In the 1990s, comedy seemed to offer a direct line to television. Between comedy sketch shows and sitcoms, the airwaves were overrun with stand-up comics that shot to mainstream stardom. Films, however, were a little harder to break through. So whenever an opportunity arose for a comedian to land a major film role, the competition was often tough. Take, for example, how Chris Tucker nearly missed his chance to star in Friday.
Ice Cube co-wrote, produced and starred in “Friday”
The 1995 comedy was definitely a gamble when it was in development. Of course, Ice Cube – who co-wrote, produced and starred in the film – was already a proven product in music. But with only a few movie roles under his belt, Ice Cube was far from a movie star. Additionally, most of his films have seen the actor as part of an ensemble cast. Friday place it front and center. And with Ice Cube’s deadpan delivery, he seemed like the perfect stage partner.
Chris Tucker’s Smokey is the loud counterpart to cool Craig from Ice Cube. And together, the two actors brought irresistible chemistry to the screen. Despite its indie vibe and low budget, Friday went on to earn nearly eight times the theaters budget, according to box office mojo. The film eventually inspired two sequels and a short-lived animated series. However, Tucker opted out of receiving future installments in the Friday franchise.
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Chris Tucker had stiff competition for his role
Fans have definitely responded to Tucker’s take on the character. But Smokey would have looked very different if Ice Cube, co-writer/producer DJ Pooh and director F. Gary Gray had cast another actor. And according to The New York Times, a bunch of alternate choices were in the mix. These included Chris Rock – who was a Saturday night livee regular from 1990 to 1993 – and Tommy Davidson, who had only completed his five-season run on In living color.
At the time, the two actors were much more established in the profession. Rock had even already starred in a box office success, in 1993 CB4. But Gray and his team were convinced that Tucker was the right man for the job and fought to dump him against Ice Cube. And as it proves Fridayof lasting legacy, the then budding comedian turned out to be the perfect Smokey. Looking back now, it’s crazy to imagine anyone else co-starring in the film.
Is Ice Cube really doing ‘Last Friday’ soon?
After Fridaysuccess, Ice Cube starred in Next Friday and Friday after the next in 2000 and 2002 respectively. As Tucker refused to reprise his role, Mike Epps stepped in as Craig’s new right-hand man. As Day Day, the actor brings a very different energy to the franchise than Tucker. But fans continue to hope to see Tucker reunite with Ice Cube on screen at some point.
Ice Cube has frequently discussed his goal of making a fourth and final entry in the series. Last Friday could mark Tucker’s long-awaited return to the franchise. But the actor mostly seems adamant that Smokey is in the past. Instead, the best chance fans have for Last Friday is for Ice Cube to move forward without Tucker. The film’s status remains unclear, but the death of original star John Witherspoon in 2019 likely complicates matters.
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