Marlon Wayans is the funny Wayans brother.
He was funny on the last season of In Living Color, when no one else was funny. He was the only funny thing in Senseless. He’s funny as hell in Scary Movie, which he also co-wrote. He can even be funny on the WB.
So why is he in Darren Aronofsky’s brutal new film about drug addiction and lost hopes, Requiem for A Dream? I sat down with Marlon to discuss how he came to be in such a powerful drama, his personal knowledge of drug abuse, Comedy versus Drama, Ass and how losing the role of Robin can save your career.
Were you familiar with the material before you got the role for Requiem?
Are you asking me if I ever did drugs? “How familiar are you with the substance…”
Well that was my second question.
The answer is “no.” I’ve sat around some friends smoking weed, and I got a nice little contact high and I said, “This ain’t for me.” It made me too paranoid. But back to your question, I had no idea in terms of Darren. I didn’t know what Pi was. I was like “American Pie? You mean the movie where the guy put the thingy in the apple pie?” With Hubert Selby, Jr., I was like, “Huh?” I wasn’t really familiar with his works.
When I first read the script, I didn’t get the character. I was like, “This brother talks like he’s from the ‘70s.” You know, “This is jive. People don’t talk like this no more.” Once I saw Pi, I said, “Okayyyy....” Then I re-read the script and it all hit me, the character hit me. And then I read Hubert Selby’s book and that’s when I really grew the passion and really wanted to do this, and that’s when I had to go through that whole audition process and stuff.
Was Aronofsky familiar with your work before you auditioned?
Oh God, you know when Darren first met me, he was like, “Uh, nice guy, nice hair, funny at times, but I’m not putting anybody who’s on the goddam WB in my movie.” So I had really go in there, and I had to damn near give him some ass to get the role. For real, I had to really commit to the character. I didn’t wash for two days before my audition. I had Jimi Hendrix music playing in the background. I made me a fake drug kit. I was sleeping on the floor. I wouldn’t even sleep in my bed. I was really trying to be in the junkie role. I really dug deep into the role -- this is just for my audition. And it was cool because I got a callback, but the bad part was I had to stay in character. I couldn’t wash my ass for another two days.
As a guy who’s never done drugs, what did you know from being a junkie when you prepared for this?
Drugs were a part of my community growing up. I mean, you grow up in the projects, you come across a lot of guys who are into drugs, into weed, so it’s just part of my upbringing. A lot of times in your comedy or whatever, your experiences are what you put on screen.
Did you draw on your oldest brother, who was addicted to crack, to develop your character?
Nah, I’d just watch him do crack…be like, “Dwayne? How high are you?” (laughter) No, I didn’t actually extract anything from my brother. He was clean at the time I filmed the movie. But there were a lot of guys from my neighborhood -- I walked the streets of Lower East Side. You know, you go down there and all them kids -- young kids, seventeen-, eighteen-years-old -- they’re doing it. It was right there in your face. There’s a whole community of kids doing it.
And they were generous enough to let us sit with them and talk with them, watch them and pretty much get into their lives. They knew that they might die one day, but couldn’t get off it. One of the guys was like, “Yeah, I know it might kill me one day, this AIDS thing is big, but I don’t shoot up with anybody or anything, I make sure I use needles from the place and blah, blah, and they’re clean.” But he goes, “I know it might kill me one day, I just can’t stop.” It hurts them physically to get off the drug. Heroin is some crazy drug. I think out of all, it’s the sickest one.
This is a film not just about addiction, but relationships. What makes two strung-out addicts connect?
If you notice, a lot of times those people do have each other. The drugs give you this feeling, filling an emotional void in your life. It’s not about just doing drugs to be high. There’s a void that drives you to that. My oldest brother was a crackhead. And I don’t know what made his crackhead girlfriend go, “You know what? I like them real skinny guys.” But they are together. They are in cahoots together. She’s lacking in her way and he’s lacking in his. Like, the heroin addicts, what they do sometimes is sell their woman. They get the woman to bring them the money. And he protects her. And so they have a relationship. It’s warped, but they have their own kind of relationship going on.
So, as part of your warped relationship in the film, you have a nude scene. How difficult is it to be present for the scene as an actor when you know your ass is being filmed?
I did MTV and showed my ass to 46 million viewers. I don’t care. But that’s Comedy Ass. This is Drama Ass! And with Drama Ass, it’s different. Right? Comedy Ass has more of a smile to the crack.
No, but, it is harder to do a love scene. Because, you always go, “I want to do a love scene.” But first of all, you’ve got a woman that don’t know you. You don’t know them! You don’t know how bad they breath is, how bad your breath is. So you’re brushing your teeth, putting on all kind of oils on you. I damn near douched. I just wanted to be clean. Okay, so then when we got on stage, it was like, I didn’t know how she kissed, how I kissed with her.
So once you start kissing, you know, at first, my guy was scared, so it was real little, it looked like my nephew’s. I was so ashamed of my front side. I was running around like a little girl with the towel on and she was walking around naked. But once we started and I warmed up, then it was cool, the first take. The second take we warmed up and it was really cool. The third take was like our best take. And I wanted a fourth take that was just for me.
