As the saying goes, it’s been a long time between drinks, and the real reason why Brett Ratner waited some six years before making a third Rush Hour is because of Mr Tucker. Was it the $25m payday that lured Tucker in front of the cameras? In the interim, the comic actor has been travelling the world trying to make it a better place making friends with Presidents and TV talk show hosts along the way. Now Tucker is back with Rush Hour 3, and he and Jackie are caught up in Paris. The City of Lights will never be the same again. Paul Fischer caught up with a reflective Tucker in Los Angeles.
Question: Why were you so picky and why did it take you so long?
Tucker: You know, a lot of things just came my way that really didn’t spark my interest, so I decided to step back and travel the world. And during my travels a lot of things I got involved in like in Africa, y’know, going on a lot of great trips because people knew who I was, because my celebrity and fame. Going on trips with Bono, Clinton, Colin Powell and went to Oprah Winfrey’s thing of course and it just made me realize that it’s a big world out there. Going to places in Uganda that doesn’t have clean water, because an animal died in the water supply and they need $50, $100 to build a pump to get fresh water. And little girls walking all day to get a bucket of water for their families, those things made me appreciate what we have here in America. Y’know, I used to brush my teeth with Evian water and Figi water because I don’t want to use the sink water and I don’t do that anymore, because I have seen these things and going to Ethiopia, seeing a room full of infants, babies and some of them blind and most of ’em was crying and I said, ‘What can I do? This problem is just to big.’ And I remember what one of the nuns said – it was two nuns took care of all these young babies and she used to work under Mother Theresa and she said, that Mother Theresa said, ‘Every raindrop creates an ocean.’ And I interpret what she meant by that, she meant that if everybody just took their part then this problem wouldn’t be so big. We could solve a lot of these issues in the world. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing that long before it’s been popular in Hollywood. Now everybody is going. George Clooney and Don Cheadle is doing stuff in Darfur which is great, because I feel like I get what Mother Theresa was saying, If you do your part, other people will see what you are doing and say, ‘What is he doing?’ And they will use their fame and their celebrity in a much more powerful way than just being famous and get a whole bunch of money for yourself.
Question: So, your priorities have changed?
Tucker: Yeah, I didn’t know. I just decided to step back and I think when you step back you open yourself up to a whole other world. And now I have these great friends like Clinton and the King of Jordan and all these great people who I would have never encountered if I had just been for myself. If I wanted to make as much movies as I can and all the money in the world, I wouldn’t have this great life, because I found out that I get more out of people in Africa then I can give them. They give me more than I give them. All I do is show up and they say, ‘Chris Tucker! Thank you for coming. What are you doing all the way over here?’ And they show me life is special, because they don’t have much, they don’t have a lot, but they have a lot of love and they appreciate life because they don’t have a lot. It’s hard to get a glass of water or food, so it makes me appreciate, when I give, I always receive and even in my movies if I can make someone laugh that’s giving and the same thing with me, when I watch a movie I want someone to make me forget about my problems.
Question: Do you need humour to deal with some of those tragic situations?
Tucker: Definitely, definitely. Humour and love, because every time I see a kid smile because he’s seen my movie, because these movies travel all over the world, that makes me feel good inside. And I just think that’s natural healing and it makes them feel good because it’s like, ‘Look at this guy, I’ve only seen him on film and now he’s all the way over here.’ It’s like a real spiritual moment and comedy is the same way, because that’s a natural healing, if medicine can heal you then surely music when you hear something good, it changes your mood, then truly laughter and all that stuff is even a greater healing.
Question: So why now?
Tucker: I didn’t know. I think the timing is great, because this summer all these part three’s are doing great and I guess the timing is just great. It wasn’t planned. But what convinced me was the script; it took awhile to get it together because we never planned on doing a part two or three. I said something in part two which was a blooper outtake that the studio heard and they said, ‘Well, let’s do another one’ because it made a lot of money. And they figured it would make some more money. I said something in an outtake. A guy fell out of a hotel in Vegas, the hotel building and I said, ‘That guy isn’t going to be in ‘Rush Hour 3′,’ and the studio heard it and then the fans heard it. ‘Maybe another Rush Hour is coming?’ So everybody thought we were doing another ‘Rush Hour,’ but it was never planned. So studio came and said, ‘Let’s do another ‘Rush Hour’!’ And I said, ‘O.K., what are we going to do? Where are we going to go? How are these characters going to get together?’ I was involved with this process because I said, ‘They gotta be believable how we get back together,’ because in the last movie we both went on to New York, but it’s been too long a time since New York, so we said that won’t be realistic because we both got older. I got older and Jackie got older, so let’s have Jackie come back to the states, America and they bump into each other in the alley – that was our idea. And also, where are we going to go? And I said, ‘Let’s go to Paris!’ Because we will both be fish out of waters. They wanted to go to Hawaii and this, that and the other and I said, ‘What about Paris?’ So we all agreed on Paris, we all thought that would be the best place. So, it was a process of making our schedules work and also, Brett was doing ‘X-Men,’ Jackie was doing 200 other movies and I was off in Africa with no phone service, so it was all y’know, you got to get us all back together and this movie it takes you around the world and shows you these two guys from two different worlds, from two different cultures, get to know one another and laugh at each other and all these stereotypes of different cultures like the French and Americans and the Americans don’t like French, I think it’s funny because it’s so silly that talking about other people’s cultures and this and that and there is nothing wrong with being different, because of language barriers – that’s what makes it special.
