Marlon Wayans on Playing Richard Pryor

The Los Angeles Times has some new words from Marlon Wayans on how he's getting along playing late comic legend Richard Pryor in the biopic Richard Pryor: Is it Something I Said?, which is being directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls).

In the interview, Wayans and the film's producer describe the challenge of playing a huge figure like Richard Pryor, if Marlon is up to the task  and even address all of those silly Wayans Brothers movies that some people love to hate.

Playing Richard Pryor is not going to be easy. Pryor was one of the craziest, rawest, realest, incendiary, engaging and funny performers ever to take the stage. And that's just him as a performer.

Pryor's personal life was equally dramatic, including multiple wives and mistresses, kids by different women, controversy, drug addiction and tragic injury.

So when you take a figure that complex and start talking about who would play him, most movie buffs would start throwing out names like Don Cheadle, or Terrence Howard (see what I did there?), but Marlon Wayans wouldn't necessarily be one of them (unless you're a big fan of Little Man).


However, Marlon has shown more promise onscreen than most comics-turned-actors. Requiem For A Dream is the film that the  pro-Marlon side calls on most, but it still remains a worthy reference, in my opinion. He showed some serious chops in that film.

Says producer of Is It Something I Said?, Mark Gordon:

“Obviously there are a number of requirements to playing Richard Pryor — you have to be funny, of course, but this role also has so many colors to it that you need to be a strong actor who can handle the dramatic scenes...There were discussions with Eddie Murphy . . . But Eddie Murphy is Eddie Murphy in the eyes of the audience. Marlon Wayans is a great actor and will be a great Richard Pryor, but he brings less baggage.”

There's real truth to that statement. At this point, we're about ready to see aging comics like Bill Cosby or Eddie Murphy get their own biopics, so seeing them portray other comedy legends would just be downright distracting (Bill Cosby is too old for that sugar-honey-ice-tea).

But still, what about Little Man, White Chicks and those other "god-awful" Wayans Brothers movies (Scary Movie excluded, of course)? How do you ignore all that? Marlon addresses the matter straight on:

“Look, I want to be able to make the stupidest movies ever, because they make people laugh and they make money...But that’s not all I want to do. And I think I’ve proven to some people — the ones paying attention — that I can do more. Everybody else, well, they can wait and see and make up their mind.”

Fair enough; I don't think having Marlon starring in this role is an automatic fail or anything. But it is Richard Pryor we're talking here - so how is that kind of challenge affecting Mr. Wayans?

He's huge, there is so much feeling for Richard Pryor...It's hard to be bigger than Richard Pryor. He changed comedy, and he did it in his own unique way."

"My brothers would react and laugh and imitate Richard and debate it and play it over and over, and that's how he came to me...Bill Cosby was like Martin Luther King but Pryor, he was like Malcolm X."

Hmmm... that last statement just made me realize that I'd love to see a Richard Pryor / Bill Cosby co-biopic - AND a Martin Luther King Jr. / Malcolm X co-biopic, for that matter. Could biopic mashups be the next big thing in biopics? This life unfolding while that life unfolds so we can compare and contrast major historical figures? Admit it: sounds pret-ty awesome...

But I digress.

There's much more to hear from Marlon Wayans on Richard Pryor, but you'll have to go to the LA Times article to read it.

Do you think Marlon can nail this role?

Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? is set to start shooting in the Fall.

Source: LA Times via Collider

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