Marlon Wayans, of the Wayans brothers, stars in “A Haunted House 2,” which releases on April 18. Wayans sits down and discusses the inspiration behind the movie, production of both A Haunted House and A Haunted House 2, and addresses the confusion over the movie’s genre classification.
ARTISTRY (A): “A Haunted House 2” was released relatively soon after the first. How long after the release of “A Haunted House” were you approached to do the sequel?
WAYANS (W): The Tuesday after opening. I mean we opened relatively huge. The movie was made on only 1.7 million dollars. We opened to 18.7 against two big studio movies and we came in number two to the Bin Laden Movie.
A: You mentioned at the Regal Fenway Q&A that the studio wanted “A Haunted House 2” to be released late last year?
W: They wanted it out in October. I was like “ya’ll are trippin. Ya’ll are high on something right now. I can’t get this out.” Originally we shot for January, then we moved to March, then studio was like, you know what? Easter weekend is a good weekend to open, plus it’s 4/20 and so the combination of the two.
A: How much was the budget?
W: $3 million
A: With a larger budget for “A Haunted House 2”, was there anything you got to explore creatively with this film that you couldn’t do with the first?
W: No, because it only gave us five more days of shooting, which isn’t much and we had less prep time. The less prepared you are, the more that eats into your days of shooting. We’d shoot 10 to 12 pages a day, ripping and roaring. So no, I can’t say it gave us any more – maybe an extra effect here and there. There are more effects in this one than the last one, but really it was the same grind.
A: How much prep time did you have for the first film in comparison to the second?
W: 20 days for the first and 25 days for this one, but we were shooting six days a week. When you’re shooting six days a week it really eats up your extra time. You usually have a weekend to map things out. You have only one day off and then you’re back to work.
A: How long did “A Haunted House 2” take to film?
W: We only had two and half weeks of pre-production. Actually, we pushed the weeks, so three kind of, three and a half which isn’t much.to shoot, it took us four weeks – 25 days, 6 days a week.”
A: There were a few scenes in “A Haunted House 2” that seemed like there was no way you could have written a script for. How much of the film was improvised?
W: Well we wrote a script. We thought it was funny. It was fun, no it was funny, but to us, funny is subjective. I’ve learned what’s funny to me may not be funny to other people, but I’m just a sick bastard and I find crazy things funny. So, we wrote the script, then we hired the actors, and when I bring actors on, you take hopefully a funny spirit, you let funny people do funny things to it and make it funnier. I don’t believe in making people stick to dialogue. I look at the scripts as blueprints. My brother taught me it’s just a blueprint. Get all that you can out of your actors. It’s easy for them to just read lines, but to have everyone become a writer on your set, you actually get different points of views from the character and their character when they explore it. I let them improvise and I told them if it’s funny, I’m keeping it.
A: What movies did you artistically borrow from for inspiration?
W: We chose a story line, then from there we watched “The Amityville Horror”, then “The Possession”, “Insidious”, “Sinister”, “The Conjuring”, then it all kind of hit me. New family, new set up, new life, step children, you know because most of these movies have step children, so I was just trying to find those little common denominators and then after that we were like, alright, how do you have some fun with this?
A: In the film, the n-word was used frequently by yourself, and the other African American characters in reference to each other and even characters that are not African American. We are in modern times and the n-word is being used more frequently by way of greeting or informal address of a person, not just by African Americans, but other races as well. What is your view on is your view on the use of the n word in today’s society?
W: They’ll learn not to use it. They’re going to say it to the wrong person and get punched in their face. The reality is I don’t think words should have that much power anymore. So yea, I throw the n word around, but for me it’s a word that used to make me feel so bad and I just flipped it and made it a term of endearment. When I hear it from my friends or I call my buddies that, I know it means brother, I know it means love, I know it means something extremely positive, it all depends on the connotation of the word, not the denotation and I’m not about to have a philosophical conversation about the word because that word means nothing to me. The only value and power it has is the power and value that I give it and it’s not that important to me. I don’t sit around thinking about how it’s holding me back. No, it’s a word. Now if I ever in the deep-south and some white person says ‘hey n***er,’ I’m just going to say ‘hey, what’s up man, you good too?’ It ain’t going to affect me like that. I stripped that definition away. It’s the same way, brothers have this thing with do. We took chains we were enslaved with and now we wear it as jewelry. It’s something that we do. It’s something we’ve been doing and I think it’s a cool property to turn something negative into something positive.
A: During the Regal Fenway Q&A after the screening,
there were a few audience members who referred to the film as a parody and you firmly maintained that it was not. Being an actor, writer and producer for the film, I know you had your own intent when making the movie, but the audience will interpret the film how they will. Having borrowed from so many horror films and what seems to be you mocking them, why are you saying that it’s not a parody, but a horror comedy?
W: The movies isn’t making fun of those movies. The intent of these movies was not to make fun of those movies. Malcom has his own journey, his own relationship, his own story. It’s similar experiences that he goes through, but it’s not me making fun of those movies. It’s its own movie with some of the same experiences but a comedic twist. It is not a lampooning of any other movie, it’s not a lampoon of a genre. It’s really a guy with his own set of circumstances, a relationship that he invested in with two kids and it goes to crazy places, but it’s an original story. It’s not like I went and did the same exact things or the same beat for beat as one of these movies. I didn’t use any pop cultural kind of scenes. I let it just be organic to what the story was. The story drove the movie. The story drove the comedy, the conflict drove the comedy. It’s a situation comedy. It’s not a direct parody. With a parody, you’re parodying a genre. “Airplane” was a parody. Even “Scary Movie” was closer to a parody, but it was kind of a comedy horror. Don’t Be A Menace was a parody, but even then it’s the way we make our movies. If you never saw “Menace to South Central”, never saw “Boyz N the Hood”, if you watched “Don’t be Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood”, you are still going to laugh because there are rich characters. The guy has his own journey, is met with obstacles – different things that get in the way of his intention – that’s what a comedy comes from. A lot of this stuff is original, but they call it a parody thinking it looks like a parody, but not really understanding what a parody is.
A: So to you, what is a parody?
W: To me a parody is when you are actually lampooning and making fun of an entire genre and that is the purpose – to send up the genre, to send up all the familiar characters. This is an original kind of movie. It’s a horror comedy, but sometimes people want to be lazy and call things parodies. This is not a parody. It’s a horror comedy. It has parody moments, but it’s own thing. It’s okay to do something different and not label it. People always want to put a label on something. Stop labeling it. It’s just a comedy.