UTG Interview: Marlon Wayans Talks ‘A Haunted House 2’

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Few comedic voices have been as prominent or successful in the last two decades as that of Marlon Wayans. From Don’t Be A Menace, to White Chicks, Scary Movie, Little Man, and beyond, Wayans has a knack for bringing the outrageous to life in a way that attracts throngs of movie goers again and again. His latest, A Haunted House 2 (out this weekend), will likely be no different.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to sit down with Wayans and a group of Boston film critics to discuss his latest work, as well as his long career in comedy and its lasting impact on pop culture. He was, to almost no surprise, very funny throughout our conversation, but also quite wise. He welcomed hilarity, as well as a good challenge, and took everything thrown his way in stride. You can read highlights from our conversation below.

Q: Where does the stuffed animal fetish come from?

Marlon Wayans: It was puppies… Pretty much…

Q: So, it’s like an old childhood thing?

Marlon Wayans: I used to like stuffed animals, and I’m not sure if I used to hump them or what… I probably did, but I don’t know. I just think there’s something funny about doing dirty, filthy things to inanimate objects – innocent ones like stuffed animals and teddy bears. You’re a sick man for asking me where it came from.

Q: I’m just analyzing your art…

Marlon Wayans: You’re looking too deep, man; way too deep. It wasn’t meant for that. I just think it’s fun to do crazy stuff to little things like stuffed animals.

Q: Now the movies that this pokes fun at – do you binge-watch them to write the screenplay?

Marlon Wayans: Um, I binge-watch them to come up with the calculation of the story, and the jokes just kind of happen along the way. They get inspired by some things that you see. We watched so many movies, we just took in as much as we can – dramas, documentaries – then we eventually just wound up creating our own formula and putting together our own characters with our own perspective and our own point of view.

Q: Did you feel any pressure making a sequel after the success of A Haunted House?

Marlon Wayans: No, because I think what I tried to do was just divorce myself from the success of the first one and try to have one by making a movie. Everything I do, at this point of my life, I do because I want to have fun. It’s not about the challenge of making money; it’s about the challenge of making make-believe believable and having fun while doing it, as well as seeing how far we can stretch a small $3 million budget. We found the story that we wanted to execute, and we had fun with it.

There was no pressure to make a sequel and capitalize. When you make a sequel strictly to capitalize, the audience immediately smells that and kind of goes, “Ahhh, that’s not genuine; that’s not authentic” – and you’re not having fun, you’re just making something to make money off of it. Not to say anything I do is genius, but the one thing that I do hope that I do is have fun.

Q: Of all the movies referenced in A Haunted House 2, which references are there but are hard to notice?

Marlon Wayans: Any of the references to the whole entire series of haunted house shows, really. You have to watch trash because that’s where the fun comes from. We watched the original The Amityville Horror, which is a throwback, but we got the story of the stepfather who’s unraveling. We watched The Shining and saw some of the unraveling of Jack Nicholson’s character and worked that into the story in different ways… After that it was all a dream.

Q: It all kind of blurs with the weed cookies and what not?

Marlon Wayans: Actually, we watched them sober! I like to write sober because I like to go to places that people would think I was high. When I came up with this, they’re like “You gotta be high.” Everybody thinks I’m fuckin’ high. When I go onstage, I like to be completely sober because the high is the audience. I like the journey of going to crazy places and trying to have fun.

Q: What do you say to people that are sensitive to your vulgarity?

Marlon Wayans: You might not want to see the movie… Honestly, the movie is for the audience that wants to see it. I’m not saying that to be cavalier, it’s just always been like that. For the most part, I’m a vulgar dude – it’s always what I’ve been. There’s times that even when I’m not vulgar, it’s still vulgar. White Chicks – which was probably the least vulgar movie that we did – was still vulgar! It was PG-13. In Little Man, I shit a diamond out of my ass. Let’s be honest, I’m just a vulgar dude.

Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood– you know, you got a crackhead screaming, “Hey maaan, give me directions to Crenshaw and I’ll suck yo’ dick!” It’s just the well that I was raised in in the projects of New York City. It’s a dark place, and I was able to, as a child, find light corners in dark places. I can’t make a movie for everybody. Maybe one day I’ll make a kids’ movie – and I guarantee you that shit will be vulgar!

