I sat down with Chris Tucker (CT) and Brett Ratner (BR) on the twentieth floor at the St. Regis in San Francisco to discuss their upcoming movie, Rush Hour 3, which is opening on Friday. There were also two other reporters in the room, Pam and Omar.
Bret entered the beautiful suite office overlooking the city and introduced himself around. Chris Tucker entered the room as if he were walking on stage. With his wildest voice, Tucker asked, “Did ya’ll see the movie first?”
We, the reporters, answered him with various levels of enthusiasm, “Yes, Yeah.”
Confidently Chris inquired, “Did you like the movie? Tell us the truth.”
As expected of entertainment reporters, Omar and Pam answered with the correct answers. Omar said, “Loved the movie, loved the movie!” Pam, with a slow sincerity said, “Paris and you and Jackie! Oh, what’s not to love?” Feeling utterly void of any sheepishness and wittier than the group, I smarted off, “I didn’t really like it. I hated it. It was craap.”
Ratner and Tucker both realizing my comment was in jest fired back with laughter and Tucker said, “She’s tellin’ us the truth. You know she isn’t going to lie to us.” Ratner disagreed with Tucker stating, “We know you’re lying.”
After adequate laughter and a slightly awkward pause elapsed, Pam was the first to jump into interviewer mode. “Six years ago you won entertainer of the year and then you stayed off the screen for six years.”
Unable to resist the opportunity to crack a joke, Tucker jumped on her comment, quibbling “It was a reason to retire.” Undeterred by Tucker’s interruption Pam continued finished her question. “What kept you off and what brought you back?”
As quickly as the humor had come to Tucker it left and was replaced by sincere seriousness. “You know, you know, I wanted to take some time off to do some humanitarian work. You know, through my travels a lot of things caught my attention; you know, different things around the world that really changed my life. So I wanted to take some time to travel.
I really took advantage of my celebrity. You know, most people don’t take advantage of those things. They just make movie after movie and they think that’s, you know, the best thing. I cultivated a lot of great friendships, went on a lot of great trips, from President Clinton, to Bono, to Collin Powell, to Oprah Winfrey.
You know, I’ve learned a lot of things, not to take things for granted, like clean water. You know, in Africa some places need clean water, you know, there is no there is no clean water in some of the villages there because a computer died in the water supply, so it costs $1,500 to get a new water pump in that village to supply the whole village. Little girls walk miles and miles to get a bucket of water to bring it back to cook and clean for the family. Those things made me realize that don’t take stuff for granted. I don’t take stuff for granted here; you know, what we have in America.
It even helps with my movies. Now, I know, you know, what I do, when I go make a movie and people laugh it is giving to them, making them forget their problems for a little while. It just helped me grow. A lot of movies came my way, you know, but none of them I was interested in. So I just kept doin’ what I was doin’ and this movie came back around and I decided to do another one, you know.”
Riding the wave of seriousness Omar asked, “I wanted to know, for the fourth film, would there be a possibility, have you explored the possibility of going a little bit more serious? Have you, either of you, explored that? I know Jeff Nathanson wrote the script for this but have you explored making, if you do make another movie, making it little more, different, more serious toned movie but retaining comedic elements?”
Without hesitation or contemplation Ratner answered Omar’s question. “You’ve gotta stay true to the genre. It’s an action comedy. Couldn’t be more. See the thing is, the only difference is to make it like 48 hours which is an R rated movie. We don’t want to do that because we want kids to come and see the movie. But would we make a serious movie, yes, in two seconds, we would do that ’cause Chris has done it before in “Dead Presidents” and he could do it again and he could do any type of movie, you know.
So, but I think in Rush Hour you’ve gotta stay true to, if the fans came to see Rush Hour and they were like not laughing all the time, it would be like what happened to Rush Hour, it changed. So yeah, could we make it more hard edged, make villains, show blood, we don’t want to do that. Rush Hour is what it is, it exists, you know, and, we might make another Rush Hour, but we might make another movie that is serious.”
It seems though that Ratner and Tucker weren’t on the same page. Warm to Omar’s idea Tucker answered, “But I think we could, you know, we could. That’s how innovative Rush Hour is and it travels its mood. From the first Rush Hour you had Jackie being a fish out of water, two guys gettin’ put together who can’t understand each other. The second movie I was the fish out of water in Hong Kong and Las Vegas, we went to Las Vegas. This movie we both fish out of waters and we are in Paris.
The audience gets to follow us and this friendship between these two guys from different worlds and it’s excitin’ and it’s like this movie moves so fast it is just a rush. And your seein’ like two guys just havin’ fun and getting in arguments or whatever.
But in the next movie, if we do another one, we have to do something to entertain and that might be change up the tone, makin’ it more serious. You know, keeping the comedy, but change the tone a little bit. We could do that, I think we could do that.”
