The Wayans name is one that has become a stable in comedy delivering some of the most outrageous comedies out there. While they are all most known for their comedies, Marlon Wayans has the most diverse resume delivering numerous dramatic roles to go along with his comedic gold. After the success of the first two Scary Movie films, he stepped away from the genre, but has thankfully returned with an all-new film A Haunted House taking on the found footage craze. I had the chance to sit down with him to talk his career, his new film, and what his future might hold.
Bobby: Why did you choose to make A Haunted House as you’re next film?
Marlon: I didn’t choose it, it chose me. I was sitting and watching Paranormal Activity 2, because you know as a black actor you ain’t working. Then it hit me, you know 1 and 2 are actually entertaining. I was like what if this happened to us and then I wondered what if it did. Then I called my producing partner Rick Alvarez and we just started banging it out over the phone. He then drove over to my house and it became 10 to 20 pages of jokes instantly and from there we were just like, what’s our story? So it kind of came out of necessity. They aren’t making as many movie as they used to and I wanted to venture out and start making movies Roger Corman style where you become your own brand of movie and your own financing and start making pictures. If they are making them in Hollywood, then I could supply Hollywood with projects because I write. So I just thought it would be fun to do the first found footage comedy.
Bobby: How hard is it to come up with that much comedy for one film?
Marlon: It’s actually really hard, but really easy. My mind is just trained to think that way. I’ve been watching cartoons like Looney Tunes since I was four. I didn’t have a babysitter, my babysitter was cartoons. After Looney Tunes lord knows what came on. My brother was listening to Richard Pryor albums and here I am seven years old sneaking in on him with my brother Shawn listening to Pryor curse up a storm. So it’s just the way growing up in the projects I was in, instead of fighting, stabbing, killing, and smoking, we just did jokes. That was my way out, that was my basketball, my football, my way out of the projects was to be funny. It’s just what we do for a living every day. It’s really hard I don’t want to say it’s easy; the hardest part is making it look easy. It actually becomes easier as you get older because your mind starts working towards it and less on the physicality.
Bobby: A lot of your movies focus on racial stereotypes in a funny and clever way, why is that?
Marlon: I think its part of a society that is never going away. There are so many things to talk about between black people, Hispanic people, white people, gay people, men, woman it’s all based on fear. We all have fears, this thing that stops us from embracing as we are one. We are never going to be one. People are messed up, but humor lets us see how ignorant we can be. We don’t just make fun of black people or white people, we make fun of everybody. We are equal opportunity offenders. It’s never meant to be offensive, it’s meant to be inclusive. One of the greatest compliments you can ever get is when you make fun of a certain sect of people and they are laughing the hardest. When we did Men on Film on In Living Color, gay men wrote in how much they loved it. Humor helps ease the tension of race and the differences in society. If there wasn’t comedy I don’t know if Obama could have ever become president. They being that black family, now they are just a family. Humor is colorless, when we did White Chicks, yeah it was two black guys playing two white girls, but really it was a gender switching movie. We never thought anything about the race. We don’t sit there and think black people this and white people that we try and set that’s all inclusive so everyone can laugh. Of course you will have one or two people that won’t laugh but they are just haters, so F@#k them.
Bobby: You mentioned growing up listening to Richard Pryor, what’s the status of the film you were working on?
Marlon: They’re not making many black pictures right now. It’s lying dormant right now, but hopefully we will get it going. It’s the thing that brought me to do stand-up two and a half years ago and that was only because I was supposed to be playing Richard Pryor. I didn’t really do it my whole career. I think I did maybe 60 times, but I wanted to act and write. I said Shawn you do that you didn’t do performance during high school you don’t get it. Then I got the role playing Richard Pryor and caught the bug and I’ve been doing it for two and a half years and I have to say its making me better. I’m much more in tune with what’s funny and what’s not. What’s going to get an OOOO and what’s going to get a laugh? It helps you articulate you’re thoughts. It makes you think about what you are going to say before you say it and in that moment find what’s funny. You’re playing to a large crowd, but you see their faces and know what’s working and what’s not. It really helps you in telling a joke and refining the art. I would love to play Richard Pryor in the movie and hopefully it will happen, but if Hollywood won’t make it happen then I will get out there to raise the money to make it happen, because it’s an awesome script. We had Bill Condon as director and that would have been awesome. It’s a beautiful script and I know I can do it, I have been preparing for it. If it never happens I thank God for Pryor because he literally brought me to the stage. I started out wanting to play a great and now I want to be a great. I want to go down as one of the greats and I got a lot of work to do. I am only two years in and I am going to suck for about 10 years I’m sure. Just because I have been in the industry for twenty years, doesn’t mean I am going to be a great stand-up. I get standing ovations sometimes, but that still doesn’t mean I’m a great stand-up it just means I’m a good performer. But to work my mind and the words and then get the standing ovations, then I am getting there. Once I start talking about my pain, then I am really getting there. I need to get to the part that would make you cry, but make you laugh and that’s when I’ve done something great.
Bobby: With this film and the Scary movie films there is the horror element. Did you grow up watching a lot of horror movies?