Question: Do you think humour and getting people to poke fun at it is a great way to get people to say, ‘Yeah, it is kind of stupid.’
Tucker: Yes. Exactly, because the French to me are not arrogant, Americans think everyone should speak English and the French say that if you’re in France you better speak – I’m not speaking English! And who wouldn’t blame them? So, every culture, we all spar in our own different ways. So, I think it’s funny to see our faults. The French faults, the American faults and to laugh at those different things.
Question: One of the running gags has been how Carter constantly gets on Lee’s nerves. If you met someone like Carter, how long would it be until you just went crazy?
Tucker: Carter is sort of a person who is kind of out there. He likes to have fun. He as used to working by himself, but now he’s used to working with Jackie because they became brothers and friends in this movie and that gave us room to be funny and more action, because Carter in this movie has more action scenes and he has a love interest with Noemie Lenoir, a French actress, and he speaks Chinese, so my character, he’s trying to speak Chinese, so I wanted all those things to try and make him evolve a little bit. Instead of being the same character in ‘Rush Hour 2,’ it just makes him a bit more exciting, but I would be able to get along with Carter. Carter’s cool, because I always put a lot of me in these characters, a little extra, but I always put a little bit of me.
Question: How has the relationship between you and Jackie evolved since the first movie?
Tucker: It’s great, it’s great. Because the first movie we really didn’t understand each other. Just like Jackie may have told you, we met in a meeting, because we had to meet with him so he could meet me and agree to do ‘Rush Hour,’ because he didn’t know who I was, because I was an up and coming comedian and he knew who Eddie Murphy was, people like that, but we was talking the whole – well, I was talking to him the whole meeting, but he didn’t say anything. And I didn’t know if he spoke English or not, so I asked Brett, ‘Does he speak English? Because he’s not talking.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, he’ll learn English by the time we start filming.’ I said, ‘I can’t be funny if he don’t speak English.’ He said, ‘I’m just joking, he speaks English – that’s his culture. He’s just feeling you out.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in. Whatever.’ So, I took that to the movie, because I didn’t see him until we started filming after that, because he agreed and we went to the set and that’s how I came up with ‘Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?’ And I just played the movie like real life and that’s how our friendship is. Just like the first movie, he was a fish out of water in America, second movie I’m fish out of water in Hong Kong and we actually went to Hong Kong for the first movie premiere and we did the karaoke in real life at night. I was doing Michael Jackson all night and Brett said, ‘Let’s put that in the movie if we do a part two.’ We put it in the movie and in this movie we’re both fish out of water’s in Europe and Paris and we were brothers in this movie. And of course we get in a little argument, but then we make up. It’s like real life, I went and surprised him right before I signed on to do ‘Rush Hour 3.’ I just went to Hong Kong. Flew out there on my own, and I called him from the airport and said, ‘Jackie, I’m in Hong Kong.’ And he said, ‘You in Hong Kong! We hand out tonight! I come get you!’ (Laughs.) Y’know, it’s like we hung out and did all that. It’s just like the movie.
Question: Are you going to be taking another long break from filming movies or is there another project out there you might do relatively soon?
Tucker: No, I wanna work. I wanna work. And I don’t plan on taking a long break because there are a lot of things I wanna do. One of the things I wanna do is I wanna do a stand up comedy movie, because a lot of my fans haven’t seen my stand up and don’t know that I came from a stand up background. I wanna do like Eddie Murphy did with ‘Raw’ and ‘Richard Prior Live In Long Beach’ and ‘Live on the Sunset Strip’ and I just want to get that done, because every comedian wants to do that and get that out there. And also, I’ve got another project that I’ve been working on, that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now called ‘Mr. President.’ I’ll be playing the first black president in a comedy and since the election is coming up I thought it would be fun and I poke a lot of humour at a lot of things in that movie.
Question: What about ‘Rush Hour 4’?