I directed my first question to Ratner. “Did you have any specific challenges in working with two actors who are physically so different but also their personalities are so incredibly different?”
Ratner quickly answered, “No. I think that is what made the movie so special. It’s like the minute I introduced these two guys, and Chris was like, “He don’t speak English does he?” and Jackie said “I don’t understand what he is saying.” I knew and Chris used the reality of that in the movie. So whenever Jackie was talking Chris would say “I don’t understand what you are saying. You don’t speak English. Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” That came from a real place. So I wanted that to happen, I wanted that to happen at every opportunity, where the real dynamic of these guys was going to exist on screen.
That is why audiences related to it. Two guys from two completely different walks of life. Cause yes, it is a buddy cop movie but it is also a fish out of water comedy. Fish out of water, they need to be in a situation they don’t understand, they don’t understand each other, they don’t understand the other people on the street, and that is what makes it so funny.
Like, we wanted the comedy to come from the situation and not from the jokes. Jokes are cheap, they are a dime a dozen. But a situation where two guys are from two different walks of life and end up in a pool bar with all black guys and one guy is mimicking the other guy and saying something else that’s going to piss everybody off.
Every scene in this movie is like that. It’s all, the comedy is all based on the situation, never forced, like you know, never him (CT) making jokes. You know, he turns on the radio, he (CT) likes one type of music, Jackie loves the beach boys because he’s Asian and kinda corny, you know. So all that stuff is very real and true to life.
Jackie, you know, we, why does Jackie not work in all the other movies that he does, I mean American movies, I mean since “Rumble in the Bronx”, since he became, after Rush Hour? It’s because they see him as a bumbling foreigner. We look up to Jackie Chan. We think Jackie Chan is the coolest guy in the world. So I made Jackie cut his hair to a contemporary haircut. He had a mop like, like, the Beatles.”
The idea of Jackie Chan looking like a Beatle tickled all of our funny bones and the room erupted in laughter.
Ratner continued, “His hair was like that! (Hand gesture) I was like, like, why is your hair like that Jackie? “Because when I move, the action.” you know. And he dressed really, like, like a foreigner. So I put him in a black suit, I put him next to somebody who is cool (points to Tucker), so he had to be cool. Just because he is from a foreign place, doesn’t mean he’s not cool.
And Jackie is cool, to us he’s cool, we look up to him. We put him up on a pedestal, you know, Chris and I. And that is why he comes off the way he does but when you see him in other movies, I’m not going to name ’em, he’s kind of corney in them, he’s not, because he’s not, they don’t understand his true value and that’s the difference. Chris Tucker and I admire and respect Jackie Chan and that’s why he comes off like that.”
Pam: And at what point did you did you start talking about making a third one and who originated, was it Jackie or who?
BR: The second Rush Hour was so big, double the size, if you look at the history of the franchises, Lethal Weapon 1, 2, 3, 4, the first one did 120 million, the second one did 123 million maybe. I’m not giving you exact numbers but they did a little bit more than the other one. Rush Hour one did 140 and something million, Rush Hour two did 200 and something million. There has never been franchise in history where the numbers, the numbers, where the movie just grew, the audience just exploded, double the size. All these, even Lord of the Rings, they open in all the same kind of area, ours was almost double.
It’s undeniable, when a movie is that big, and then we’re selling 10 million or more DVD’s, imagine a recording artist selling 10 million records, right? So we are selling $29.99 dvd’s, the studio was like, we gotta make another one and for their reasons, economically.
For us we want to get it right. We didn’t want to rush into it. It wasn’t like a pain staking process, there was a lot of press about it. We’re waitin’ on Chris Tucker, we’re waitin’ on this. No, it was just about, let’s get the script right. Once we got the script right, I was available, I was doing X-Men, he was traveling around the world, Jackie Chan is doing his movies, then we decided go ahead and do it.
” And that brings me…, you mentioned the script again, Jeff Nathanson wrote it,” Omar asked of Ratner, “and the chemistry and the quality of the performances, and the interactions between yourself and Jackie and you engineering those things, how much of all of that is just strictly improvisation because I mean, the script is there I’m sure as a template…”
“The script is a structure and Jeff’s great because Jeff writes the situations, you know.” Ratner explained. “Chris has an idea, for instance, one scene, I can give you an example. Chris said, “I want to do a scene in a karate school.” He’s always been sayin’ this to me. “With a bunch of kids, for the kids, I want to do a scene with the kids.” I said, “I want to do a scene where you fight a Chinese giant.”
So we put those two scenes, and that’s inspired by Game of Death with Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but reversed. So we put those two scenes together pitch it to Jeff, and he comes up with that. Then we put him in a situation, and then Chris comes up with more ideas, and Jackie comes up with more ideas, so it is a hybrid of all of our ideas, together.