I had this little cloth on, this little thing, it’s taped down and the wardrobe person taped this thing through my butt -- me and her got to know each other really well -- she taped it to the hair and at the, you know. But when I got excited, it just ripped right off and I was just like, “Forget it!” and she was like, “All right, let’s go with it.” But we weren’t actually doing it. You’ve seen the clean version. It was crazy. It was Requiem for a Wet Dream. It was like it got an NC-17, but the stuff they shot was an NC-34. (laughter) Nah, but I thought it was a real pretty shot. Although we’re in this dark, dirty world, you see this pure love between these two people in that scene. It looked like something off an old exploitation film. It’s like “Black Love.”
Your character wasn’t as strung-out as the other characters, but he was definitely obsessed with the dream of getting out…
No, he was. He was strung-out just as much, it’s just he’s been strung-out so long that he’s just, it’s normal for him. Tyrone has been doing it since he was twelve years-old, and so at the time -- they’re nineteen years--old -- it’s part of my life. He knows all the connections and everything. But, go ahead. I’m sorry…
He’s definitely obsessed with the dream, as they all are, of a better life and copping the pound of pure to get that, or what have you. How do you relate to the obsession with the dream for a better life?
Well, two things: One is they were dreaming about the better life, but I think Tyrone’s main dream and the reason why he was doing the drugs and everything was because of the loss of his mother. It was that void that drove him. That’s the dream for him. It wasn’t the money. The money was the better life, but he would’ve given all that up just to be in his mother’s arms. That was his whole thing. That was his pain in the movie. Unfortunately, there was a scene that was taken out of the movie for time sake, but it showed why.
I think for me, I can relate to that in terms of my career, with trying to strive for something better -- this is the B part of your question. I grew up in the projects, and it wasn’t that much fun. We didn’t have that much food. I would have liked to have more dinners. It would have been cool. But the beauty is, in my experience, I didn’t have so many things, so I have something to strive for. As long as in life you have something to strive for then you’ll always have a progressive life. So, it’s about growth and about continuing to grow. It’s setting a goal for yourself and accomplishing it.
You’ve finally scored a pound of pure with Scary Movie, but what has been the biggest disappointment for you, when your dreams were deferred?
I think the biggest disappointment was Batman. I was supposed to play black Robin and I didn’t get it. They gave it to a white Robin. Actually, I had gotten it! What happened was in Part 3, they changed directors and unfortunately they didn’t have the same vision. So Robin became Chris O’Donnell.
And thank God, I didn’t do Batman and Robin. But still, I look at Batman and Robin and I go, “See this? I could’ve did that. It could have been funny if… see? The reason why the movie wasn’t that good is because I wasn’t in it!” But the beauty is everything comes full circle.
At first it was kind of deflating, but once again, you get up, you wipe it off and you move forward. I obviously wasn’t ready for that kind of success at that age. Whereas now, I’m much more of a developed, seasoned artist. I know how to write now. Come to directing, I can direct. I know how to produce and get a project going and continue to see it through until it’s done. I know things that I wouldn’t have known had I done that movie and had that kind of success that young. So now I think I have, in terms of my family, legs now. Scary Movie was a family success and that to me was the greatest success of all. We all strived together, and we all did it together. And I have something more to bring to the table than I did back then. So I don’t get really depressed about it. I just go, “You gotta keep working harder.” That’s the beauty.
You’re known as a comic actor, but with Requiem, it’s obvious you can do dramatic acting. Is one of your goals to pingpong back and forth between the two worlds?
Personally, I’m a big fan of the Robin Williams guys, the Tom Hankses. I like the guys who do comedy and drama, who can mix it up. Robin Williams has made me laugh and cry in the same paragraph. That, to me, is a Bad Boy. That’s the kind of stuff I want to do.
Look, in comedy you have to strip yourself of vanity and play the fool. But in drama, you have to open yourself up and allow yourself to let the world into you and to feel you and feel your experiences and feel your pain or whatever you have to offer emotionally. So I think it’s different, but it’s the same. It’s just committing to a different energy.
Because sometimes in the middle of crying you make a joke to kind of bring yourself out of that world of crying. Nobody likes to cry. I hate seeing a movie where I see somebody trying to cry. Nobody does that. I like movies where we all try to fight the natural tears. Nobody likes to cry unless you’re trying to get something out of somebody. Do you know what I’m saying?
Requiem is being released unrated at a time when Hollywood is under attack for promoting drug use and sex and violence and dryrot and whatever else. Do you feel any responsibility, especially as an African-American role model, to tailor material to be kinder, gentler?
When I attack things, I don’t put that kind of responsibility on myself. I think as an artist, especially when you’re doing a comedy, my job is to make you laugh. Also, if I have a message in there, cool. But people are gonna interpret your joke or your material the way they want to interpret it. So you either assume the responsibility or you don’t. When we do like Scary Movie and you see somebody getting high, it’s done with such kid gloves. There’s a lesson in it: Don’t smoke because look how stupid you look. If you wanna smoke because of Scary Movie, then you’re just a jackass. I can’t raise you. I can only make you laugh and you can only look at my life and take the good things out of it because I’m not perfect. I don’t try to assume that responsibility, like Role Model Man. I’m not. I might have some good shit for you, but I might not.