It seemingly made sense. After Chris Tucker received a US$25 million dollar (Dh92m) payday in 2007 for Rush Hour 3, making him the highest-paid actor in Hollywood at the time, he excused himself and took a break from the big screen.
But as Tucker explains, the six years away from Hollywood weren’t spent lounging beachside. Well, not all of the time, anyway.
“I did come to Dubai for the opening of Atlantis,” he recalls, speaking before his arrival in Abu Dhabi. “I also have some friends over there so I just chilled out for a bit and did my own thing.”
Tucker is returning to the UAE this weekend, in standup comedy mode, for a two-night show at the du Forum on Yas Island. He explains the origins of his act stem from the club shows that began immediately after filming Rush Hour 3.
After first making his name as a hot young comic on the American club circuit and a crowd favourite in the HBO television series Def Comedy Jam, Tucker says he wanted to return to the stage, to experience some of the spontaneity that’s missing from shooting films.
“That is what I love about stand-up comedy,” he says. “It is kinetic because comedy is always evolving. You don’t have a script to stick to. I can see something earlier in the day and if it fits with what I am talking about in my show, I can put it on that night. I love the spontaneous stuff and stand-up is all about being in the moment.”
The success of Tucker’s club shows saw him take them to medium-sized halls and eventually arenas across North America and Europe.
Despite the enthusiasm for his comedy comeback, Tucker admitted to experiencing jitters in the tour’s opening days.
“It was definitely daunting,” he says. “Because you are trying to connect once again with the audience and you just have to jump back in there. But once I was back it wasn’t that hard after all and you realise that it depends on how you deliver. After a while, in the show, you and the audience become one.”
Tucker explains the material will have an autobiographical slant, recalling Hollywood experiences and the pitfalls of fame.
“I will be basically talking about my life, sharing observations and some personal stories,” he says. “This is why I like it when people and journalists keep asking me where have I been. I actually talk about that in the new show.”
One aspect of his life Tucker is serious about, however, is his film career. This importance imparted on his role in movies is partly behind Tucker’s absence from the film world; the roles offered to him were simply not good enough.
Tucker says he adopted a wait-and-see approach in order to avoid being typecast in loud-mouthed comic roles. Hence his decision to return with the low-key part as a mental health patient in David O Russell’s romantic drama Silver Linings Playbook, which received eight Oscar nominations and won the Best Actress award for Jennifer Lawrence earlier this week.
“It is not a role that I normally do,” he says. “I am picky when it comes to choosing the right film roles and when I read the script, I thought it was great and because it was David O Russell I knew that it would attract a big cast.”
Tucker guessed right: it rarely gets much bigger than starring alongside the Hollywood legend Robert De Niro.
It was the combination of witnessing De Niro’s method acting at work and Russell’s energetic directing approach that was responsible for Tucker’s nuanced performance.
“It was something to learn and when you are working with a great actor such as De Niro, you just feed off them,” he says.
“David is also very hands-on. He tries to enhance the material but at the same time gives you the space to improvise and try to put your own thing on it. But the key was the script. It is easier to start with great material because from there you can always go up.”
It is this dedication to the artistic process that Tucker brought with him to his stage return.
“It is about taking the time to allow the show to develop. You really have to keep focusing and working on it,” he says. “You have to know where you are going and get that information across to develop the story.”
• Chris Tucker will perform at the du Forum tonight and tomorrow. Tickets start at Dh195 from www.thinkflash.ae. Doors open at 7.30pm
Chris Tucker says a new Rush Hour film is a possibility
Expect to see Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan return together onscreen, but it may not be in a new Rush Hour film.
Despite the fan requests and the big bucks on offer, neither actor has signed a deal for a Rush Hour 4, yet Tucker is still giving people hope.
“It is a possibility,” he says. “But Jackie and I still want to work together, so that is going to happen.”
Tucker predicted the franchise’s hit status from the pair’s chemistry when working on the first Rush Hour in 1998.
“You never plan these things,” he says. “But everything just felt right about it from back then and I am glad that it ended up becoming a success.”