Interview: Chris Tucker

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Actor Interview

Born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 31, 1972, Chris Tucker has come a long
way since his days doing stand-up on Def Comedy Jam. Starring in box office
smashes that include the #1 grossing comedy Rush Hour 2, as well as Friday,
Dead Presidents, Money Talks and the original Rush Hour (which grossed $250
million worldwide), he has clearly proven himself to be one of Hollywood’s
hottest talents. Tucker entertains audiences the world over with his
motor-mouthed brand of humor and animated facial expressions which always
leave a lasting impression.
During his downtime, Chris traveled to
Africa with U2’s Bono and Secretary
of the Treasury Paul O’Neill on a fact-finding tour to help countries
plagued with AIDS, hunger, and unsanitary living conditions. Deeply-affected
by the conditions he discovered, Tucker has since returned to the region
regularly on humanitarian missions, also functioning as a people’s diplomat,
raising cash and awareness to help deal with the crises.
As a consequence, he’s been so busy he hasn’t made a movie in a half-dozen years. Here, he chats about Rush Hour 3, his first film since Rush Hour 2.

How did it feel being teamed up with Jackie Chan for a third time?
CT: Oh, I loved it, man! I loved it! It was just as much fun, or maybe even
more fun as the first one and the second one, ‘cause it’s such a fun movie
to do and being teamed back up with Jackie was great.

How’d you enjoy the Paris locations?
CT: That was great, too, shooting in Europe, man. We did a lot of stuff
Outdoors. Riding around the streets and drinking wine for lunch. It was

Seems like you and Jackie have perfect screen chemistry. You have very
different types of talents which complement each other, so you never end up
stepping on each other’s toes. Did you know that was going to happen the
first time you go together?
CT: No, the first time we got together, it was just like you see in the
first movie. Jackie didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t know Chinese at
all. I brought that out in Rush Hour 1, like when I screamed, “Do you know
the words that are coming out of my mouth?” That’s basically what I wanted
to say to him the first time I met him. So, no, we didn’t know, but the
chemistry was perfect. I think that was because it came from a real place.
What you see on film is the same friendship and relationship between us you
see in real life.

So, was that “Do you know the words that are coming out of my mouth?”
line improvised, or was it in the script?
CT: Improvised.

And how many of your lines were improvised in Rush Hour 3?
CT: Oh, a lot of them. A lot of them were written, but I’m always
improvising. Once you get into the scene, it just comes to me.

This is your first film in six years. You make fewer films than any
other big Hollywood star. Why do you make so few movies?
CT: I don’t know. It’s never planned. I love to travel, and that takes up
most of my time, because I’m doing a lot of foundation work. That’s a big
part of my life now, and of what I do. But I love making movies, too, so I
don’t know.

I know that you’re getting a record $25 million for this picture, which
sets the record for a comedy, plus an additional percentage of the gross.
So, you’ve got great representation which I guess enables you take long
breaks for vacations and your charity work.
CT: Yeah, that definitely does give me a lotta’ room, so I can travel and
not have to worry about a lot of things.

I saw that you were in Philly to introduce Destiny’s Child at the Live 8
CT: Yeah, that cause had to do with raising awareness abut poverty in Africa
and elsewhere. I enjoy doing stuff like that, because it means a lot to me.

Are most of your charities connected to Africa?
CT: Most of them are, but now I’m trying to get involved with education in
the States and around the world.

Had you been to Africa even before you visited it while tracing your
roots during the filming of African-American Lives on PBS?
CT: Yeah, I had been to at least 13 different countries in Africa before

Which places in Africa did you enjoy visiting the most?
CT: Every one is different. One of my favorite’s Ethiopia, and also
Uganda and Luanda, the capital of Angola. But every place is so
different, really. You’ve got a lot of special parts to all of them.

I remember how on African-American Lives they used DNA to determine your
heritage, and you were quite surprised to learn that many of your ancestors
came from Angola.
CT: Yeah, I thought I was from Ghana, but I’m definitely from Angola and
Cameroon. My father’s lineage went back to Angola, and my mother’s to
Cameroon. It was amazing, and it makes you feel good, when you get a better
idea of where your ancestors came from.

What was it like going to the actual village in Angola your father’s
side of the family was traced back to?
CT: It was very interesting. We traveled from this tiny slave castle on the
coast all the way to this -- region out in the bush where they said my
father’s family might have been from. It was amazing.

After Kanye West said, “George Bush doesn't care about Black people,”
during that Katrina benefit for Hurricane Relief, the camera first went to
comedian Mike Myers who had obviously been taken by surprise and looked like
the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. He quickly threw it over to
you. How did you feel at that moment?
CT: I didn’t know what Kanye’d said. I was just surprised that they went to
me so fast, because I wasn’t ready, or on a soundstage. I was like, “What?”
and they were saying, “Go! Just go! Do what you can. Get some money.” But I
wish I had known what he’d said, because I would have followed up with,
“He’s right.”

So, you agreed with what Kanye said when he went off the script.
CT: Yes, I did. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but everybody
definitely needed to hear an urgent cry of concern for the people of New
Orleans and about what was going on because they needed assistance right
then and there.

You’ve been nominated for the NAACP Image Award twice before, for both
Rush Hour 1 and Rush Hour 2. I’m on the nominating committee, and I hope
that three times a charm and that you win this time.
CT: Yeah, we need one. I don’t think I have an Image Award yet.

Maybe that’s because most awards organizations don’t treat comedians
with same reverence they have for dramatic actors.
CT: I don’t know why that is. Some people say that it’s harder than doing

Yeah, I’m convinced that it’s harder, because you see more comedians
crossing over to do drama successfully, than vice-versa.
CT: Yeah, that’s because comedy is very difficult. It’s like golf. You have
to do it all the time to really perfect it. It takes a lot of practice.

Is that why you continue to do stand-up?
CT: Yeah, because it keeps you sharp, it keeps in touch with the fans, and
keeps your timing great, so it’s a good thing.

You’ve handled several dramatic roles quite well. So, what will you do
next, a drama or another comedy?
CT: I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do next, but I want to do a
stand-up type movie.

A concert film?
CT: Yeah, maybe like a stand-up concert. So, hopefully, I can get it
together and do that.

What advice do you have for anybody who wants to follow in your
CT: I would say, just believe in yourself, go out there and work really
hard, and do it. And when doors open, take advantage of every opportunity
you can.

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