When Marlon and Shawn Wayans visited Dallas last year to promote their upcoming “Scary Movie,” there was no expectation that their picture was about to become a cultural phenomenon, and the interviews they conducted were relatively small-scaled, low-key and informal. How things have changed. Returning to talk about “Scary Movie 2,” they found themselves sitting at the head of two hastily-joined tables in the conference room of a posh hotel, and the reporters were so numerous that some had to lean against the walls, balancing their tape recorders and notepads as best they could. That’s what happens when your film grosses nearly two hundred million bucks and returns a huge profit on a very modest investment: you’re suddenly very hot indeed.
The brothers were quickly reminded that when the first installment of the franchise appeared, it was advertised with the slogan “No sequel–no kidding.” “Who said that?” Marlon immediately asked in mock amazement. “We always said that for a certain amount of money we’d sell out. That was the fine print.” Shawn noted that it was the reaction to the first movie that led to a decision to try a second: “Obviously, the fans kind of called for [it]. Miramax chased us down at the premiere [of “Scary Movie”] because in test screenings they just wanted another one. So, hey, why not?”
Still, the idea of doing a sequel in only a year was a daunting prospect. When asked what their greatest accomplishment was, Shawn replied, “Just the fact that we got it done in the time we had.” Marlon interjected that the genre made the task especially difficult: “A parody and a thriller are the two hardest movies to do. You’ve got to stay ahead of the audience.” And Shawn added that in a parody, you needed a joke “every thirty seconds,” which is a high standard.
When asked whether they felt any pressure to top the success of the first movie–especially in terms of the gross-out humor the earlier flick specialized in and that younger audiences loved– Shawn said: “We got some things–no pun intended–but it’s not how we can top ourselves. You’ve got to go with what else is funny. And if you go with what else is funny, you’ll find new things and they’ll hopefully be as potent in terms of comedy as the last one.” Marlon added: “It’s kind of like doing a great album. After Michael Jackson did ‘Thriller,’ ‘Bad’ was also a great album, [and] ‘Off the Wall’ is a great album, too–they’re just different, a different expression. So this one [“Scary Movie 2″] is different, but I can’t say it’s better or worse.” “We laughed a lot while filming it–and we’re pretty hard critics of ourselves,” Shawn interjected. And Marlon explained, “The pressure’s put on ourselves to be funny. If we put on a funny movie, everything else will fall into place.” Shawn agreed: “Anything goes if it’s funny.” Marlon continued, “I think teens are tired of flat-out gross. It has to be funny. [The first “Scary”] wasn’t a teen movie. It’s a parody of a teen movie. Teens are out there in the audience, but we didn’t go out to make a teen movie. We just went out to make a comedy, and people of all ages enjoyed it. Some didn’t–our parents walked out–but, hey! That’s how we knew it was a hit!”
One way in which the sequel differs from the original is that it hones in on “a different genre,” the haunted-house movie, Marlon observed. “We let go of the ‘Friday the 13th’ slasher movies and went for the supernatural. So we’re doing everything from ‘The Haunting’ to ‘The Exorcist’ to ‘What Lies Beneath.’ We’ve got a little ‘Poltergeist’ in there, too.” Shawn added: “And anything and everything in between. Just like the last movie–we had over forty-some movie references. Some have nothing to do with [ghost movies], but we incorporated them anyway”–like a nod to “Cast Away” or “Pearl Harbor.”
One of the most exciting things about making the picture was having Marlon Brando in the cast, even if it was only for a day. The legendary star signed for a part and came to the set, but was so ill that he had to withdraw. The younger Marlon quipped that he “got his check, and then he got sick. But James Woods came in and did a great job.” Shawn added that having Brando on the set, however briefly, was a thrill: “The fact that we just heard him read something we wrote–we were like giddy kids.”
And despite that fact that both of the brothers are now nearing thirty, they retain the youthful exuberance that filled them when they shared a bunk in the projects two decades ago. As kids they dreamed of going to Hollywood and succeeding in the entertainment business. “We dreamt what we’re doing now,” Shawn said. “We get excited sitting in a room, dreaming our dreams and bringing our dreams to life.” That sort of passion set the first “Scary Movie” apart and won it a large audience, and Marlon and Shawn Wayans, not to mention Miramax’s Dimension Films, are hoping that lightning will strike again with “Scary Movie 2.”