What the Hell Happened to Chris Tucker?
At one time, Chris Tucker was the highest paid actor in Hollywood. He was able to command $25 million dollars for one movie. And then, he disappeared. Now sometimes, it feels like an actor has disappeared. But in reality they are busily working on a bunch of movies most people have never heard of. But not Tucker. He really stopped working. There’s not going to be a long line of direct-to-video thrillers this time around. Tucker pulled a rare vanishing act at the top of his career.
What the hell happened?
Tucker grew up in Georgia where he worked for his dad’s janitorial business. After he graduated from high school, Tucker moved to LA to pursue a career in stand-up comedy and acting. Tucker explained his decision to leave right after high school:
I moved at an early age because I figured I’d have nothing to lose, and if it didn’t work out I could just move back.
In 1992, at the age of 20, Tucker was a frequent guest on HBO’s comedy show, Def Comedy Jam.
The show was hosted by Martin Lawrence who was also on his way to movie stardom.
Tucker made his acting debut in 1992 playing a rapper in an episode of the sit-com Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper. Tucker laughs about the experience:
Oh my gosh, I said one word, ‘Dang,’ and they cut it!
In 1993, Tucker had an uncredited role as an MC in Robert Townsend’s super hero comedy, Meteor Man.
In 1994, Tucker played his first character that actually had a name instead of “rapper” or “MC”. He played Johnny Booze in the Kid’n Play comedy, House Party 3.
The third movie was intended to be the last in the series. Christopher Reid (aka Kid) was about to get married and Christopher Martin (aka Play) decided to throw one final house party as a blow-out bachelor party. That’s it. That’s the plot.
Martin Lawrence had appeared in the first two movies. But by this point, he had his own TV show titled Martin. So he did not return for the third movie. Tisha Campbell also appeared in the first two House Parties. But she was Lawrence’s co-star on Martin and only appeared for a cameo in House Party 3.
That left room for some new blood. Tucker appeared in his first credited role and Bernie Mac also joined the series.
Reviews were negative and according to Wikipedia, the movie was a box office bomb. Yes, I’m nitpicking another Wikipedia entry. Apologies in advance. The first House Party grossed over $26 million in 1990. It opened in third place in a limited release and held fifth place a few weeks later when it went into wide release. It remains the most successful movie in the series.
The following year House Party 2 opened in first place at the box office. It ended up grossing just under $20 million dollars. Not as good as the first movie, but still a big enough hit to greenlight House Party 3. Two years after that, House Party 3 opens in third place at the box office. It’s opening weekend gross is almost identical to what House Party 2 made when it opened in first place despite playing in fewer theaters.
In the end, the House Party sequels ended up grossing about the same amount of money. House Party 3 gross about $150,000 less than its predecessor. Now, that’s not great but I don’t see how it qualifies as a box office bomb. If anyone expected more from House Party 3, they were delusional.
House Party 3 was the last entry in the series to be released in theaters. But a fourth movie was released direct to video in 2001 without Kid’n Play. Then in 2013, Kid’n Play returned to the series for a fifth movie which was also released straight to video.
Tucker had a big year in 1995. It started with the unlikely comedy hit, Friday.
The movie was about two stoners played by Ice Cube and Tucker who hang out on their porch watching what goes on in their neighborhood. Ice Cube’s character has just lost his job. Tucker played a pot dealer who has been smoking his own product. His boss gives them both until 10 PM to pay him back $200.00.
Chris Rock and Tommy Davidson were considered for Tucker’s role. The cast included Nia Long and Bernie Mac. First time director F. Gary Gray also appeared in the movie.
Reviews for Friday were mostly positive. It opened in second place at the box office behind While You Were Sleeping. It ended up grossing over $27 million dollars on a budget of $3.5 million. That’s very impressive for a movie that was shot in 20 days.
The movie spawned two sequels. Next Friday came out in 2000 without Tucker. It opened in first place and grossed twice what the first Friday did. So naturally it was followed by The Friday After Next in 2002. Ice Cube has talked about developing a fourth movie possibly to be titled Last Friday. Whether or not Tucker would be involved has been a matter of speculation since he opted out of the previous sequels.