With his found-footage horror-comedy, A Haunted House, scheduled to hit theaters tomorrow, January 11, 2013, I had the opportunity to chat briefly with star and co-writer Marlon Wayans about that project a couple of months ago, covering as much ground as I could.
I thought I'd repost that interview ahead of tomorrow's release, especially now that we know much more about the film.
Marlon was chatty and forthcoming, which is always good for the interviewer, and I tried to capture the heart of his responses in the transcription below.
And of course, given his long-time attachment to the Richard Pryor film that Chris Rock was producing, which seems to have stalled, I naturally had to ask him about its status.
For those just joining us, directed by Mike Tiddes from a script penned by Wayans and Rick Alvarez, the official synopsis for A Haunted House reads:
In an outrageous send up of the Paranormal Activity movies, The Devil Inside and other “found footage” movies, A HAUNTED HOUSE features young couple Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) who have just moved in to their dream house. As they settle in, they quickly find they’re not alone. But it’s not the house that’s haunted, it’s Malcolm’s girlfriend who is possessed by a demon. Malcolm hires everyone from a priest to modern day ghostbusters to rid her of this unwelcome intruder, determined not to let the evil spirit ruin his relationship… or, more importantly, his sex life.
Open Road Films will release the movie (which co-stars Essence Atkins and Cedric The Entertainer) in the USA, starting on January 11, 2013.
Without further ado, here's a summary of our conversation:
– On how the idea came to him:
First of all I'm a big fan of found-footage movies and how they've totally influenced the way we make and see movies. This idea jumped into my lap; it just hit me. I was watching I think it was Paranormal Activity 2 and I thought, wow, I can see how to make this movie as a comedy. But I want to make it clear that it's not a parody. It's more of a send-up than a parody. That's a genre I was schooled and raised in; but I wanted to do a real movie, a real experience, but a comedy. So there are parody moments in it – but basically this is pretty much like one of those found-footage films but with a black couple. So the reactions are different; the experience is different. There are still all the scares; but the joke is in how we respond to the scares. And what happens to the relationship between this couple, because of the ghosts haunting their house, and all the paranormal stuff that happens. That's where the jokes are. So what I really love about the movie, is it's just a really funny comedy that goes wrong, but is grounded in reality. I'd call it a horror comedy. Not a parody.
– On whether fans of past found-footage horror films will recognize scenes from those films in A Haunted House:
There are a few scenes from other movies that we had to kind of put a comedic twist on, that people will recogize. Like standard things that always seem to happen in haunted house films, and that audiences expect. But we had to put our own twist on them so that they are recognizable but different.
– On whether this was a studio, or independently-produced film:
This was independently financed film; I never even took it to a studio. At first I was going to do it myself, out of my own pockets. I wanted it to be a grassroots, low-budget indie comedy. I wanted to go back to R-rated material. I'm a R-rated kind of dude. When I do my stand-up comedy routine, it's not PG13, it's R-rated. I'm probably more Richard Pryor than Bill Cosby. So, for me, I wanted to do a movie for this generation that was just a really funny, hard R-rated, I don't give a shit, let's have some fun, kind of comedy. And in this one, we definitely go there. I can tell you that there'e things in this movie that you've probably never seen before in movies, especially Hollywood movies. And watching the audience laugh, in all the places where we've test-screened this movie in front of audiences, I've watched the laughter, and I'm happy, because, for me, I've been waiting to see their reactions to the jokes.
– On how long it took the project to come together:
It took about 7 to 8 months to write the script; did some rewrites; and as soon as we went to get it financed, it was amazing because we had 5 meetings, and all 5 companies wanted to buy the script. And with our meeting with IM Global, we had a really good vibe from them, after our meeting. And they became our partners on the project. And about it wasn't long after the meeting, that we started pre-production, and 2 to 3 months later, we started filming in January and were done in February this year.
– On release plans – whether a wide release, or limited first:
We're getting a wide release. We have a really good marketing plan, and we'll be opening on 2,200 screens. The distributor really believes in the project. We've done some test screenings and the response has been really strong. For example, you know you're not good, if you're not funny at the Rave [cinemas in LA]. That's the funny thing about that audience. They boo the screen at the Rave. They throw bottles and tomatoes [laughter]. But man, we played this movie at the Rave and people loved it and were just cracking up. I haven't seen a movie play that well in a long time. The audience was excited, we were excited, and we believe there's definitely a market for the movie.
– On the status of the Richard Pryor project:
You know, I don't know what's going on with it. Hollywood is in a weird place right now. Everyone's scared to make movies. I think it'll be a brilliant movie. You know, I'd never done stand-up until 2 years ago, when I did for the first time. And the reason I started doing stand-up was in preparation to play Richard Pryor. And for me – I'm a method actor – and I just wanted to become Richard Pryor, and see what the journey of a comedian was. But since the movie stalled, I don't know when it'll get done. But one day, I believe it will get done. So in the meantime, I'm just making sure that I'm prepared for that moment, starting with doing lots of stand-up around the country. And you know, it's making me better, smarter, more articulate, and more calmer, and a better writer. So I'm so grateful for this journey, and believing that one day it will get done, and I want to make sure I'm prepared and ready for that moment when it comes.
– Closing words:
To do an indie movie, I learned to respect the journey so much, thinking back to when I did Requiem For A Dream with Darren [Aronofsky]. You don't have the same luxuries as when you're doing a big budget movie. You do it for the love, and I have to give a big shout out to my crew; everybody was amazing; it was a well-oiled machine. We shot the movie in 20 days. It was a 117-page script, it was an aggressive shoot; some of it was improv; we shot it on the Red Scarlet. We just kicked ass man, and rocked and rolled. We were able to make a really funny commercial film and with an indie budget. And I'm really proud of and happy with what we were able to accomplish, and I look forward to you all checking out this movie.
In closing, Marlon did say that he's in a movie with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, titled The Heat, directed by Paul Feig, which comes out next year, saying it's a really, really funny comedy, and he plays, as he said, "kind of a love interest for Sandra Bullock's character." He said more than that, but I'm not sure if I can print it.
With regards to the films trailers we've seen, he added that, while comedy movies nowadays tend to put the best jokes in the trailer, they couldn't put all their best jokes in their trailers, because, well, their best jokes just aren't suitable for trailers; as he said above, "we definitely go there."
Thanks to Marlon Wayans for the time.