Bill Condon’s RICHARD PRYOR: IS IT SOMETHING I SAID? Filming This Fall; Marlon Wayans Talks About Taking on “Kilimanjaro” Role of Richard Pryor

     February 21, 2010

Marlon Wayans and Richard Pryor.jpg

It may take fans of the late, great Richard Pryor a while to get used to the idea of him being played by the star of White Chicks and Little Man, but Marlon Wayans himself is clearly excited about jumping into the role when director Bill Condon starts filming Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? this fall.

“This is like an invitation to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for me, and I’ve never been more excited in my life than when I got the role,” he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I want to be in dramas, I want to produce, I want to write and I want to prove I can handle a role such as this one.”

Smirk about all that if you want to, but along with the movies that have made he and his brethren very rich guys, Wayans has at least two performances in his career that show why I think he can handle this and nail it. First, go back and watch the Coen brothers’ remake of Ladykillers, in which he was easily the funniest guy (“you brought your bitch to the Waffle Hut?”) And, even better, think all the way back to Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, in which he held his own with the likes of Jennifer Connelly and Ellyn Burstyn and showed some genuine dramatic chops.

Hit the jump to hear more of what Wayans and a producer of Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? had to say about the upcoming flick.

Marlon Wayans  (4).jpgSay what you want to about the Wayans brothers’ extremely successful but equally silly movies, but of the brood, Marlon Wayans at least isn’t making any apologies for getting paid.

“Look, I want to be able to make the stupidest movies ever, because they make people laugh and they make money,” Wayans said. “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.”

As far as the role of Richard Pryor, Wayans landed it after Eddie Murphy stepped away from the project due to “creative differences.” After that, the film’s producers and Condon saw an audition tape of Wayans doing some Pryor routines and were apparently impressed. Here’s what Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? producer Mark Gordon said about what Wayans brings to the role:

“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,” Gordon said. “There were discussions with Eddie Murphy . . . Eddie Murphy is a great star, and I have no doubt he would be a great Richard Pryor. 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.”

I have to say I couldn’t agree more about that last point. If you watch Eddie Murphy doing comedy, no matter who he’s supposed to be playing, he’s still Eddie Murphy. Bringing in someone with the creative energy of Wayans seems like a solid choice to me, and I think Condon will deliver a real winner here.

And as far as how much respect Wayans has for Pryor himself, these last two quotes just sum it up perfectly.

“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,” Wayans said. “Richard Pryor meant so much to black people. Bill Cosby was like Martin Luther King but Pryor, he was like Malcolm X.”

And on what Pryor might think:

“I think he would smile. And most of all, I hope, wherever he is up there, he laughs when he sees the movie.”

Here’s hoping we all will too, and I’m thinking that now at least all signs point to yes. What say you?

Richard Pryor (1).jpg

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