‘Friday’: Chris Tucker Made a Shockingly Small Amount to Play Smokey

Oftentimes, actors are paid ridiculously small amounts for movies that wind up making a huge impact. Yet, even though this is nothing new, sometimes fans discover a particularly shocking revelation. One of the most egregious instances is Chris Tucker’s tiny paycheck for Friday. The 1995 movie launched Tucker’s movie career and continues to be a pop culture touchstone even decades after its release. Here’s how much Tucker made to play Smokey.

Chris Tucker wears a dark suit and smiles amid a blue background
Chris Tucker | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Chris Tucker saw ‘Friday’ as a huge opportunity

Before Friday, Tucker was still a comedian on the rise. He had appeared in a small role in House Party 3 the previous year, but that was his largest movie role up to that point. For the most part, Tucker was known for his stand-up. And it was his appearance on Def Comedy Jam that got the attention of Friday co-writers Ice Cube and DJ Pooh. The actor narrowly made it through the audition process, ultimately beating Chris Rock and Tommy Davidson to the role.

At the time, Friday presented a huge opportunity for Tucker. Although he opted not to return for the sequels, Tucker is essentially a co-lead of that first film alongside Ice Cube. So it’s not like he went into the project strictly for a hefty paycheck. The movie offers the potential to be a movie star. And thanks to Tucker’s performance and where his career took him thereafter, Friday certainly delivered on that promise and then some.

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The actor didn’t exactly make a fortune as Smokey

Decades after Friday‘s release, fans are still revisiting the movie and quoting even off-handed one-liners like “Bye, Felisha.” Ice Cube became a full-fledged movie star. And director F. Gary Gray went on to make big studio blockbusters like Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious. As for Tucker, he only earned roughly $15,000 to play Smokey, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

In an interview with Club Shay Shay, Tucker conceded that his small paycheck was a result of Friday‘s low budget. The movie only cost $3.5 million to produce and was shot over the course of just 20 days, the actor said. And given Tucker’s inexperience in movies, it stands to reason he wouldn’t exactly walk away a rich man at the end of the production. Of course, the fame he gained from Friday would go a long way toward filling out his bank account.

Chris Tucker earned a ton of money for the ‘Rush Hour’ movies

Following Friday, Tucker took on a few supporting roles in movies like Dead Presidents, The Fifth Element, and Jackie Brown. But following his collaboration with director Brett Ratner on 1997’s Money Talks, the duo would reunite the following year for the movie that would define both their careers: Rush Hour.

Tucker starred opposite Jackie Chan in that 1998 hit. And both actors negotiated epic paychecks for the 2001 sequel. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Tucker received $20 million for Rush Hour 2, making him among the highest-paid actors in the world. That total increased for 2007’s Rush Hour 3, though it all began with Friday.

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