Marlon Wayans Talks 'Fifty Shades of Black' and the Process of Making a Parody

Marlon Wayans Talks 'Fifty Shades of Black' and the Process of Making a Parody

Marlon Wayans has made quite the career out of parodying popular films alongside his brothers since Scary Movie came out in 2000. Lately he's been going at it solo, having written, produced, and starred in A Haunted House and its sequel. Marlon Wayans' latest film trades the horror genre for something a little more romantic with Fifty Shades of Black, a parody of the steamy Fifty Shades of Grey. We sat down with Marlon to discuss the film and what it takes to make a parody.


Shakefire (SF): How knowledgeable with 50 Shades of Grey were you before you started parodying the film?
Marlon Wayans (MW): I’d seen girls reading this book all curled up and giddy and hot and bothered on a plane. I was like, “What is that?” So I started reading the book, and I heard how much of a big seller it was. I was just like, “What?” As I was reading the book, I just started writing down jokes. Jokes just kept coming to me. Personally, I was unimpressed by this sex stuff because this is basic [laughs]. I did this in my first month…


So I was thinking that I was going to write my first parody book and do something different. Then I heard the movie was coming out so off the book Rick [Alvarez] and I started writing the movie and instantly the title kinda hit me. I was like, “What if Christian Grey was black?” I was thinking about it like what about the black experience. How would we feel in this situation? What if this guy was rich and he was black? And then the girl was black. How would she feel about some of these things? Jokes just started coming to me and before I knew it we had a script.


If I’m not inspired I’m not going to write it. If it doesn’t make me laugh, and if I’m not just writing jokes. If Rick’s in the room and we’re not making each other laugh or just pages of jokes and funny scenes, I’m not messing with it. I’m not going to go there with three jokes, because for me I’m greedy. I like to pack a script with a lot of jokes because I’m from the hood and I want people to laugh as much as they possibly could and get their money’s worth. When you go to a movie and you get three laughs I don’t think it’s enough. At least see me sweat so you know I’m giving an effort.


SF: Do you have a little more leeway now because of your track record with films as well as your family?
MW: I hope. I mean, look, my family we have our sense of humor. Even though we’re a family and we all have a similar sense of humor, we’re all different. We’re like potato chips. I’m like spicy jalapeno with a twist of lime. I’m crazy. And my brothers know. When we’re working together there’s rails. In my first two movies, A Haunted House when I did those, there were no rails. I was just like, “I don’t care.” If it’s funny to me I’m going to do it; I don’t care. I think in this one I was a little more responsible in terms of making choices because I know that this one is a date movie. I know that I can’t go too far because...stand-up taught me this. If you go too far with women. Uh-uh. There’s a way to do a joke where they’ll laugh at it, and they’ll enjoy it. Guys, we’re a little less sensitive. We can just kinda say it. We don’t like you to hold punches. This one you have to know how much to hit, when to pull back. I really listened and I think more than any of my other movies I think women are going to like as well. This is a great couples movie because both people are laughing.


SF: How difficult was it for you to play a terrible lover?
MW: Being that I’m so masterful in bed, you know, it was really hard [laughs]. I had to throwback to when I was younger. I think every guy when you first have sex you’re bad. There is no guy who has sex for the first time who is good in bed. There is no guy, period. We all lie, first of all, about how much sex we’ve had before we had it. It takes a while to master that. It was hard, but easy. I think it takes humility to plug into how to be a bad lover. You have to remember those times were not always good. There are times where you’re just bad. Same thing with women. Sometimes women are bad. You have to really plug into what’s bad about the experience and do it in a way that everybody can embrace and everybody’s going to laugh at the same time because it has to have a kernel of truth.


SF: You said that you were more responsible with this particular film because it’s a date movie. What did you find yourself saying, “Nah, not this.”
MW: Oh there was a lot. There was a lot. Believe me. Cause we shot it. We shot a lot of stuff. In the book they had some wild stuff. In the book they had this scene that was about having sex on menstruation. I mean people do it; it’s not like oh that’s taboo. We went there and then we found ourselves going, “They didn’t put it in the movie, and I see why they didn’t.” Even though it happens. Uh-uh. In terms of a movie, I only got 90 minutes. I can’t take 90 minutes trying to do that one scene. Now if something is noise I go, “take it out.” If it’s any noise or any disturbance, and I learned this doing stand-up, if it’s going to make anybody feel uncomfortable or uneasy, the majority, you got to take it out. That one scene is not worth me hurting my entire movie.


SF: How long did it take you to shoot the movie?
MW: We shot the movie in Los Angeles. We shot it in 20 days, once again on a shoestring budget. This is our third movie so me, Rick, and Mike’s [Tiddes] process is a little different. Our crew is all up to speed. When people see the movie people think we did this for like $35 million. We made this for $5 million. $5 million to make a movie in Hollywood? That’s not a lot. We just got the most out of it. We got some great locations, and our costume designer, Ariyela [Wald-Cohain], she’s awesome.


SF: What was one of your funniest scenes that you remember filming?
MW: The Magic Mike scene. That scene. First of all, it was the hardest scene in the movie to film. I had to do dance choreography. I worked out. We filmed that the last maybe three days of filming. I literally worked out six days a week, sometimes two times a day, to get my look. You’re going to be damn near ass naked and it’s for the ladies. I got to try and be my best. Plus Channing’s a friend and I can’t have him showing me up like that. I just worked out real hard and did the choreography and I did all the things I had to do to film that scene. Because that scene for me was about stamina. All the working out I did wasn’t even about the body. It was about me dancing for literally 16 to 18 hours, and I have to have stamina. So I trained for that moment so that when we’re on set and Mike and Rick are like, “Yo, we need another take,” I’m just like, “Let’s do it.” No complaints. On my movies I give myself. I rarely go to my trailer. I sit there on set because I’m a producer as well and I’m watching every scene. I try not to miss any takes. The Magic Mike thing was just a day of gags and a big production, but we got a lot of funny stuff.


SF: This is your third time working with director Mike Tiddes. How have you guys evolved together since work together on A Haunted House? Is there a rhythm you fall into?
MW: Oh there’s definitely a rhythm. It’s so much easier than the first one. Now we get each other. There’s much more of a trust. I trusted him before, but after you’ve done three movies he knows how I work. I know how he works. I give him space, even as producer and writer. We give each other space. At first, working out the process can be a little frustrating. You play with someone long enough and you just know. So now even in editing I know I don’t have to be in the room every day. I can go to the editing room two or three times as week and then I’m going to be on tour. I’m going to leave the guys with notes. I’ll Skype in if I need to, but I trust what they’re putting together. I know the last three weeks of editing I’m in there watching frame by frame going, “How do we make this funnier?” Working with Mike, it’s fun because we skip the process of a director’s cut then a producer’s cut. No, we all cut the movie together. It’s me, Rick, and Mike sitting in a room together and making choices. Sometimes we disagree, and that’s okay, but we always defer to each other. It’s a diplomatic process and we handle it respectfully. I love the process. I’ll do 200 movies with Mike.


Fifty Shades of Black will be released in theaters on January 29, 2016.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook