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GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra - Marlon Wayans interview

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MARLON Wayans talks to us about bulking up and taking the next step in his career with GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as well as the appeal of the movie as a whole.

He also recalls some of his past experiences of working with directors such as Darren Aronofsky and the Coen brothers, as well as why he and his brothers will be taking a break from spoofs after Dance Flick

Q. Were you approached for the role of Ripcord in GI Joe or did you go after it?
Marlon Wayans: I wasn’t approached and it hurt my feelings! Actually, we approached them. But that’s the kind of trajectory we’re trying to go in career-wise. I’ve played a white woman in White Chicks, a little person in Little Man and a junkie in Requiem For A Dream and now this one I get to play a hero with humour. We felt it was kind of essential to go after because it’s a way to depart without completely leaving. I still have humour, but I get the girl, I help save the day and it’s a huge franchise that can have huge international box office potential. So, for me it was going in there and showing them that. Originally, this part was written as a white guy.

To me, I always feel that the best roles are written for white guys. That’s what made Beverly Hills Cop a great role. It was written for a white guy. For me, it’s not even about a white guy; it’s just about a person. And, at the end of the day, I’m a person. I’m a funny person. It’s not about colour at this point. We have a black President in the United States. I think the world has matured. It’s no longer about colour, but the person in the skin. I sound like Jesse Jackson or Martin Luther King, but I honestly feel like the world is mature enough. And, for me, I just want to do good roles.

Q. And how has the step up to a larger blockbuster budget been for you?
Marlon Wayans: I could have filmed every movie that myself and my brothers filmed and still have some change left over for three or four more with the GI Joe budget. It cost $175 million. I think White Chicks cost, like, $40 million, Little Man cost $45, Don’t Be A Menace was, I think, $7 million… we made Scary Movie for $19 million – and that still doesn’t add up and that’s five movies [laughs]. It’s different. It’s more pressure – not for me, but for [director] Stephen [Sommers]. I’ve seen his hairline recede since we started filming. But honestly, I think it’s going to make its money and them some because it’s one big, action-packed adrenaline rush with humour and romance. I’m proud of him because I think he did a great job. All of the $175 million is on the screen.

Q. How much did you have to bulk up? Do you go to the gym anyway?
Marlon Wayans: I was 160lbs when I started and I went up to 195lbs. There were no steroids. But it was hard work, dedication, hitting the gym. You kind of see it. I knew that if I could do it with my body, I could do it with the role and I could do it with anything in my life. It’s all the same things: discipline and hard work… dedication and follow through. So, if I could do it with my body, when I walked on set I’d feel like the role and it would be easier to play. The audience would look and go: “Oh, I believe him as that…” When you see me with my shirt off, you can go: “Hey, Marlon got a chest!” But I’m trying to go somewhere else in my career, so I think it was a good choice. I want to be believable in anything I take on. In White Chicks, I went from 165lbs to 140lbs; on Requiem it was 160lbs to 140lbs. Whatever role I do, I’ve got to do the work. It all starts with the body. Get that ready and everything else follows.

Q. I gather you’ve become close friends with co-star Channing Tatum?
Marlon Wayans: Oh, that’s my dude man. We had a great time. We both said: “If the movie bombs – which we highly doubt – then we have a $175 million friendship that’s well worth it!” This was a great journey with a great dude. They always ask us if we’re locked down for sequels but hopefully we’ll do 20 of these.

Q. Did he know you were going to be spoofing one of his films [Step Up in Dance Flick] before you met?
Marlon Wayans: Oh, he didn’t know that! But he was a sport. And I knew he was going to be a friend of mine when I was in my trailer watching dailies for Dance Flick and it was the scene with the Step Up parody and he walked in and said: “What the f**k? Dude, are you making fun of me?” I was like: “Um…” But he said: “This is great man. I was always thinking how stupid this was!” I thought then and there that I had to love this guy.

Q. Have you shown the film to your own children yet?
Marlon Wayans: No, but my son is going crazy. He can’t wait. He came home one day and shouted: “Mum, I got Dad!” I was like: “You got me? Where?” I was like some disease: “I got Dad!” I came to find out that he had my doll and he was so excited. He and my daughter were the reasons that I really went out for the role and really screen-tested. I went that extra mile because I knew how proud they were going to be. I know my son’s in school now saying: “My Dad will beat your Dad up! My Dad’s in GI Joe!”

Q. You’ve worked with some really interesting people over the years, such as Darren Aronofsky [Requiem For A Dream] and the Coen brothers [The Ladykillers]. What was the experience of working with them like for you?
Marlon Wayans: Every one is different. It’s like snowflakes – you’re never going to find one that’s alike. Darren was an actor’s director. He really taught me something about filmmaking because he cared about literally everything that was on the screen. He took responsibility for every frame. He walked me through the colours of what Fall was going to look like; the wardrobe, his ideas… he had magazine clippings and he showed us how he was going to film things in slow-motion and fast motion. He walked us through the journey that was in his mind and I just found that fascinating. He walked me around New York City in the middle of winter, like February, with my shirt off. I was like: “I don’t know if you know this, but I grew up in New York, so I know how cold it is. I don’t need to be walking around shirtless.” But he was like: “We’re going to be filming this in the summertime, so I want you to remember how cold it is.” And it cemented in my mind.

Q. And the Coens?
Marlon Wayans: Those guys are brilliant directors, brilliant visualists… but they kind of let you do your thing. You work six hours and they’re out of there. Their team is just so fast and so complete… it’s like [mimics them]: “Oh that was funny, what do you think Joel?”; “Huh, that was hilarious… do you want to do it again Ethan?”; “Well, I think you go it – you got something else you want to do?” But it was great. What I love about each one of these different directors is that they let me bring a little bit of me to the role. I’m theatrically trained. Everyone thinks I’m a comedian – which I am and are. I was born into a comedic family but I’m trained as an actor.

So, I want to do literally everything. I think I was gifted… I inherited one of the best comedy visionaries as a director, which is my brother Keenan, and I’ve been really lucky and blessed to have that. But now I want to work with other people as well. It’s good to have other experiences. And what’s great about Stephen Sommers is that he let me bring me to Ripcord. He wanted something funny. But all the different experiences I’ve had kind of prepared me for what I went through on Joe. So, I’ve got a taste of the action apple and I want more.

Q. Is it easier or harder to be directed by family members?
Marlon Wayans: It’s easy. My brothers have been telling me what to do my whole life, but at least I’m getting paid for it now!

Q. You’ve done a few spoofs now, but is there anything left you’d like to target – maybe a take on the action genre? Or even GI Joe?
Marlon Wayans: No, I think right now we’re going to lay off spoof because I think spoofs have kind of been dirtied and they’ve been over-saturated. For us, we want to just do comedies. We have a buddy action comedy that we’re developing and we’re in the process of writing White Chicks 2. But other than that we’re going to leave spoofs alone – except for Dance Flick. That’s our last one because we feel like that was actually ready to be spoofed.

All the other ones – you know, you have Disaster Movies and all of those other ones – we’re like: “Why is the Hulk in Disaster Movie?” We do parodies about a genre and Dance Flick spoofs a genre. And that was a genre that was ripe for spoofing. It’s not like we just said: “Let’s make fun of anything. Let’s do Borat the spoof!” It doesn’t make any sense. So, after Dance Flick we’re going to lay off and just do other movies.

Read our review of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Read our interview with Sienna Miller