By Ayo Onikoyi
THE Nigerian movie industry has produced many veterans whose footprints have not only defined the path but have left a beacon on the way on which many have thrived in the make-believe world.
One of such greats is Oludotun Baiyewu Jacobs, professionally known as Olu Jacobs, who towers well above many of his contemporaries, both in stature and substance.
Olu Jacobs is a world-acclaimed actor, celebrated globally for his uncommon craftsmanship as a thespian. He is an international multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, television personality, scriptwriter, television broadcaster, businessman and entrepreneur. He is a pioneer actor in Nollywood and is believed to have set the trajectory of posterity in the industry through his profound contributions, both on and off cameras.
By any conceivable parameters, Olu Jacobs is a successful professional who has paid his dues in the movie industry and is thus highly respected by all. The 79-year-old veteran actor has put in over five decades of his life in bringing joy and entertainment to many homes in Nigeria and beyond. He is believed to have featured in over 200 home videos, 30 television productions in Nigeria alone and over 100 stage productions.
Olu Jacobs is a globally celebrated actor who has featured in major blockbusters nationally and internationally. He is regarded as one of the most respected African actors and cultural icons. He has played a pivotal role in the conception of Nollywood as an industry and the entire Nigerian entertainment industry. Olu Jacobs has been hailed by many as one of the greatest and most widely respected African actors of his generation. He is considered by several media, film commentators, critics, and other actors to be one of the most influential African actors of all time, and is widely regarded as the bridge between the old actors and the new ones.
Career: Olu Jacobs obtained his First School Leaving Certificate, FSLC, from Holy Trinity School in Kano State where he was said to be highly active in the Debating and Drama Society. Reports abound that he was attracted to the arts and theatre through Hubert Ogunde. After his secondary education, the veteran actor travelled out of the country to study theatre arts at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, RADA, in England, the United Kingdom in 1964. He worked with various repertoire theatres in Britain and starred in some international movies. He is Nigerian by birth and British by naturalisation.
Sojourn in the British television space: Olu Jacobs got his first acting role while in London. After a successful audition, he bagged a role in his first movie “The Vigilante” which was produced by AA Production. Subsequently, many other roles were to follow as he established himself as an actor of note in various British television series and shows in the 70s. He starred in the political tragedy and comedy play “Murderous Angels” performed in the 1971 edition of Dublin Theatre Festival. In 1978, he played the role of President Mageeba in Michael Codron’s presentation of British screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard’s play “Night and Day”.
He also starred in Roman Polanski’s adventure-comedy “Pirates” in 1986. He featured in other British series like Till Death Do Us Part, The Goodies, Barlow at Large, Angels, The Ventures and many others. Olu Jacobs appeared in several international films in the 80s, including John Irvin’s war film “Dogs of War.”
Nollywood: Having bestrode the British film landscape for more than 20 years, Olu Jacobs came home to put his craft to work and help lift an industry that was a mere toddler with many teething problems. Regardless of the challenges, he went through the arduous task of film production in an industry that was new and unprofitable.
According to various reports, he is considered one of the highest-paid actors in the movie industry. In 1984 he was invited by the Nigerian government to help start a television series titled “Second Chance” which became a major staple on the television menu of many Nigerians.
Some of his early efforts include Iva, Onome, Obstacles, Twins of the Rain Forest, Oganigwe, Aba Women’s Riot, 21 Days with Christ, End Time, Private Sin, Arsenal, Blood Rings and many more.
Personal life: Olu Jacobs owns a film academy known as Lufodo through his company, Lufodo Group which he runs alongside his wife, Joke Silva. The academy is known for training movie practitioners in acting, directing, producing, script-writing, photography, costuming, makeup, editing, modelling, set design and other aspects of film-making.
Olu Jacobs met his wife, Joke Silva in Lagos when he came back to Nigeria. It was on the set of a stage play. The two got married in 1989 and became a power couple as his wife is also a veteran and role model in acting herself. Together, they have raised a generation of actors that have taken the Nigerian film industry to greater heights by impacting experience-based knowledge to their budding minds.
Awards: Olu Jacobs is a recipient of the Prix Charles Mensah (Ecran d’Honneur) award for his outstanding lifetime achievement as an actor of local and international success, especially for his exceptional contribution to the development of the film industry in Africa. He has also received awards both within and outside the country for his professional achievements. He is a recipient of virtually all notable awards in Nigeria; From AMVCA to AMAA, to mention just a few.
He is also a national honour recipient. He was conferred with the National Honour of the Member of the Federal Republic, MFR, by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. Recently, he was also conferred with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Africa International Film Festival, AFRIFF, as did African Movie Academy Awards, AMAA, in 2016.
Background: Olu Jacobs hails from Egba Alake town in Abeokuta South local government area of Ogun State. He spent most of his early childhood in Kano State. He was brought up in a decent Christian home and was born July 11, 1942.