Marlon Wayans may have made a fortune making us laugh, but he takes his craft very seriously. The actor, writer and budding stand-up comedian — the youngest, and perhaps most creatively ambitious, member of the Wayans dynasty — has made a name for himself as a master of spoof, starting with Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood and breaking through to the mainstream with the Scary Movie franchise. His genre-satire films have grossed over a half a billion dollars at the box office collectively. Wayans talks to us about pushing the envelope with his new film A Haunted House, taking a break from working with brother Shawn Wayans and when we can expect a White Chicks sequel.
Your new film, A Haunted House, is a spoof on the found footage horror film craze. What else can you tell us about it?
Actually, I don't call it a spoof. I call it a horror comedy. Spoof has been overdone and exploited, and we did well with it back in the day, but I wanted to do something that is different this time. We made it a comedy because a horror movie about a Black couple...that would be a short movie. If the house was haunted, Black people would just get the hell out of that house. But to stretch it out for ninety minutes, we added the comedy and asked ourselves, "How would this Black couple react to these circumstances?'"
What kinds of films did you watch before you wrote this one and what's the writing process like?
I love horror films. I grew up watching Nightmare on Elm Street. I am a big fan of the Paranormal Activity films and movies like Insidious, The Devil Inside. So the first thing we do when we write is we watch and study other films in the genre. We look for those common denominators and that's the basis for our story. The creativity comes not so much from the structure, but from the characters and their point of view. You don't change the shape of the tire, but you can put a rim on it.
Your brother Shawn, who is your most frequent collaborator, didn't work with you on this one. How come?
It's just something I wanted to do and my brother wanted to do something else on his own. We're big boys now. It's okay, we can kind of break up and come back together. It's not like we're New Edition, and we say we're getting back together and we never do. We're always going to be a team, but it's good for us to go off on our own sometimes.
What's the latest on the long-awaited White Chicks sequel?
Everybody keeps asking us to do it! [Sighs] I guess we should consider it…give it some serious thought.
And your Richard Pryor biopic?
Man, I hope one day it gets done. In the meantime, I'm still preparing, keeping myself ready. I know we'll do it one day. If I have to, I'll find the financing, we'll get a great director. In the meantime, I'll be ready. I learned how to do stand-up for that film and that's something I'm continuing to do to this day.
A lot of people don't realize you just started doing stand-up a couple of years ago. What was it like your first time on stage?
I was scared as s--t. But I remember the way I felt after the set, when I got off the stage and there were cameras behind me and lights coming at me, and I felt like, "Wow, I belong here." Two years in this process and I'm still a rookie. I don't know nothing.
You can make a lot more money and reach a lot more people through film. Why continue with stand-up?
It's exciting for me. I really believe you can't be afraid to fail. I teach myself something new every year, whether it's poker, playing the piano, doing standup. I want my kids to know it's okay to suck. As an artist, you should never get to that point where you're just too damn good and there's nowhere to go. And I really consider myself an artist, not a comedian.
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(Photo: Greg Tidwell, PacificCoastNews.com)