When Marlon Wayans had his head computer-generated onto a dwarf-sized body double (Little Man), critics and audiences couldn't have been less forgiving. When Brad Pitt does it (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), he gets nominated for an Oscar. Marlon Wayans' gender-bending role in White Chicks also received its rightful bashing while Hillary Swank took home Oscar gold for her gender-bending role in Boys Don't Cry.
So with Wayans winning out over Eddie Murphy to portray Richard Pryor in the long-discussed biopic of the comedy legend, will Wayans be turning in another laughless hapless dud? Or will he be following in the heralded biopic footsteps of Jamie Foxx (Ray) and Joaquin Phoenix's (Walk The Line) transformative performances?
For his starring role in Richard Pryor: Is it Something I Said, which is being set up over at Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions, he certainly believes he'll have more to offer, and wasn't surprised when he read the disparaging internet jeering in the aftermath of the casting announcement.
Wayans explained to the LATimes:
Look, I want to be able to make the stupidest movies ever, because they make people laugh and they make money," he said with a smirk. "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.
Wayans has taken on meatier roles in the past, in films like Mo' Money and Above the Rim, while his surprising turn as a heroin dealer in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream earned him and the rest of the cast several nominations. But in the last ten years he has had trouble establishing anything resembling an individual identity from the Wayans clan, being the youngest of 10 children in the show-business brood that came to fame with In Living Color, the 1990s television show created and written by Keenen Ivory Wayans and Damon Wayans. But the guy has talent, he was comedically and -- the few moments it had -- dramatically head and shoulders above his sibling Shawn in their 1995-1999 Fox sitcom The Wayans Brothers.
Wayans is confident he is on the verge of winning over skeptics and just maybe establishing a name for himself:
I have no complaints. But I do have a plan. I love doing comedy, but I also love to do drama.
The life of the Richard Pryor certainly lends itself to both laughter and tragedy:
The late Richard Pryor, a Peoria, Ill., native who grew up in his grandmother's brothel, was expelled from school at age 14 and went on to become a firebrand force in pop culture as a stand-up comic, movie star, writer. When, in 1998, he became the first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, he was described by Lawrence Wilker, the president of the Kennedy Center, as a signature voice in the national conversation: "He struck a chord, and a nerve, with America, forcing it to look at large social questions of race and the more tragicomic aspects of the human condition."
I would like to see Wayans do Pryor justice. I would love to see his career take off, with this chance to prove he has some serious acting chops. We'll definitely have a clear idea once a director is attached, but if he does well in this, will it just be a tiny glimmer with a G.I. Joe sequel and White Chicks 2 already planned???