Why Chris Tucker Walked Away From Hollywood After "Rush Hour"
The Air star was once the highest-paid actor in the industry.
He's a recognizable star who starred in a huge franchise and was once the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. But, the list of movies on Chris Tucker's resume is surprisingly short and especially sparse after the success of Rush Hour and its sequels.
But now, Tucker is back in the spotlight. He's currently starring in Air—a dramedy about Nike partnering with Michael Jordan for its now-iconic Air Jordan sneaker line, and it's the actor's first film in seven years. (He's only appeared in two others since 2007.) In a new interview with GQ, the 51-year-old opened up about why he stepped away from movies for so long and what he's been doing in the meantime. He also said that he has no plans to take a such long break again. Read on to find out more.
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Tucker's last movie came out in 2016.
Before Air, Tucker's most recent movie was 2016's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, directed by Ang Lee. Before that, you have to go back another four years before you get to his role in David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. These two roles came about after a nine-year run in which he only made Rush Hour movies—the first action-comedy co-starring Jackie Chan came out in 1998, the second in 2001, and the third in 2007.
Earlier in his career, Tucker was known for roles in The Fifth Element, Friday, and Jackie Brown.
Tucker doesn't feel like he left at all.
Tucker told GQ that he is often asked why he stopped working and that he doesn't know how to answer, because he doesn't feel like he ever did.
"It's shocking because I guess I'm the last person to know it," he said. "'Cause I'm always working. Stand up comedy or something else, I'm working. So when they say that, I'm like, oh, okay. I guess I haven't been on the big screen in a while."
He continued, "I've traveled the world 10 times over. I've had relationships all over the world. I did a lot of humanitarian work all over the world. So I'm always busy, always learning and growing." (The profile notes that Tucker travels around to take in various keynote speeches on different subjects, "not to collect a check as the speaker, but to sit in the audience and take notes.")
Tucker explained to the magazine that he wants to live for more than just his career, partly so that he can become a better actor. "I think it's good when you can go away and have a life outside of the business a little bit—a lot of bit," he said. "Art imitates life. So you got to have a full life to do great work."
He's selective about his roles.
Despite enjoying the wealth and fame that came from being a movie star ("Bought every car you can imagine, private planes, all that stuff," he said), the Friday actor realized that he wanted more out of the roles he took on.
"I knew I didn't want to just make a whole bunch of money making movies that don't really mean anything. I knew it wouldn't make me happy," he told GQ. "It got to a point that I wanted to only do special [roles] and those things weren't coming to me—and I couldn't find them. And I said, well, let me travel a little bit, live a little bit, instead of waiting on those things."
Tucker said that what he's looking for when it comes to his acting jobs is trust and collaboration with his directors, as well as "a lot of freedom to be able to create within the script." These were things that he got with Air. The film involved researching his character Howard White, a Nike exec who Tucker already had a relationship with from his travels. According to GQ, he wrote all of his character's dialogue himself.
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He didn't like the parts he was offered after Rush Hour.
Back in 2001, Tucker was already feeling like he wanted to be more picky about choosing his characters.
"I had so much crazy stuff thrown at me," he told The Morning Call in 2001 about life after the first Rush Hour. "Everything that you've seen that a Black person could be in, they offered it to me first, and I was like, 'Nope, nope, nope and nope.'"
He continued, "To be honest, I couldn't find anything worth doing. So, I spent the time soul-searching and growing up. I feel I'm young and I've got a long time to do movies, and I didn't want to just jump out there and do any movie stuff just to do it. I wanted to do stuff that I was really going to have fun with."
Asked why he returned for Rush Hour 2, he said laughed, "Being offered $20 million. No, I'm just kidding. What changed my mind was working with Jackie [Chan] again. I knew that people would want to see us together again in this movie."
He's not planning on taking another hiatus.
Tucker told GQ that he wants to keeping acting regularly following Air. "I definitely want to work, I definitely want to work constantly now," he said.
In another recent interview, this one with Classix ATL, Tucker also said that he'd like to do another standup comedy special—his last one was 2015's Chris Tucker Live for Netflix—and he would like to direct. He's even said he'd do a fourth Rush Hour movie, as reported by Variety.
"Early years, [people were] just seeing a part of me," he told Classix ATL. "At this point, I think I'm ready to give all of me."