I wouldn’t say that my movies are for ten-year-olds – unless you have a really cool Dad. Me, I’ll bring my kids to see it, they’ll be at the premiere at ages twelve and thirteen. I’ll be like, “It’s just stuffed animals… Just watch it… You can’t tell me you don’t want to fuck your sister’s dolls!” So, yeah, it’s vulgar.

The most fun time of my life was high school, and I never grew past high school. I don’t think any adult should ever grow up. I played Peter Pan in my second grade play, and that’s my mantra to keep me young and to think young and be young, to still think I’m not above scatological humor – I’m a kid at heart. It keeps me young; it keeps me fun.

Q: One of the things I was surprised not to see in A Haunted House popped up here – a joke about Scary Movie. Why didn’t that pop up in the first one?

Marlon Wayans: I had to wait for Scary Movie 5 to bomb. There’s a lot of pain in that franchise, man. There’s a lot of blood and guts involved in the Scary Movie franchise, but I learned a lot. I’m not mad at the Weinsteins anymore, although I used to be. I used to want to boil those fuckers, but I’ve learned that it’s not even about that. I was young and dumb and I allowed myself to be angry, but I learned from it.

I just saw Bob, and he said, “You killed my franchise! But I want to thank you because I’m only doing bigger and better things.” And I said, “Well I want to thank you, too, because of the grind I learned working under you guys. You guys are like really mean fucking foster parents. You’re abusive and you’re evil and you do all kinds of mean stuff, but you know what? By you doing that, I know somewhere in your twisted mind it was love. I translate you locking me in a fucking closet as you trying to protect me from the world.” I thanked them because they made me a beast – the grind that they put me on, you know, I wouldn’t be me if it weren’t for the Scary Movie experience.

Q: You’re part of the generation that grew up with Blazing Saddles, Airplane! and more – what’s it like knowing there’s a generation of kids growing up on your movies?

Marlon Wayans: Poor kids. Poor kids… We wonder why we’re all shit today: Marlon Wayans movies.

Q: How does your writing differ from a horror comedy to a parody?

Marlon Wayans: Um… Parodies are more desperate in general in terms of everything in the movie is a joke. Jokes are the priority in a parody. The commentary; everything on location; everything in the script; your smug line;  your interior; your bathroom, what’s the character doing that’s funny at the time; what’s funny that the character’s saying; what’s the other character’s funny response?

You’re talking about 10-15 jokes a page – bop bop bop bop bop bop bop – no giving up, man, you are a Hispanic boxer, just – bop bop bop bop bop bop bop – you’re Manny Pacquiao hitting from every angle. When you do a movie like A Haunted House 2, you can rock a Floyd (Mayweather) and sit back in the pocket and just bop bop, jab jab, boom – create a rhythm – bow bow bow. Then, one round, you’re just feeling it, and you’re just like bop bop bop bop BOOM bow, bitch, bow – then you step back out and just jab, just jab a little. Horror comedies are paced a little differently.

Now, coming from parody, I still have a desperate pace, especially for a comedy, because I think nowadays with comedies, if you get three big laughs in a movie, people are pretty satisfied. With ten, you’re huge! I have a desperate spirit, and I like big laughs, so I like to at least have set piece after set piece. There’s a joke attempt on every page. Then you got your big things that are physical like the doll blowing up; kids and adults are going to crack up at that. No, it can’t fucking happen, but it’s just so Looney Tunes, and the guy’s sitting there crying and has a dog funeral and actually buries himself… How goddamn ridiculous is that? He sees a stuffed animal and has a two-minute sex scene with a doll? And why is the doll tossing his salad?!

I try to make the characters funny and the dialogue funny, and I want to try to attempt to make the audience laugh. I try, and I want them to walk away enjoying the movie. That’s why I don’t make two hour or two and a half hour comedies; I try to make it eighty to ninety minutes because, with comedies, after an hour and a half you’re just being greedy. If I could cut an hour out of so many movies, I’d watch those movies hundreds of times. The last Anchorman had me absolutely crying for the first hour and a half, and then it just went weird… Audiences have a laugh fatigue: at one point you just have to go, “Thank you – good night!” and leave them wanting more or not wanting more. If people don’t like your humor, they’re going to walk out. Those that stay and wipe the tears at the end are the ones that you make movies for – that’s my audience. They know what to expect from me or not. Who knows – maybe I’ll fuck a thermos next time.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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