How Chris Tucker was cast in ‘Friday’ after a horrible audition
Chris Tucker was an up and coming comedian by the time he joined Friday. The 1995 comedy film was a project written and developed by Ice Cube, who would later bring director F. Gary Gray on board. The film was intended to show a more lighthearted approach of life in the hood. But although the movie already had its star in Ice Cube, finding Smokey presented a bit of a challenge.
Ice Cube and his Friday co-writer DJ Pooh felt they found their potential Smokey after watching a Chris Tucker performance.
“One day we were sitting around watching Def Comedy Jam and we saw Chris [Tucker] perform and me and Cube couldn’t stop laughing. We thought, ‘This dude would be able to play the hell out of Smokey. Let’s see if we can get him to come in and read for him.’ And that’s what happened and it was over like that,” Pooh said in an interview with Complex.
Tucker was able to win the role despite not making a good first impression to casting director Kim Hardin. Fortunately for Tucker, Hardin was willing to give Tucker a second chance.
“It was a combination of things: He had just come off the road from doing a couple of stand-up gigs, hadn’t read the script, and at the time he didn’t know that comedians can improv, put their own thing on whatever the dialogue is,” Hardin recalled. “I knew Chris could do better. When a person isn’t prepared, they can’t do their best job. I allowed him to prepare and come back. Any other casting director may have been like, ‘You were horrible. Next!'”
Chris Tucker didn’t think ‘Friday’ was all that funny when he first saw the film
After appearing in Friday, Tucker’s star-power rose further in the industry. So much so that even years after appearing in the cult hit, Smokey remains one of his most popular film roles. Speaking to the AV Club, Tucker once commented how it felt becoming a sort of icon to stoners.
“People come to my house and knock on my door, like little white kids in my neighborhood that I don’t even know, and ask me do I want to smoke weed. Hell, no. That movie was 10 years ago. But no, it’s great. That movie is going to stand the test of time, because that’s where I was in my life. I was a young kid, and I knew I could play that part. I think people fell in love with the part because they related to it,” he said.
Tucker further appreciated the amount of fans Friday had considering he didn’t find the film funny at first.
“Everybody grew up with those characters around them. They was harmless, too,” he continued. “Guys sitting around on porches, having a good time, smoking weed, talking about his friend who got fired, and he don’t have a job, and smoked up all his weed by accident, and somebody looking for him. You know, getting in trouble in the neighborhood. Everybody has done that. When I first seen the movie, I said, ‘Man, this movie’s not that funny.’ Yeah, but what did I know?”
Ice Cube didn’t want to make ‘Next Friday’ without Chris Tucker
Tucker opted not to return to the Friday franchise in the 2000 sequel Next Friday. Instead, Next Friday would see Ice Cube continue the project with comedian Mike Epps. But in the beginning, the rapper was hesitant to do Next Friday without his original partner.
“I didn’t want to [make a sequel],” Ice Cube once said on Drink Champs (via Ambrosia for Heads). “I was like, ‘Man, no Chris [Tucker]? Man, what is this movie [going to look like]?’ It’s like…you’re losing a major piece, like Shaq [O’Neal] and Kobe [Bryant] breaking up. ‘How could y’all win championships?'”
But he would later change his mind after further assessing the situation.
“But then, I started thinking… this movie is not about two people. It’s about a day,” he continued. “It’s about understanding your environment and how to have a lil’ fun, laughing at it. So I’m like, ‘Yo, it makes sense…if we continue this…maybe to go off the block [where Friday was set]. We gonna be in a new place; we’re gonna have a new cast of characters. Then I started seeing it [in my mind].”