed movies such as Deadly Affairs, Against The World, ‘Domitila, Rattle Snake, Karishika, My Guy, Set Up, and King of Money, Sunny admitted that he has lost count of the number of movies he has featured in.
“Well, if I sit down to make an accurate tabulation, I would say that I have done more than a hundred movies or even more because, from 1992 to date, this is all I have been doing-acting and producing. Most times, when I direct or produce, I also act. So, I would have done more than a hundred. I have lost count,” he enthused.
Sunny’s first movie as a producer was Wages, which he made in the year 2000. The next was the controversial movie Shattered Home, which pitched him against the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB).
Although Sunny signed the movie as his own way of exposing the consequences of child neglect, the regulatory authorities, including the Nigerian Police, felt he was promoting sleaze.
“Shattered Home became an instant hit when we released it; everyone wanted to see it. But not too long after, everybody started calling for my head-The Censor’s Board and the Police. They said I was promoting sleaze and that I overexposed the ills with nudity. Well, I am a filmmaker, who is like a free thinker. When you pick up a theme, you are supposed to pursue the issue to a logical conclusion and that was what I did; except that, I added a bit of strategy to get people to buy the movie.”
He continued: “I was detained and later they said I was going to be charged to court. It aroused so much dust back then that I became a celebrity overnight; it was a trying period for me. At a point, I became incommunicado and even went underground. But the film Shattered Home is one film that I will do over and over again if given the opportunity,” he noted.
A proud son of the Niger Delta and current President of the Association of Niger Delta Filmmakers, Sunny looks forward to playing a long game on the movie turf.
Asked if he has any regret as an entertainer, Sunny, who is a fan of two Hollywood Icons —George Lucas and Steven Speilberg, replied “None! Not even when my faith and trust is based on my belief in Jesus Christ. I didn’t get into this industry by error; I was tailored into it and I thank God because he has been so benevolent. Whatever I know and have today, it is from this industry. True, God has been awesome. I will be the most ungrateful person if I don’t give God the glory for where I am today.”