Jeff is not married to the script. He is like, “go”. He loves it when we change it, because he thinks we, we all are making it better because whatever choices Chris makes on that day, I make, Jackie makes, that’s going to be the best choice.
You know that we have not reshot one scene in any scene in any Rush Hour film, ever. In “Money Talks”, we redid one scene, which is the helicopter, but not since then have we redone a scene because when we do it, on that day we get it right. I don’t do two takes, and we’re done and we don’t know, we get it. We do as many takes as we need to get it. We shoot as long as we need to shoot. That massage parlor scene was supposed to be two days, we spent a week on it.”
“That was because of the girls,” joked Tucker.
After a little bit of an eye roll in Tucker’s direction, Ratner continued, “There were pretty girls there but yeah, the thing is, we spend the right amount of time on it, getting it right. We try not to make mistakes, we can’t help it, and we might but so far we have deliver, we on deliver every scene. You know, it’s important, ’cause we care.”
Tucker continued with Ratners thoughts. “We use our impulses or our instincts, on every movie, that’s why we connect with the audience because they know it is coming from a real place and that’s everybody’s inner spirit, you know, it connects in some kind of way.”
Refusing to ask anything serious I went a different direction with my next question. “Was that actually you (CT) who hits the camera in the bloopers?” “Oh yeah, yeah,” Tucker admitted with his head down and a little bit of a head shake. Our laughter was not swayed by Tuckers bashful mannerisms.
“Did that give you whole new respect for Jackie Chan?” I asked as the group laughed again. Tucker, “Oh yeah, oh yeah.”
“Did it feel good to finally get gefilte fish right?” I inquired.
Tucker once again sincerely answered, “You know, it did, ’cause it was hard, I didn’t even know what gefilte fish was. I’m not Jewish. Brad was saying, “Say it!” Jumping from sincerity and back into the witty comedian he continued, “I am black Jewish now. I’m officially a Jew. I live in Broadbeach, may name is Chris Tuckenberg, and I am very rich.”
Seriously again he said, “But you know, the bloopers, I love them ’cause I look at them and I didn’t even know we made that many mistakes, I didn’t even know none of that stuff, so it was fun. I seen the movie, I watched the bloopers this time, it was a lot of fun watching.”
Covering the bases, Pam asked, “Can you talk about filming on the Eiffel Tower?” “No. No, come on…” ribbed Tucker.
Ratner began to shake his legs and couldn’t wait for Tucker to finish his sentence before he started his reply to Pam’s question. “That was the greatest experience. I was telling everyone, I said, when I was up there and I told my A.D. (assistant director) to turn off the lights to the Eiffel Tower and he said, “oh a dadadada.” And ching, the lights go out. That’s when I felt a movie director. I’m like, “I’m in charge here.” Turn the lights back on, fwing, the lights go on! I mean, that was power, you know. But shooting on there, we got to do more than anybody has ever done. I, I, I, was inspired by a James bond movie where I can remember, Grace Jones in that movie…”
“A View to a Kill,” assisted Omar.
“Yeah. And they were on the Eiffel Tower, and I was so excited to go back and look at it and they were just running up and down the stairs, shootin’ at each other. I thought, oh my god, I can barely look at it. Compared to what we did…? I mean, we were having these fights up there, it was crazy. So, we got to do more than anybody ever… in the history of…France, on the Eiffel Tower.
We were only there a few weeks but what I had to do, a lot of the stuff was very, very dangerous. Just like instance, some of the stuff they let us do, like when Jackie jumps into the elevator shaft, onto the wires, that they let us do, on the cables, the cables. But some of the other stuff, when they were fighting, we couldn’t do that there. We built a part of it, in LA and then extended it, you know.”
Tucker: “The real life, we were up there for seven nights, seven, eight nights and I had a different girl falling in love each night. Look at Paris, it’s here for you [miming kissing a woman]!
I was unable to let the million dollar question go unasked, “If you guys were going to pick the city for the next Rush Hour movie, which would it be?” At the same time Ratner and Tucker answered, “San Francisco.”
Sassily I asked, “Are you just saying that because you are here right now?” Just as sassily Tucker retorted, “Yes,” and Ratner said, “Absolutely right.”
Ratner continued, “Chris told me we should shoot Rush Hour 3 in San Francisco and I’ve never been here so I thought San Francisco. It’s the coolest city. You guys just shot X-Men which was in San Francisco, that’s right. So I was aaah, but then I would shoot in San Francisco, it’s a great city and then another of course foreign city because it’s needed for a fish out of water comedy cause their not really a fish out of water in San Francisco.”
Unable to let another obvious one get by me I quickly asked, “Any ideas for the foreign city?” Pam joked, “Or you can set it in the Castro!” Refusing to give me a scoop Tucker deflated my dreams, “We’re gonna have to let you wait for that!”
It was time to say good bye and we all thanked each other for the interview.