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Marlon Wayans (A Haunted House 2)

Marlon Wayans: The Interview (A Haunted House 2)

Shakefire had the opportunity to sit down with comedian Marlon Wayans, the writer, producer, and star of A Haunted House 2 to talk about his film making process and lessons he learned from the first film going into the sequel.

Shakefire (SF): How have you evolved behind-the-scenes doing this particular installment of the movie?
Marlon Wayans (MW): I think in a lot of ways. When we did Don’t Be a Menace 20 years ago it was a bunch of just funny sketches. It was this really thin story with funny characters and balls-to-wall crazy. I think pop culture was out of place. Like how to you make fun of Menace to Society and Boys in the Hood. Those two good movies about something so important in terms of black filmmaking and about exposing what the hood is about, but we just have a dark, crazy sense of humor in that we can take the darkest thing and find light and that’s what kinda led us to horror. As dark and as crazy and as sick of a world as horror can be, I always find something funny in it. Even from Scary Movie the evolution for me is I think this one actually is a little more grounded in the story telling. I think we take a chance by being grounded in the comedy and we sit in silence because a lot of times in comedies we’re desperate to get that laugh and it’s more forced. I thought by doing the Paranormal franchise it’s a lot less active than the slasher franchise of Scary Movie. In the Paranormal franchise nothing really happens. They tease you.

In part one we kinda just laid in the pocket and let stuff happen, but part two I think we turned it up. We made Malcolm put upon so there’s so many things happening that we pulled from other movies. You got the creepy doll from The Conjuring haunting him. He has his ex-girl haunting him. He has this house that’s haunted. His new daughter has this box from The Possession and it’s haunted. The son has this imaginary friend that’s the worst imaginary friend in the world that keeps tripping him and teaching him how to start fires. So there’s trouble all around and the only one that’s actually seeing it is Malcolm. You know, white people walk through these movies like, “Oh, everything is all good.” No it’s not!

The first one was about a black couple experiencing the paranormal and what I wanted to do with this one was just make it about a couple, an interracial couple, that’s experiencing it because I think what’s great about that is you get her point of view versus his point of view and you throw the two together and it makes for a fun conversation. And then you have our Latino neighbor, played by Gabriel Iglesias. I think that Latinos are very underrated in films, especially comedies, so I wanted to do something that represented everybody because I grew up in a melting pot of a neighborhood. There’s blacks, there’s whites, there’s Latinos, and I wanted to represent everybody and do a movie that yes, its core is urban, but it’s a movie that everybody can understand and everybody is represented. I think the conversations between Gabriel Iglesias’ character and my character Malcom is fun because it’s everyday Latino-black conversation. We don’t pull punches. Latinos and blacks, because we’re both minorities, we say stuff that some people would deem racist. It’s not. It’s just how we talk and communicate. We go back and forth with stereotypes and it’s jabbing at each other but it’s fun. I thought to explore that avenue was a good texture to put on the movie. I think this one’s a lot of fun.

In terms of developing as a writer, I like the story that this one tells. I like that it’s all inclusive. Even though it’s R, and yeah, we have our sex jokes and our little jokes here and there, but for the most part the jokes come out of the situation. It’s a situational comedy and Malcom is put upon.

SF: For you and your personal life, what would it take to happen in your house before you get out of there?
MW: If a dish broke [laughs]. If it didn’t drop out of my hand, and it didn’t drop out of somebody who’s in the house’s hand that I can see I’m out. No need for more. Keep that dish. Before you break my windows, ghost, before you blow those open and kill my shutters no need. I’m out.

SF: How was it working with Jaime Pressly?
MW: She’s a good, strong, comedic actor, similar to Essence in that they’re both comedic actresses that understand how to play a situation. I need somebody to play off of. I’m always riffing. I’m always trying new things so I need a strong anchor. Both those women are very strong comedic anchors. I thought Jamie having the years and the veteran experience of television, I thought for movies she’s still a fresh face. People like her and she has fans so I think seeing her like that people will want to see her on the big screen.

SF: You do the writing, the acting, the producing. Do you have a style of filming that you prefer over the other?
MW: I love it all. I love it all, but I think at core I do all of this because I know there’s no roles in Hollywood and if there are, there are so many people going out for them so your chances of getting them are kinda slim to none. Even when I auditioned I got a lot of roles but you’re still not doing what you want to do. So my answer would probably be I write and I produce so that I can act in the kind of movies I want to be in that showcase my comedic abilities and also has my sense of humor, a little warped, a little crazy. I just want people to go laugh and enjoy and not think too much. Really just go laugh, go be a kid.

SF: How do you manage to keep that balance from going to do an animated show or a serious or dramatic role and then going to sitcoms? What do you keep in mind when you balance between the various mediums?
MW: I don’t know. I think one of the most appropriate comedians of our generation is Eddie Murphy. When Eddie Murphy was in the pocket nobody was better. Eddie knew when to be what. Knowing when to be was is probably one of the greatest keys to comedy, period. You got to put on different hats. If you watch Eddie Murphy’s performance in 48 Hour; what was so great about his performance in 48 Hours, and again in Beverly Hills Cop and even The Nutty Professor, Eddie laid back in the pocket and he played the drama and then he played the comedy because of the situation. He never forced it. He let the game come to him. I think his dramatic ability helped him be a greater comedian.

For me I always try and challenge my dramatic ability and working with great directors. Look, when I get the opportunity to work with the Coen brothers, to have that on my resume, I did it. I had a great time working with those guys. I got to be funny. I got to bring things to the table. I got to make them laugh on set. Working with Darren Aronosfsky in Requium and getting to be a part of that and creating that character.

I’m dramatically trained. I went to performance arts high school. We did drama five hours a day, literally. That’s all we really learned. We learned our science and our craft. It’s not hard for me. Drama’s the easiest thing I could possibly do. That’s the truth. That’s the easiest thing I could do on my resume because I’m not challenged to do comedy. Comedy is so hard. To make everybody feel the same emotion, to evoke laughter, that’s hard. I love the challenge of it.

SF: What did you take away from the first film that you applied to the sequel?
MW: Everything, especially when it comes to the filming and the prepping. I think we didn’t learn our lesson because we were like, “this time around we’re only going to shoot an 80-page script.” Lies! We shot a 135-page script which really worked out to be a 165-page script and we shot it in 21 days, which is ridiculous. Literally that movie should have took us 10 weeks to film and 10 weeks to prep. We had three weeks of prep and 21 days to film.

I did take away from the last one that we, as film makers, wanted to make it a little less hectic in terms of the camera work and find ways to settle the camera down and have the people come into the frame and have the scenes more stable so that we can capture more of the jokes. There are things I thought we missed visually in the first one because you’re doing a movie for these low budgets under $3 million and you don’t have a lot money for coverage or special effects. I’m surprised we have absolutely any.

We’re not making a movie; we’re making a miracle every time out. It’s really hard putting that kind of cast together for 21 days in one location. We’re filming in a practical location which is a house. It’s not like I can break walls out. I think for the next one I’m probably going to take all this into the next one and I’ll probably not remember anything and make all of the mistakes and enjoy again because I love hecticness and franticness of making films this way. You’re on your feet and you just go in those moments. There’s never a time I’m in my trailer. It’s grind out and I’m proud of this movie. We got a lot done for a little bit of money. It’s a lot more diverse in terms of the cast. I think the jokes come from a smarter place. We matured a little, but still stayed youthful, young, and crazy.