8 QUESTIONS WITH MARLON WAYANS

Director Marlon Wayans doesn't care if his works offend those who studied film-making

Marlon Wayans. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Marlon Wayans. -- PHOTO: REUTERSPHOTO: REUTERS

Actor and producer Marlon Wayans is back with another comedy that is making millions despite getting poor reviews

Movies starring American actor Marlon Wayans have almost always been mauled by film critics, not that he cares.

The 41-year-old star and producer of comedies such as Scary Movie (2000) and White Chicks (2004) tells Life! in a very straightforward manner that he makes movies "for my audience, not for the critics".

He says: "I don't expect critics to like my movies. They are journalists who are always so serious about everything. My writing's for the audience who are young at heart and just want a good laugh.

"If my words are offensive to any journalist who went to school to learn about the so-called 'art and craft of film-making', then that's too bad."

His latest film A Haunted House 2, which he wrote, produced and starred in, was once again ripped apart by critics.

New York Times critic Andy Webster remarked: "Run in fright." The Washington Post wrote that the film is "so bombastically stupid" that it should come with the warning: "The following 87 minutes would be better spent alphabetising your spice rack."

Still, Wayans defends the new film, saying that he just "had to" make it, due to the success of its predecessor A Haunted House (2013), which made more than US$60 million (S$75 million) worldwide.

He says: "The first movie was so successful that we just had to make another one. We had a fun time with the jokes and this time, we had a lot more material to go on, like the haunted doll from The Conjuring (2013)."

In the new film, which opens in cinemas here on July 17, he reprises the role of the anxious Malcolm, who continues to experience various paranormal experiences and finds it hard to convince others of what he has seen. It premiered in the United States in April, making more than US$17 million at the domestic box office.

Indeed, there is no denying Wayans' box-office power, regardless of what critics have to say.

Scary Movie (2000), a spoof of major horror flicks, grossed US$270 million at the box office worldwide and spawned four more instalments. White Chicks (2004), about two African-American cops who dress up as white Caucasian women, made US$113 million globally.

He says simply: "I make movies to make a large audience laugh."

Wayans, who is married with two children aged 13 and 12, is the youngest of 10 siblings, all of whom are in show business. His brothers Shawn, Dwayne, Keenen and Damon, plus sisters Vonnie, Dierdre, Nadia, Elvira and Kim are either actors, screenwriters or film producers.

On several occasions, a number of the Wayans siblings have come together to collaborate on TV or movie projects. White Chicks, for example, was directed by Keenen and was produced by, and starred, Marlon and Shawn.

Just before he took this interview, Wayans had also wrapped a stand-up comedy show in Indio, California, that was shared with his brothers Keenen, 56, Damon, 53, and Shawn, 43. The show is part of the ongoing The Wayans Brothers stand-up comedy tour that will travel across the US through the summer months.

The Haunted House movies, however, are all Marlon Wayans alone.

He says frankly: "I grew up working with my brothers, and I hopefully learnt from my brothers. But I also have dreams of doing things that I want to attempt on my own, so I'm going for it.

"And I have dreams and hopes for all of us collectively as well. So I'm going to do things simultaneously - it's going to be 'me' and 'us' at the same time, build two brands at once."

1 Is there any sense of competition among the Wayans siblings in show business?

We all love one another. We throw jokes back and forth trying to make each other laugh, but it's not like we're going, 'This joke's better than yours, Shawn', or 'Take this, Damon'. I don't want to hear that I'm funnier than my brothers, that's not a compliment to me.

2 Your comedies are often R-rated due to the graphic sexual content and yet you let your kids watch them. Why?

When I was a kid, I was also introduced to R-rated movies. You know, like Eddie Murphy movies and Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975), so I think it's absolutely fine. In the bedroom scene in A Haunted House 2 with the doll (where he has sex with it), my kids at the premiere cringed. But I was like, 'That's how you were made'.

3 Sometimes, people comment that your jokes are too offensive, especially when they touch on race or sex. Where do you draw the line between being funny and going too far?

People can be so hypersensitive sometimes. It's supposed to be funny first, not offensive. But I feel the audience in general will usually tell you if you've gone too far. Before the movie hits theatres, I'll have the movie screened and I'll record audience reactions. If for a certain joke, I hear them go "Ooo" rather than "haha", then I'll take it out. I want everyone to be in on the joke.

4 Due to the wacky nature of your comedies, do you feel that people often have the impression that you can never be serious?

I think there's definitely some of that. But I've done some serious stuff too, like Requiem For A Dream (2000). I know how to act and be serious when I have to - it's just that I've been doing a lot more comedies now.

5 So will we get to see you do more heavy dramas in the future?

I think comedy will still be my bread and butter for a while. Sure, I would love to do more dramas if the right one comes along. I'm known for playing weird things but I know my versatility.

6 You are very active on Twitter (@MarlonWayans), retweeting almost every tweet that your fans send you. Do you feel that it is important to interact with them on social media?

My fans know that when I retweet their tweets, it means "thank you". It's for me to acknowledge that I've seen their nice comments and that I thank them for it. I don't have time to actually write "thank you" to them one by one. And sometimes, people will be rude to me on Twitter. Then I'll just be rude back. I'm a real guy, you know?

7 The bulk of your Twitter fans are from North America but did you notice that you have many fans and followers from the rest of the world too?

Yes, and that's just amazing. I was in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait performing stand-up last year and I turned out to be quite popular in the Middle East. They just loved my shows. My comedy travelled overseas and that makes me so happy. I want my comedy to be for everyone, no matter where they're from.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

Just as a really funny dude, and to be remembered for some of the stuff I've done. I want to be known as that guy who said everything he felt and everything he thought, and that I just went and did what I felt in my gut, and made a lot of people smile and feel good in the process.

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

A Haunted House 2 opens in cinemas on July 17.

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