Tucker: ‘Rush Hour 4’? If the fans want to see another one. If the fans want to see we always have to think about it and work on a script and make it even better than this one if we can do it.
Question: Not in five years though.
Tucker: Not in five years. No, because Jackie told me, ‘I chased you for five, six years! This time you call me!’ So, if this one does well, what I’ll do, I’ll just go write a script with a writer, I’ll come up with it real fast. I’ll just do it real fast, have it there, a matter of fact, I’m just going to get a script done…
Question: You’re going to do one yourself?
Tucker: Just in case. I’m going to write it just in case and I’ll have a script all ready and get it to the studio. As soon as they start talking about ‘Do you want to do ‘Rush Hour 4′?’ ‘What about that one?’ (Laughs.)
Question: With the project ‘Mr. President’ and this stand up, do you have any sort of director attached or timeframe for these projects?
Tucker: Uh, with the stand up? Yeah, well we’re talking to Brett about directing the stand up movie and I am going to go on tour late September, all of October, right after the movie comes out I want to jump on the road and tour a little bit.
Question: So, the stand up movie would follow you everywhere?
Tucker: Yeah, it will be behind-the-scenes, but mainly be my live stand up on stage and I have a lot of behind-the-scenes too, and I want to do a little something different, maybe film some scenes for the movie, but a couple surprise stuff.
Question: What will your stand up routine be about?
Tucker: I would love to talk about working with Jackie, people love to hear about that. People love to hear about making movies – my early movie ‘Friday,’ they love that when I talk about that, and also being a father now. I have an 8-year-old son and how that changed me and how that is and growing up and different things. And how it is being famous now. How different it is.
Question: How did fatherhood change you?
Tucker: Fatherhood? Fatherhood changed me in a way like, you, it take awhile to realize you’re a father, it’s like, ‘I’m a father. Somebody’s depending on me.’ So, it’s like, it’s different, but it changed me in a good way because it opens you up and it really opens up a different side of you and you have to, you really have somebody depending on you. Be more cautious and also, you know, being famous, I took it as a responsibility, because I didn’t want to lead kids down the wrong way and give out the wrong advice, because people really do look up to you and say, ‘Well, if he does it, it’s OK.’ And you gotta take that into consideration. Kids are watching and even adults. They like you enough they say, “Well, he’s an alcoholic, I can drink too. That’s cool.’ You don’t want to put out bad things.
Question: Does your son want to be a comedian like you?
Tucker: Um, I dunno. I think he might want to do it, he’s in this movie. He’s in the Karate scene. You might have seen him. He’s the only black kid in it. (Laughs.) With the pretty smile, so he might want to do it now that he’s got the bug. We’ll see after tonight, I think he’s going to have the bug.
Question: Where do you see your career going?
Tucker: I think more developing and producing and directing, because like I said, I’m involved with the script and a lot of people don’t know how I look at it and I say, ‘Let’s make this work like this. Let’s go to Paris.’ Y’know, I don’t have a producer credit on this movie, because I don’t need it, but I’m involved with making it make sense. A lot of my projects, because I feel like I like to participate. Even if I’m wrong, I just want to keep throwing ideas and eventually we’ll get it. So…
Question: Would you ever do another ‘Friday’? Ice Cube always says he wants you.
Tucker: I know, you know what, everybody wants me to do another one, but I always like to leave movies. Y’know, do a good job and y’know people really like it and I think that movie is like a cult classic and I don’t ever want to mess it up, so I’m going to leave it alone because, especially now, I want to keep moving on and doing something different. ‘Rush Hour’ is different because it’s action/comedy and those type of movies you can keep doing them in different locations, but ‘Friday’ is sort of a special move because we filmed in 20 days. It took us 20 days to film, that’s no time and a million, $2 million. Low budget, considered a low budget movie and it was independent and New Line picked it up. So all we had, we had this one street. And all we had was to try and make something funny on this one street and all this stuff, so I think for me, I probably wont’ do another one, but they have done two or three more, but I dunno. I don’t think I’ll do another one, no.
Question: Any interest in a romantic lead or drama?
Tucker: Yeah, I want to do it all, because I think my fans haven’t seen other sides of me or other sides of me. They’ve seen me do ‘Dead Presidents,’ which [was] a smaller part – the Hughes Bros., ‘Fifth Element’ – spaced out character, so I’ve got a lot of range. And action, drama, action/comedy, a lot of comedians can’t do all that, they don’t have that much range, so I can pretty much do it all, so I’m ready to do it.
Question: What about writing and directing?
Tucker: Yeah, writing and directing. I want to do that because I feel like I’m already sort of doing the writing and sort of pitching in ideas. Directing would be something I could do too, but with the right people around me, because it’s a lot of responsibility.