When it was announced that Marlon Wayans was going to play Richard Pryor in the upcoming biopic Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?, the youngest of the Wayans clan told the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't surprised to find a healthy amount of Internet skepticism about the casting.
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.
While Wayans has proved he's capable of performing in dramas like Requiem For a Dream and being seriously funny in The Ladykillers, the actor who's been in Razzie-nominated movies like Little Man, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and White Chicks had to beat out contender Eddie Murphy for the role. Murphy's publicist said that Murphy left the project due to "differences on the creative front" but has "given his blessing for Marlon to do it." Producer Mark Gordon confirmed that there "were discussions" with Murphy for the role, but that Wayans the "clear choice" for the part after watching a 13-minute audition where Wayans supposedly "transformed into Pryor."
Gordon admitted that "sometimes actors chase roles, more often producers and directors chase stars, but in this case we chased each other, and that's a very exciting place for us to start off on." As much as Wayans wanted the role, he admits the part will be a huge challenge.
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. 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. You need to be lucky in life, but it's also what you do with your luck. I'm ready.
Is It Something I Said? will be directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) and produced by Chris Rock and Pryor's widow Jennifer Lee Pryor. Gordon described the project as "a celebration of Pryor's life" that will show both "the light and the darkness" of Pryor's career. The movie will be released some time next year, and begins production this fall.