Marlon: Me and Shawn used to, my mom bought us a VCR and I remember we were like ten years old and we rented everything. It was horror films and porno, the play button was just stuck. The horror movies I used to just love them, plus they always showed titties in horror movies it was so much fun. I was like they are showing them again, she is fixing to die, but her boobs are out. How great is that! For a little boy that’s the greatest gift of the world a horror movie. They were great back then. Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees scared the hell out of me. Paranormal 1 scared me because I didn’t know if it was real or what. Blair Witch was kind of scary for the same reason. It takes the voyeur element away and makes you think, oh crap this could really happen to me. So I am a fan of that, plus they have the same rhythm. See, horror brings the tension then the release is the scare. Comedy brings the tension and the release is a laugh so that’s why horror and comedy share a similar audience, black people. (laughs) Black people and young makes that like to see boobies. They kind of share the same thing; they want to see things they can’t see. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to do an R rated comedy again because I don’t feel like I hit that high note that I want to hit. I don’t want to sing in b flat I want to sing in g. I like making people feel a little bit uncomfortable, I like that feeling because it evokes a different kind of laugh. It’s like the sex sequence in the film it came about if I was going to video tape me and my girl, here are the positions I would do so I look around the room to see what I can do it with and there is this little doll. So it’s coming from somewhere, but when you go there, have you seen the movie Shame? At some point the sex just starts making you feel like what the hell is going on?! The point is to just go there man, and not be afraid to go there. I think we put a muzzle on, even though we have a generation of YouTube, but a society that still wants to handcuff you and make you apologize for certain things. You have to be unapologetic in comedy and just say the things that people are too afraid to say because that’s my job. Right or wrong I still had the balls to say it.
Bobby: You mentioned not a lot of movies being made for black actors these days. Have you considered going the Tyler Perry route and just develop your own company to start making pictures?
Marlon: I did with this one. This is the first of what I am going to do. I will do Hollywood pictures if they come about, but there is nothing better than writing the script, then hiring the people you love to work with and creating jobs for people and teaching young kids how to do it. I’m trying to teach them really how to do productions. At first I got to be a farmer, then I can be an agriculturist, then I can be industry, then I become a teacher, then I become a therapist. It’s like now I’ve learned how to farm, me and my brothers from scratch, then to learn to be the agriculturist and so on. It takes time, it’s taken me twenty years to understand how to make a movie but now I understand the business part of it making the movie and that’s where I am at in this point in my career. That’s exactly how I’m doing it. I have offers on the table now to do a string of low budget comedies and I’m going to do them. That ain’t going to stop me from getting that Hollywood check either. (laughs) It’s not just for black people. Hollywood is making a lot less movies and the ones that they are making everything is a superhero. You’re not going to have any black superheroes; our penises are too big.
Bobby: What about Meteor Man or Blankman?
Marlon: I liked the idea of both of them, but they went the wrong way. They didn’t have the budget to make them do what they need to do. They couldn’t fly, they don’t have the equipment. Bruce Wayne is a billionaire and you see how cool his gadgets are. They just didn’t have those budgets. You can’t dye a guy’s hair blonde and say he’s a bad guy. You need super powers to make those movies and need the budget. Iron Man has got a 250 million dollar budget. You can’t give somebody 4 million dollars and tell them to do something super, you can’t fly for 4 million dollars. Damon started out with the idea of Blankman to be a superhero with no powers that was really, really funny, and then somewhere along the lines ended up doing a kids movie. He liked doing it and it was cute, but it wasn’t the story with the edge that he set out, but he liked it and it was good and turned out better than I thought it was going to be. I hated the marketing plan after seeing it I said no one’s going to see that movie. I’m a fan of the movie, but I know where he wanted to go and he just went off direction. They’re not making many films these days and I think all filmmakers have to do this and go independent. If you can write a script then go get it financed and make it happen. Don’t wait on Hollywood because you are going to be waiting a long time. They just aren’t making moderate budget movies anymore, its 150 million dollars or nothing.
Bobby: Are you looking to do any more dramatic roles?
Marlon: Hollywood isn’t making many movies anymore and they damn sure ain’t putting Marlon Wayans in a drama. (laughs) I would, me and Omar Epps are actually working on thriller we want to do right now. It’s a script we are really interested in and I would love to play Richard Pryor but they just aren’t making them. If I get offered a great drama or they want me to read, I will read I don’t care. I read for Requiem five times. Drama is something I do, I’m theatrically trained, I can do Shakespeare I do it all. Comedy is just a whole lot harder and it’s what I do, it’s my brand, it’s what I write so I don’t have to sit around waiting for Hollywood I can bring things to them. My brother always told me you can’t be a black actor in this industry and expect to work; you have to be a force of nature. The writer, director, and producer service the actor, so if you want to act you have to do all these other things. That’s why I do all these different things. I love drama and ask me and I will do it.
Bobby: So I have to ask what is you’re status in the new GI Joe film?
Marlon: I’m not in it, they didn’t even call, which is some bull because I saved the world. (laughs)
Bobby: I appreciate your time and loved the movie.
Marlon: No problem, thanks I really appreciate it.