You won't see Marlon Wayans reprising his role as Ripcord in "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" this spring — he and most of his co-stars were written out of the sequel to 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" — but you will see him in the found-footage independent comedy "A Haunted House" beginning Friday.
Actually, the reason you'll see him in "A Haunted House" is because he isn't in "Retaliation."
Wayans used the time instead to write and star in "A Haunted House," which revolves around an African-American couple and their various attempts to get rid of the demon who is haunting their house. As I learned over my sushi lunch with Wayans last month at Sunda, the 40-year-old actor and father of two tries to put a positive spin on just about everything, except for maybe his departure from the "Scary Movie" franchise.
The following is an edited version of a longer conversation.
Luis: I heard you wanted to eat here because it's a little healthier. Do you always eat healthy?
Marlon: I do. But I haven't been eating as well lately because I've been traveling and I miss my kids. I've been less disciplined. I'm on an 18-day road trip. There's going to be cheating here and there. But I also work out a lot.
Luis: It shows in your films. Has an actor shown their butt on the big screen more than you have?
Marlon: Never. I definitely have that title. I've been naked in "Norbit," the "Scary Movie" DVD, "Don't Be a Menace," "Senseless"...
Luis: "Marmaduke" …
Marlon: No, I wasn't naked in "Marmaduke." In "A Haunted House," I'm naked twice. "Requiem for a Dream" — I was naked. It's a nice (butt). Why not show it? I did the Insanity workout to prepare for this movie. For my next movie, I'm doing CrossFit. That (butt) is going to be banging.
Luis: Have you ever gotten in trouble for mooning people?
Marlon: Oh, yeah. Thank God, I got famous. I got suspended a lot, but mostly for fighting. I was going to be valedictorian in elementary school, but I got into too many fights, and they made me salutatorian. I was smart back in the day. Now I'm just an idiot.
Luis: I don't see you as a fighter.
Marlon: I grew up in the projects. You have no choice but to fight. My jokes used to get me in fights. That shows that you won a snap contest — if they want to fight. When bigger guys beat me up, I thought, "This is nothing compared to how (my brother) Shawn punches me in the chest."
Luis: Is "A Haunted House" the first film you created without any of your family members?
Marlon: It's the first time I wrote a movie without them that got produced. It had to do with the genre I picked, the budget I picked, and being that my brothers are all busy. Shawn is writing a movie, and Keenen is working on TV and movie stuff, so it wasn't an opportune time.
Luis: Some actors believe if you want to land a leading role you like, you have to write it yourself. Is that what made you want to create this movie?
Marlon: I got written out of "G.I. Joe" and was like, welp, I'm going to go back to what I do: writing and producing comedy. I think it's a blessing they wrote me out of the movie. I would have never had a chance to do this. I was able to write myself a role I wanted to play: the straight man. I got to be funny and, at the same time, be the straight man to Cedric the Entertainer, Nick Swardson and David Koechner.
(The food arrives. Wayans unapologetically uses his hands rather than a fork or chopsticks to eat the shared sushi.)
Luis: How do you think critics will receive the movie?
Marlon: Some will think it's a guilty pleasure. Others will be too embarrassed to say they liked it. And some, it just won't be for them. Comedy is all subjective. I'm not going to say that critics don't matter. When you get good reviews, you get excited. But I don't make movies for critics. I make them for audiences.
Luis: I'm being 100 percent sincere when I say this: I think "White Chicks" is extremely underrated and have been arguing it for years.
Marlon: "White Chicks," to me, is one of the most underrated comedies ever. That's one where I have to say "(Forget) critics." You have to have no sense of humor to not like that movie — two black guys dressed up as white women. Anybody who hates "White Chicks," something is wrong with them. They had a bad childhood.
Luis: Can you clear up why you and your brothers are no longer part of the "Scary Movie" franchise?
Marlon: Yo, that's a long article. I could literally do a book with all that transpired with "Scary Movie." Who knows? One day …
Luis: What's the shorter version?
Marlon: What my brothers and I did was take a $19 million movie and we made it into a half-a-billion-dollar franchise. We got rushed to do a sequel. It still performed, but not the way we wanted it to. It wasn't as good as the first one. It was all right. It wasn't using its jab or hook. It was just right hand, right hand, right hand. It was a little more desperate. And then we read in the trades one day they were doing "Scary Movie 3" with somebody else. We were like, "Wow, that's interesting." They took a franchise we did and that bombed.
("Scary Movie 3" still earned $220 million at the worldwide box office on a $48 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo, but that was far less than the $278 million the original made on a $19 million budget.)
Luis: Did you have any sort of ownership of the franchise?
Marlon: Dimension owned the movie. They had the right to pick whatever creative staff they wanted and failed at it. We had talks with the Weinsteins but couldn't come to terms. They thought we were worth X, and we thought we were worth Y. They felt they could do the franchise and re-create those results without us. I wish them luck and love. But we have a certain flavor that nobody else can do.
We had an idea to pitch to them for "Scary Movie 3," and they basically stole our idea. They came to us to do "Scary Movie 5" (coming to theaters April 12), and we said no. We had our time and did what we could with the franchise. I think "Scary Movie" is tired.
Luis: You mentioned earlier that you miss your kids. How did becoming a dad change you?
Marlon: It hasn't. I'm the most inappropriate dad. I curse in front of my kids and their friends. I let my kids watch R-rated movies. I'll walk by the movie theater and say, "Let's go see that," and my kids will say, "No, it's rated R. It's not appropriate for kids." I'm like Uncle Dad. We have fun. I don't live with them, but I drive over four days a week.
Luis: Did you have the same relationship with your dad?
Marlon: My dad beat the (crap) out of us. He would spank us all the time. We wished our dad would sit down to talk to us, but he was busy. Now, as an adult, we have a great relationship. I'll hit him in the (groin), and he'll hit me there too. I've been able to develop a relationship with my dad that I wish we had when I was a kid. And I've developed a relationship with my son I wish I had with my dad earlier in life.
Luis: During the "Haunted House" screening in Chicago, you told the audience you were glad Chris O'Donnell replaced you as Robin in "Batman Forever" because it would have been too much fame for you too soon. Are you always so positive?
Marlon: When things happen to me, I'm resilient. I wasn't ready. I was 19 years old and wasn't prepared for the kind of fame that comes with playing Robin. I was a young black guy in my second year of college. I like this long, hard, arduous road I've been on. I've earned everything I've gotten. I'm blessed that, 20 years later, I'm still learning and growing. I'm 40 years old and still feel youthful. In my worst moments, I find positive reasons for why things didn't work out.
Luis: So you're telling me you didn't think, "I would have been a better Robin than Chris O'Donnell," while you watched "Batman Forever"?
Marlon: Of course I did that (laughing).
For more celebrity news and sightings in Chicago, go to chicagotribune.com/luis
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