When the box office returns for “A Haunted House” started coming in in January 2013, its writer-producer-star Marlon Wayans was astonished.
Wayans, 41, the youngest sibling in the famous funny family that includes among others brothers Keenen, Damon, Shawn, sister Kim, and nephew Damon Jr., had experienced success with genre spoofs like the “Scary Movie” franchise and “Dance Flick.” But “A Haunted House,” made on a $2.5 million shoestring, was his first solo project.
“I didn’t believe it,” he said of the horror comedy finishing second behind
“Zero Dark Thirty” on its way to a nearly $60 million worldwide gross.
Naturally, “A Haunted House 2” opens today.
The movie picks up the tale of Malcolm (Wayans) as he deals with a new family and a supernatural calamity that includes a creepy doll, with whom he falls in love. Deeply. Intimately.
Costarring Cedric the Entertainer and Jaime Pressly, the sequel is every bit as raunchy, broad, and absurd as the first. Once again, Wayans hopes to make audiences laugh as well as jump.
We chatted with the actor — who has also appeared in films like “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Heat” — when he was in town recently to meet with students at Emerson College and screen his new movie at the Regal Fenway. He says he has one basic directive: “I just want to do silly movies that make me laugh and hopefully make a lot of other people laugh and be 17 again.”
Q. You mentioned that your sister Kim had some objections to the first film, and that you all have different sensibilities. So you’re OK if all the various Wayans don’t approve of all the comedy in the film?
A. I’m fine with that. We are a big huge family and we all have different sensibilities and we should all be individuals; we are all snow but each flake is different. My brother Damon may not come to the premiere because of his religious beliefs but, you know, I accept that. I know my brother loves me. He’ll show up to the party. [Laughs.] When you have a large family I don’t place expectations on them; I learn to accept them for who they are. And they accept that I’m a little different, a little crazy. I’m spicy-crispy.
Q. Given how well the first film did, you must have felt some vindication that you were ready to do this.
A. Yeah, I waited for the right time. It’s not like I came out of the gate and said, “I’m going to do my own movies!” I came up under, to me, one of the greatest comedy minds there is, my brother Keenen. He’s tutored and nurtured so many of us into stardom and to be able to do four or five movies with him and know what the drill is of writing movies and what team to put together and how to make good decisions. He equipped me with a lot, without even trying. I just know it and now I do it the way I want to do it.
Q. OK, let’s talk about the doll, and the sex scene. Fundamentally, it is incredibly ridiculous, but your level of commitment is impressive. I believed you were in love with that doll. Because it started so goofy . . .
A. [Laughs] . . . but then it got real! Even in the raunchy, I was committed, I was there. I let myself go and I let it go to weird places. The funniest thing about the doll — that’s my favorite story line in the movie — is you have this inanimate object that you have a relationship with and then she stalks him. The breakup scene is my favorite scene in the movie because you’ve been there, it came from a truthful place.
Q. Is it equally important to make the “gotcha!” moments truly scary as well as making the jokes land?
A. You have to because the audience has to feel the fright Malcolm feels. You need that and directly after that you have some funny dialogue. It’s kind of weird and absurd for me to sit here and have an intellectual conversation about such a goofy kind of movie but there is a thought process. It’s crazy and I sound ridiculous saying it, but we actually have these philosophical conversations about the structure and the science and the math that goes into telling these scatological jokes.
Q. You mentioned at the screening last night that you’d love to make a movie with a crew the way that Seth Rogen and James Franco and that Judd Apatow’s gang has, and you mentioned Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Mike Epps, Kevin Hart, and others. What are you doing to make that dream team happen?
A. I’m trying. Look, I’m campaigning. Rock said he’s down. I’m going to New Orleans to meet with Kev and then talk to Chappelle — we’ll send out an APB or a search party to go find Bigfoot. [Laughs.] Me and Epps talk. I really want to do this, not for me — it’s we. If we all get this done I think we’ve done something classic so the next generations coming can say, “Wow, these guys did this.” Hopefully we make it successful and can all do it again.
Q. You don’t worry about all those alpha dog comedians wanting to be funny? Somebody has to be the straight guy.
A. I’ll be the straight guy, because the straight guy can be funny too because he’s the reaction. I like playing put-upon. That’s where I have fun.
Q. Is that because you’re so far down in the birth order?
A. Exactly. [Laughs.]