Interview with Marlon Wayans

The Ladykillers

March 11, 2004

Question: That's quite a motley crew you were a part of in the movie.

Marlon: Wasn't it, though? Crazy little bunch of characters.

Question: Have you ever seen the original?

Marlon: Before I even auditioned for this I saw the original. I always do a lot of extensive homework if I'm going in for a part. I watched all the Coen brothers' movies, all of them. I just got a feel for them. I re-identified myself with the roles they create so I knew what kind of character, how broad to make him or how subtle, or a little bit of both. I noticed that their characters are very broad in a lot of their movies, except for their lead guy. Their lead guy is usually pulled back, more grounded.

So, I watched the original - back to your question, I don't know where the hell I went for a second, although I think maybe you were asking me that telepathically. I did watch the original because it was homework for this and I like this one better. I like the characters better. I think they're both brilliant, but I think these are richer characters.

Question: Was everything that Gawain says on the page or did you improvise? Did you help develop him?

Marlon: Are you asking did I put the curse words in? That wasn't me. Those guys were like, "Yeah, add another muthaf*cker in there." A lot of it was written, the structure of Gawain was written. I kind of came in and threw the flavor in. They let me improvise here and there, let me change things but I was very appropriate with my improvs, I didn't improvise outside the character because it was funny to Marlon, I improvised in Gawain's voice, added a little something here and there. But it was already brilliantly crafted; I really didn't have to improvise much. I didn't HAVE to, that's why it was even more fun to improvise because then I was really loose and playing and having fun within the character.

Question: What's it like on the set with the Coen brothers? Does one of them give you guidance?

Marlon: They both honestly direct. One watches the camera and the other one watches the actor. Or both of them are watching the camera and they see different things. You've got four eyes looking at something instead of two. So, Ethan will come over and he'll give you a note, "Next time you do it, do it more with kind of a screw you attitude. What do you think, Joel?" "Yeah, that'll work."

Question: Was this something you were aware of through your agent and went out for or did they send it to you saying we want you for this part?

Marlon: Ah no, they didn't send it to me. I had to audition with a wide span of people. It ranged from Ludacris the rapper to Gary Coleman and everybody in between. So I had to go there and find my way.

Question: How about your brothers? Were any of them up for this role?

Marlon: They were jealous. Shawn and Keenen don't really depart from the brand too much. That's cool because they've come up as comedians - and comedians are usually the writer, producer, director, star every night. I was born into a family of comedians, but I was raised as an actor. So as an actor you are taught to melt in somebody else's vision, so I do both. When I depart from my family it's good to work with the Coens and good directors. My brothers applauded me. We were busy with some of the White Chicks' stuff and they were like, "Hey, go do it. I think it will be great for you."

Question: Do you get a lot of feedback from your family? Do you all intertwine your projects?

Marlon: Yeah, we have a company together so we have to divert to each other because what you do outside the company hurts the company or helps the company. Because you're a part of something so you have to be respectful of it. So I can't do bullsh*t anymore.

Question: So what did you learn working with the Coen brothers?

Marlon: They have a different kind of process than we do. What I like about their process is they work with the same guys over and over again so they have a certain rhythm - the days are very short. We worked like 8-hour days. That's like unheard of. You do 14, 15-hour days, but these guys were a well-oiled machine. It's good to have your DP and your DP to have his team that he works with - same set decorator, same wardrobe person, so everybody knows what you want. It's kind of a shorthand.

Question: Speaking of things being the same, in the Dungeons & Dragons movie and in this one, you tend to be a bumbling thief that keeps getting killed and thrown off of high places. Is this your choice or your agent's?

Marlon: No, that was an accident. Dungeons & Dragons, period was an accident. Actually, you know what, to the director's credit, I think Courtney [Solomon] did a good job for a first time director. Unfortunately, he didn't have the budget of Lord Of The Rings; his dragon had strings on it. He didn't have that 100 and some odd million-dollar budget. It was a good effort and I'm not mad about that. It was a great journey for me, me and Courtney are friends to this day. You know you're never going to be 100% [satisfied], but you always walk into it and give 110%, that's all you can do. When you work with seasoned guys like the Coen's or you work with a guy like Darren Aronofsky, that was only his second movie, Requiem [For A Dream], but you've got to trust the director and trust his vision and lend yourself to it. Just hope it turns out good and if not, "Hey, at the end of the day we had a good time together. Call me; we'll go to lunch. Or we'll go watch the bad movie together and laugh."

Question: Do the Coen's usually do a few takes?

Marlon: We didn't do more than... You know what the most takes was - the cat. That damn cat. The cat did like nine takes and that was the most. He's such a diva.

