'Scary Movie' Brings Wayans Back

Wednesday, July 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — It took failure to make funny man Keenen Ivory Wayans realize what fans wanted most from him — laughter.

Wayans, best known as the creator and star of the old Fox sketch comedy show ``In Living Color,'' wrote and starred in the 1997 action flick ``Most Wanted.'' While the film proved that Wayans, also the movie's executive producer, could do more than make people laugh, it also proved to be something else — a commercial and critical flop.

``I will stay focused in comedy,'' says Wayans. ``As a director, I have more leeway ... but anytime I'm in front of the camera — that's a comedy.''

Wayans has returned to comedy with his latest project as director of ``Scary Movie,'' a parody of such teen-horror flicks as ``Scream'' and ``I Know What You Did Last Summer.''

Although he appears only briefly in a spoof-within-a-spoof scene, the film has all the salacious satire that audiences have come to expect from a Wayans project.

``In the opening of the movie, you see all the cliches — the dumb teen-age girl who is doing everything you're not supposed to do when the killer's after you — like TALKING TO HIM!'' Wayans says, laughing. ``Why are you having a conversation with the man? You're supposed to be on the phone with the police. They stay on the phone talking to the guy.''

The idea for the film came from two of Wayans' younger brothers, Shawn and Marlon, stars of the defunct WB show ``The Wayans Bros.,'' who are among the five comedic Wayans siblings who include Damon and sister Kim. (The five other Wayans siblings have ``regular jobs,'' as Keenen puts it.)

Shawn and Marlon also star in ``Scary Movie,'' which features Cheri Oteri from ``Saturday Night Live'' and Shannon Elizabeth of ``American Pie'' fame.

``Marlon and Shawn, all they do is sit around and come up with ideas. Literally. They stay in the house at days at a time and call me up, at least three times a day going, 'You think this is funny?''' he says. ``And when they called me up about that, I said 'Yes, that's the one to write.'''

Keenen then helped them hone the script — over and over and over — until it was ready for the screen.

``They hated me for that — but I kept making them rewrite it, rewrite it, giving them notes, and then it was finally ready. Then they took it to Miramax, and we went from there.''

It's not the first time the brothers have worked together on a spoof — Wayans produced his younger brothers in the 1995 gansta parody ``Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.'' And Wayans also parodied blaxploitation with the hilarious and critically acclaimed 1988 movie ``I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.''

When it came time to pick a director for ``Scary Movie,'' there wasn't any question about who it would be.

``We never thought about going anywhere else. We always try and go family first, and this is right up Keenen's alley,'' says Marlon Wayans.

When Shawn and Marlon talk about their older brother, you sense a genuine feeling of admiration and respect.

Their charismatic brother — who stands at about 6 feet 3 inches — was the first member of the Wayans clan to head for Hollywood almost two decades ago, gaining bit parts on ``CHiPs'' and ``Benson'' before making a splash as co-writer and co-star of Robert Townsend's ``Hollywood Shuffle.''

``I was Daniel Boone; I was the family pioneer,'' recalls Wayans, 42. ``The funny thing was that I was in L.A., and I was struggling. But they thought I was rich, because if I had a little background part on a TV show, then I was on TV. It didn't matter.''

Once his siblings joined him in Los Angeles, they stuck close and worked together often, most notably with their biting urban humor on ``In Living Color.''

Once the show went off the air in 1994, they went their separate ways to pursue individual projects.

``We had successes and failures, but even in the successes, they weren't as much fun,'' Wayans says. ``So we have more fun working with each other and being a part of each other's different projects. There's strength in numbers.''

Since ``In Living Color'' ended, Wayans has mainly concentrated on film projects like the comedy ``A Low Down Dirty Shame,'' and the Steven Seagal thriller ``The Glimmer Man.''

But he returned to television in 1997 as host and executive producer of ``The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show,'' a late-night talk show he hoped would fill the void among minority audiences when ``The Arsenio Hall Show'' was canceled in 1994.

Wayans' return to TV turned out to be brief. About the same time, ``Vibe'' and ``The Magic Hour,'' with basketball great Magic Johnson as host, aimed to capture the same late-night market. All of them were canceled.

``I think that the timing of it was so right that everybody got the same idea at the same time, and instead of it being a hole to fill, it became a hole too small to fit all the shows that were trying to get in, and I think that everyone just cannibalized each other,'' Wayans says.

Wayans was supposed to make another return to television last year, to produce a sitcom for NBC. But his commitment to ``Scary Movie'' prevented him from delivering it, so the deal fell through.

He'd like to see more minority-themed shows on network television, and is troubled by the all-white makeup of most hit shows' casts.

``The sad thing is that Hollywood is a place where you can pretend anything. And so what it says is that they don't even want to pretend that we get along or that we interact or that we live together or share the same tastes, or anything,'' he says. ``They've created a fantasy of total exclusion. And it's just sad.''