Marlon Wayans is an actor, screenwriter, comedian and producer who’s made a career out of co-writing and starring in oft-panned parody movies, starting with Scary Movie in 2000.
His latest film Fifty Shades of Black is a scene-for-scene spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Wayans spoke to Matthew Turner about his approach to parodying pop culture, his genre rivals, and how he deals with negative critical backlash.
Why did you decide to make Fifty Shades Of Black?
“I was watching women read Fifty Shades Of Grey and I was thinking, ‘I want to read that, because whatever that guy in that book is doing is turning women on’. As I was reading, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is hilarious’.
“And I always like sexual comedies, because I like how it makes a room uncomfortable and then you go through that and get to laughs. I just thought it would be a fun thing to do.”
What are the secrets to a good parody?
“You have to have strong characters, a simple story fused from pop culture, and finding those common denominators that fit.
“You know, it’s really how you do a good drama or a good comedy, it’s all conflict, obstacles and objective.”
What got you interested in parody movies in the first place? Were you a big Blazing Saddles fan?
“Blazing Saddles, but really Airplane. My brother took me to see Airplane when I was like eight years old. That movie changed my life.
“And then when I was ten, he sent me the script to Ah’m Gonna Git You Sucka, and I read it in an hour and a half on my bed and I thought this is hilarious and I just fell in love with the words.
“And that day, it just crystallized in my head that those were the kind of movies I wanted to do. I’ve done them for the past 20 years, and I love parody but now I’m going to put them to bed for a while and I’m just going to do comedies.”
Airplane: “That movie changed my life”
What do you regard as the classics of the parody genre?
“I have to say Ah’m Gonna Git You Sucka, because for me as an African-American, I’m such a fan of blaxsploitation.
“Airplane. Blazing Saddles. Young Frankenstein. Naked Gun, that whole series. 2 ½ was probably my favourite. Hot Shots and Hot Shots: Part Deux.”
How much responsibility do you take for the output of Friedberg and Selzer, the guys behind the likes of Epic Movie and Date Movie?
“Shiiiit, that’s on you, man. Those are your boys.”
They’re not me – I hate those movies!
“Here’s the thing. I’m not going to bash any other filmmaker, but I think that journey has bastardised parody to a point where I don’t even know if people know what a good parody is anymore.
“I don’t think, if a good parody came along, that people would even appreciate it, because the word parody scares people now.
Epic Movie: “That journey has bastardised parody”
“Parody is underrated. Unfortunately, it’s a thankless genre, but it’s the hardest one to do. And it’s brave as all hell because you’ve got to attack pop culture. And pop culture right now is so stiff and you’ve still got to go after it.
“You still got to grab it by its balls and you’ve still got to slam them in the door and you still got to wake people up and attempt to make them laugh, make them listen.
“And I think between those kind of movies and the internet, everybody seems to think they can do parody and Friedberg and Selzer made it look like anybody could do it.”
With that in mind, how do you deal with the criticism that parody films generally get?
“You can’t. No critics are going to like a parody, not my kind of movies. Scary Movie didn’t get great reviews, Scary Movie 2 got terrible reviews.
“So I don’t listen to reviews, I just listen to the laughs and pound for pound, I know laughs when I hear them and I sit in the back of the theatre and I can count them and I’m counting over 20 laughs in a comedy.
“But it’s hard for critics, who are educated, who are great writers, to really find humour in something silly like a parody. It’s not for them, they’re not the audience.
“Comedy is subjective and you can’t really enjoy a comedy with a pen in your hand – you’ve got to put your pen down and you have to become an audience member, you have to allow yourself to be infected by the laughter that is around you.
“Because, even if you’re not laughing, at a point, it will grab you – after 20 laughs, you feel like, ‘Something’s wrong with me’.
“So I do it for the audience, I do it for the laughs and I know that if it gets one star from critics or eight per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, and I go to Netflix and I’m getting four stars on everything I’m doing, it’s a problem.
“Somebody, somewhere is off.”
Fifty Shades Of Black is out now
Main image via Getty