Question: How was working with Irma Hall? Especially the scenes where she slaps you around?

Marlon: I feel sorry for her children cause that old lady can hit. If she didn't make it as an actor, she could have made it as a boxer. She told me, "Don't worry, baby. Mama took a combat class, a stunt class. So don't worry, I'm well versed in stage combat." She failed that course. She slapped me so hard she slapped the character out of me. And every time she'd forget a line, she'd go back to the top, "Can we do that again? Oh, I'll do it again." Whack.

Question: The gospel music backdrop, did you relate to that?

Marlon: My mom grew up, she's kind of Baptist when she feels like going to church. She just goes to church to show off the furs that we buy her. My mother's funny like that; she's spiritual, she's not really religious. My dad is Jehovah's Witness - they can't sing at all. It's like a bunch of tone-deaf people singing in the choir. It's crazy. But I've always been a fan of Commissioned and Fred Hammond; I do like gospel music.

Question: What were your favorite scenes to shoot when you were making this film?

Marlon: All of them. Honestly, I had fun doing all the scenes. Sometimes I liked just being still. I'm glad the character has levels. A lot of time, he just sits there and listens and he just reacts until he explodes and then he gets over the top. It takes him to be annoyed to finally, like the Waffle Hut scene. It's funny because he's like, "Wait. You brought your b*tch to the Waffle Hut?" Then it's, "The man brought his b*tch to the mother-f**king Waffle Hut." He's trying to cover up the fact that he messed up by getting fired from the job so he's trying to point the finger at this point. I just had so much fun and then finally when he comes up and waves the gun - that was just a lot of fun. That's like the temperature of Gawain the whole movie. Very mellow, a lot of time he kind of sits there looking through everybody's bullsh*t. That's what I loved about him. Tom Hank's character talked around things, but Gawain was the straight shooter. He was the audience's point of view - "What the hell is this?" He said what everybody else was probably thinking.

It's so well written. Those guys wrote a really, really funny script and I'm just very happy to be a part of it.

Question: Help us catch up on what all your brothers and sisters are doing now.

Marlon: You ready? You got enough tape? Me, Shawn, and Keenen just finished a movie called White Chicks, which will be out in theaters June 25th. We wrote it with Xavier Cook, Michael Anthony Snowden and Andy McElfresh. It's a really funny movie - basically Some Like It Hot meets Mrs. Doubtfire with Big Mama's make-up. We're two FBI detectives that go undercover to the Hamptons to stop a kidnapping of these socialite sisters. So we go undercover as the Wilton sisters to stop the crime. It's going to be a really good summer movie. You saw the trailer? That make-up looks good? I'm a pretty little white girl.

Question: Did you wear high-heels?

Marlon: Yes. I have the corns to prove it. It really hurt. Y'all don't have to do that; you know that? I realized something. Y'all don't do that for us. You guys do that to impress other women. "I'll show you."

Question: Do you watch a lot of your movies again?

Marlon: After I do it, I leave it alone. My daughter always goes, "Daddy, you're in the Scary Movie." I'm like, "What are you doing watching Scary Movie? You aren't supposed to be watching that." Now, she's walking around going, "My daddy's a white girl."

Question: After White Chicks, what's next?

Marlon: Me and my brothers are putting together what we're going to do next. We've got a couple of properties we're looking at. Got some TV shows we're setting up, really focusing on the Wayans brothers' brand and trying to be a model student for comedy right now.

Question: After the shoot was over, did you change your hairstyle?

Marlon: I cut it off cause for White Chicks I had to. I already did five hours of make-up every day and that would have been another two hours. It was just like, "Cut me bald. Cut my pubes if you need - cut ten minutes out of this, please."

Question: Do you have any projects outside of the Wayans brothers' that you're looking to do?

Marlon: I really want to do Bob Marley. That's what I really would love to do, but the rights are so everywhere that it's hard to do. But that's a role, him and Jimmy Hendrix, are two guys I really would love to play.

Question: Do you want to do more drama or are you more comfortable sticking with comedy?

Marlon: You know what's funny - drama to me is easier. As hard as it seems, it's easy to cry. We all have pain. It's hard to take that pain and make other people laugh at your pain, at your expense. That's the joy of comedy. That's why I choose to challenge myself and continue doing comedies. I think it's under appreciated. I think the Oscars never really embrace it like they should and they don't realize just how hard it is. I've seen a lot of great comedians become great actors. It's hard for great actors to become great comedians. So I love comedy - it's my first love. So I'm faithful to it, but I cheat on it with drama.

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