Well-known for his trademark rapid-fire wisecracks, actor-comedian Chris Tucker broke into movies in the mid-1990s, following a successful career in stand-up. After his scene-stealing turn in director F. Gary Gray's 1995 cult comedy hit "Friday," Tucker took on the role of his career as Jackie Chan's comic foil and high-pitched partner in the action-comedy, "Rush Hour" (1998). Thanks to the worldwide success of "Rush Hour," Tucker became the fastest actor ever to make Hollywood's elite "$20 Million Club" - the princely sum he received for appearing in the 2001 sequel. Despite racking up a prolific flurry of credits at the start of his career, Tucker's output slowed to a trickle by the early 2000s, limiting his film roles strictly to the "Rush Hour" franchise. Nevertheless, the comedian's star power remained significant enough to once again command a $20 million payday for the inevitable sequel, "Rush Hour 3" (2007). Tucker laid low following its modest success for a couple of years, but reemerged in 2011 to reignite his stand-up career, reminding fans of what he had always done best.
The youngest of six children born to janitorial business owner Norris Tucker, Christopher Tucker was born in Decatur, GA on Aug. 31, 1972. An incorrigible class clown, Tucker first displayed his gifts in a school talent show, where he proved a roaring success. Heavily influenced by Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, Tucker wasted no time kicking off his comedy career. Moving to Los Angeles right out of high school, Tucker quickly gained a following on the comedy club circuit for his high-pitched delivery and manic energy. The young comic's stage act eventually led to an appearance on "Def Comedy Jam" (HBO, 1992-97), a cable showcase for rising black comics.
Tucker made his feature debut in 1993 with a small role in "House Party 3," but it was his co-starring turn in "Friday" which made his career. Cast in the role of the dope-smoking, underachieving sidekick, Smokey, Tucker completely stole the film out from under its star, Ice Cube. Shot mostly on location in South Central L.A., the film followed 16 hours in the lives of two friends, Tucker and Ice Cube, as they waste the day away, cracking wise and making witty observations. A sleeper hit, "Friday" took in over $27 million at the box office and spawned two sequels, neither of which Tucker returned for. That same year, Tucker also had a supporting role in the Hughes Brothers' urban action-thriller "Dead Presidents."
The year 1997 proved to be a banner one for Tucker as an actor. In Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown," Tucker scored a small but pivotal role as Beaumont Livingston, a minor associate of Samuel L. Jackson's charming gun-runner, Ordell Robbie. Tucker then followed-up with another scene-stealing turn as a futuristic DJ named Ruby Rhod in director Luc Besson's $80 million sci-fi spectacle, "The Fifth Element." The suddenly hot comedian-turned-actor subsequently signed on to appear in the appropriately titled "Money Talks," an anemic, derivative comedy co-starring Charlie Sheen.
Continuing his success the following year, Tucker broke the bank in 1998 when he was paired with international action star Jackie Chan in "Rush Hour," the first of director Brett Ratner's highly profitable East-meets-West action-comedies. Par for the course, Tucker's character - fast-talking, motor-mouthed Detective James Carter - was not much of a departure for the comedian, who essentially played it as another version of his Smokey character. While some criticized the movie for being a "Lethal Weapon" rip-off, "Rush Hour" was a major hit, raking in over $140 million domestically and nearly double that overseas. Quite a haul for a flick that only cost New Line Cinema a relatively paltry $35 million.
Just as he was the peak of his box office popularity, Tucker surprisingly retreated from movie-making altogether. After turning down several film offers, Tucker finally returned in 2001 for "Rush Hour 2." Despite a four-year absence from the big screen, he received a much publicized $20 million payday for the sequel. He also found time to appear in good friend Michael Jackson's then little-seen video for "Rock My World," off his last studio album, Invincible. He could also be heard on the song's spoken preamble, playfully taunting M.J. to make a move on a girl. In May 2005, he was called to testify by the defense during Jackson's trial for child molestation of 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo. Tucker had reportedly known the Arvizo family and claimed they took advantage of him by playing on his sympathies via the cancer-stricken Gavin's requests to meet with him. He testified that he warned Michael Jackson about the family being opportunists.
Tucker had once again dropped off the movie screen radar, this time, for a full six years. While his two self-imposed exiles likely did not help further his career, neither did they particularly hurt it. In fact, to hear Tucker tell it, the sabbaticals where exactly what the comedian needed to remain grounded. Traveling to Africa, he saw first-hand the devastation that poverty, AIDS and hunger had inflicted. The experience proved life-changing for the comic, who later set up a foundation in his name to help African children attain the basic necessities of life. Thankfully for fans of the Chan-Tucker franchise, Tucker also returned to reprise his signature role in "Rush Hour 3" (2007), which performed below its predecessor, but was nonetheless, a hit. Meanwhile, Tucker receded into the shadows and laid low for a couple more years, only to reemerge in 2011 to kick-start his stand-up comedy career. The move coincided with reports that he ran into financial trouble following the foreclosure of his $6 million home in Lake Apopka, FL.
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Made network TV debut as a rapper on ABC sitcom "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper"
Stand-up work on TV's "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy All-Star Jam" (HBO) landed him his first feature (date approximate)
Made feature debut as Johnny Booze in "House Party 3"
Starred opposite Ice Cube in the surprise hit "Friday"
Filmed memorable death scene in "Dead Presidents" (overdosed on heroin while watching a vintage "Soul Train" telecast)
Stole the show from Bruce Willis with his gender-bending turn as Ruby Rhod, a flamboyant 23rd-century talk-show host in Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element"
Teamed up with Charlie Sheen as Eddie Murphy-esque hustler Franklin Hatchett in "Money Talks"; also executive produced
Teamed with martial artist Jackie Chan for the box-office hit "Rush Hour"
Reprised role in sequel "Rush Hour 2"
Returned to the screen after a six year hiatus to once again co-star with Jackie Chan for "Rush Hour 3"
Returned to features with supporting role as a mental patient in David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook"