“Rush Hour 3” star Chris Tucker has finally resurfaced after a six-year hiatus from the big screen, but he’s got some explaining to do.
Who is he? Who does he want to be? Where has he been? Why did he make the producers of “Rush Hour 3” wait six years before agreeing to go another round with Jackie Chan?
And, oh yeah, why is he friends with Michael Jackson again?
Well, let’s not go there because that’s for the two of them to decipher, but after several recent conversations with Tucker at various events, the answers to the other questions are far less complex.
Tucker, 35, is simply a man who has found purpose in his life outside Hollywood. Long before Bragelina, George Clooney, Don Cheadle and the rest made Africa their cause du jour, Tucker was taking off on missions with Bono, former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell and lesser known activists and humanitarians to bring awareness to the plethora of issues plaguing the continent.
That’s who he is, who he wants to be and what he’s been doing. As for why he purportedly held up production on Brett Ratner’s successful “Rush Hour” franchise, that’s real simple, too. Dressed in a white polo shirt with jeans, sneakers and two iced-out watches on his two wrists (because he couldn’t decide which suit he was going to wear to the premiere that night), the Atlanta native explained that he wasn’t being difficult, he just wanted everything to be right.
“I’ve been doing a lot of traveling over the last six years and I went all the way to Asia to meet with Jackie to make sure that he got everything that he wanted in the movie and that he wanted to do this movie,” Tucker said. “It took a while because, of course, we had to develop the script and find out how we were going to get these two guys back together and find out where we were going to go for ‘Rush Hour 3.’”
‘We know each other like brothers’The third installment of this nearly 10-year-old franchise hits theaters on Friday. Inspector Lee (Chan) and Det. Carter (Tucker) are in Paris trying to stop a notorious crime syndicate from spreading their reign of terror globally. Naturally, with a mismatched duo like Carter and Lee things don’t always go smoothly, but the chemistry between Tucker and Chan is always on the mark.
“It’s magical,” says Ratner. “It’s something I can’t create. There’s no movie magic in there. When I introduced them the first time and Chris said this guy doesn’t speak English and Jackie said, ‘I like Chris Tucker but I don’t understand a word he’s saying,’ I knew that they were going to unbelievable together.”
Although Chan joked that he “really doesn’t like that guy and the chemistry is all wrong,” he conceded that their bond is pretty special. “We know each other like brothers now. We can anticipate each other’s moves. And now I can follow better when Chris ad libs. Before when he would say things that weren’t on the script, I’d be like what’s going on?!”
“We both help each other,” he says. “That’s why this movie works so well because we compliment each other. With the action, Jackie is the best in the world and with some of the improvisation and stand-up and American stuff he plays so well off of me because his timing is so great. Comedy is universal and he understands it. So, we work well together.
‘I really want to do something different’Getting Tucker back to do “Rush Hour 4,” however, might prove to be more challenging than it was getting him to do No. 3. Despite his $25 million salary, Tucker has been waffling about his interest in doing another. In some interviews he’s said if the fans want to see another, he’ll think about it. But he told MSNBC.com that even if that was the case, he’s still not sure he’d punch in.
“I dunno,” said Tucker, whose most memorable film role outside of the “Rush Hour” series was playing a pothead named Smokey in “Friday” with Ice Cube. “For me as a career move, I don’t know if I want to do another one. The fans will have to really, really, really say that ‘3’ was so good that they want to see another one. Because I really want to do something different.”
In addition to his philanthropic pursuits in Africa (his foundation hopes to send five kids from five different countries to college each year), Tucker is currently on tour with his stand-up act and working on a script in which he’ll play the first black president. If that sounds like its already been done by another Chris (Chris Rock’s “Head of State”), Tucker is quick to explain the difference between the two projects.
“He did a version about becoming president, I’m going to be the president,” Tucker said. “If I really did become president I would get rid of taxes. I don’t like taxes.”
And even though he’s in talks with Ratner to direct his stand-up feature, Tucker also wants to work with other top filmmakers. He might even team up with Cube again.
“I hope so, I hope so,” Tucker said. “We always talk about trying to do something again.”
He won’t be joining African-American Rat PackHe’s not, however, interested in being a part that blue-collar heist comedy Eddie Murphy wants Ratner to direct. The dream cast for this untitled would include Murphy, Tucker, Rock, Jamie Foxx and Dave Chappelle. And even though it sounds a little Rat Pack-ish, this combo plate would be the ultimate comedy buffet.
“I’m not going to do it because for me I’m trying to build a body of work and that won’t do anything for me,” Tucker said. “This movie is good because Jackie is Asian and I’m black. Jackie is known around the world and right away from ‘Rush Hour’ I was know around the world. It was just a perfect blend. With everything I do, I try to take it to another level and do something different. But me being punched up with a bunch of other comedians ain’t gonna do nothing for me.”
Besides, when a man makes $25 million a picture, travels around the world on private planes with former presidents, kings and rock stars and is more interested in saving future generations of Africans, he no longer has to settle or play the game.
“Being a big star and being known, making movies and a lot of money — that really doesn’t interest me,” he said. “That’s not why I got into this. I really loved what I was doing being creative and being funny as a stand-up comedian. And when I reached that — I reached it really fast — it sort of wasn’t what I thought it would be. It started going in another direction. I wanted to do something different but that different stuff didn’t come to me.
“So, I stepped back because I didn’t want to be like a robot, and when I did that, I did that out of faith. And when I stepped back a whole other world opened up. I think my life is a movie and your life reflects your work. I think all the knowledge and all the travels that I’ve done, I’m going to do a lot of great work in the future.”
Miki Turner is a freelance TV producer/writer in Los Angeles. She can be reached at .