Entrusting an infant to a bunch of rowdy brothers known for making fart jokes doesn't sound like a very good idea. Over the years, however, the Wayans brothers have earned their baby-sitting credentials by displaying an uncanny knack for taking an outrageous concept and extracting the one thing that every baby requires: milk.
"It does sound like one of those 'Hey, those guys were high!' concepts," laughed 35-year-old Shawn Wayans recently, offering a preview of the upcoming comedy "Little Man." "But when you see it all put together, it's funny."
The film is almost finished, just in time to make its July 5 release date. And much like the brothers' raunchy 2004 summer flick, "White Chicks," the high-concept premise is as undeniably unsettling as it is potentially hilarious.
"For 'White Chicks' I got some implants, I bleached my skin, I got the blond hair, got the contacts — there was no makeup," joked Shawn's younger brother (and would-be method actor) Marlon, who this time around plays ... a baby. "I really went deep into character for this, too. I had a little surgery, a little nip and tuck here and there, and I was able to do it."
" 'Little Man' is a movie about a guy named Darrell and his wife, Vanessa — Darrell really wants to have a baby and his wife doesn't because she's not ready, but that doesn't stop him from trying," said Shawn, who plays Darrell. "At the same time, there's this guy Calvin who is this little dude, this vertically challenged guy, who just got out of prison and robs a jewelry store.
"The cops are chasing him from his botched jewelry-heist attempt, and he runs back into the store and hides the diamond inside of my wife's bag," he continued, setting up the flick's elaborate plot. "Then he follows us home to get it back and shows up on our doorstep as a baby.
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Marlon, at 6 feet, 2 inches, provides only the head of the child, while a 9-year-old Canadian actor named Linden Porco provides the body.
The action was directed by the oldest Wayans brother and family mentor, "In Living Color" mastermind Keenen Ivory Wayans, who brags like a proud papa that he came up with the flick's bizarre main joke.
"I kinda had the initial idea, and then we all rewrote it together," said the nearly 50-year-old family linchpin, beginning to show flecks of gray in his goatee. "The difficulty is you've got to shoot two movies. First you've got to shoot the body, and then you've got to shoot the head. The person with the hardest job is Marlon, because he has to match his head to a body that's not his."
At the center of all these Wayanses on the set months ago, the 2-feet-8 Porco sported a smile so big that it seemed likely to make his tiny frame topple over.
As Marlon bounced around, he made a point to go over and give some props to his co-star. "This is my man Linden Porco from Winnipeg, movie star!" the actor said, wrapping an arm around the tiny boy in the straight-outta-Hollywood sunglasses.
"What's up?" the kid in the T-shirt beamed.
"See, Hollywood's changed Linden," Marlon teased, much to Porco's delight. "He's got bodyguards with him, it's unbelievable. This guy walks with an entourage — hair, makeup, wardrobe, everything."
Later, Marlon broke down the groundbreaking process: "Me and Shawn actually don't film together. He films his stuff, and I film my stuff acting with just a green screen. I act in a chair basically, and I've got to move like this and that and mimic [Porco's] actions. It's really bugged-out, but I thank God for puberty because I really learned how to play by myself and do things alone during that time."
For most of the movie, Keenen and Shawn and the other actors shot on sets with Porco, while Marlon was locked away in a remote room with a crew of five, bolted into a chair and filmed only from the forehead to the chin. "They got people to talk to and a crew and craft service; when I film, I ain't got no craft service," he complained. "It'd just be, like, three or four raisins on the table and some old Doritos, stale ones."
As with everything else in their lives, the "Little Man" shoot constantly reflected the established hierarchy of the tightknit family. "I'm used to being Keenen's younger brother, so it's not a problem," Shawn said. "Marlon, he's an anti-authority type, so he doesn't like to get bossed around. But he gets bossed around by everybody because he's the baby.
"In the middle of a scene, if I want some orange juice, I can go, 'Cut! Marlon, get me some orange juice!' and he'd have to go get it," he continued. "I understand his frustration, but I don't have that problem because if Keenen tells me to get that orange juice, I go, 'Yo Marlon, go get me some orange juice for Keenen!' So yeah, we family."
Soon the family will welcome a bizarre-looking baby into its ranks. Among these potty-mouthed big brothers, one can't help but feel that he's in good hands.
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