For a brief moment in time, Chris Tucker was the highest paid actor in Hollywood.
Usually, this title is reserved for a blockbuster mega star like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, but, the comedian was able to swipe this crown when he negotiated a $25 million base salary to star in 2007’s “Rush Hour 3.’’
While Tucker’s career was certainly looking up, he was notably absent from movie theaters until appearing in 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook,’’ opposite Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.
During this five-year hiatus, Tucker was reportedly hit with an over $12 million tax debt, which would have forced a lesser performer to take on virtually any paying gig in order to clean up the financial mess.
However, Tucker, who’s set to perform at Foxwoods this weekend, didn’t want to rush into any roles or projects that didn’t spark his interests as an artist.
“Something like ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ I was curious and it was interesting,’’ Tucker told Boston.com in a recent phone interview. “It was fresh, it was new. It was about mental illness and you know, it was something that I was curious about. That’s mainly what sparks my interest.’’
Before returning to the big screen in David O. Russell’s Oscar nominated flick, the Atlanta-born funny man made a different kind of comeback in 2011 by returning to his first calling as a comedian.
Tucker couldn’t have been happier to hitthe road again with his new stand-up tour.
“Right before you go on stage, the energy in the room, the excitement of them waiting for me to come out, then coming out on stage and them being happy to see you—there’s nothing like that,’’ Tucker said. “I take that energy when I am filming in a movie and remember it because you don’t have that audience there cheering you on every time you say something.’’
Always looking to improve on his craft, the sometimes foul-mouthed comedian made the decision to curb his swearing on stage when he made his comedy comeback.
“I’m a perfectionist, and my whole thing was I wanted to get better as a comedian,’’ Tucker said. “That’s one of the ways I can get better, if I don’t cuss as much. You know, that was a choice that I made, and I think it made me a better comedian. It made me dig deeper into myself and to find other ways to express myself, other than just like everybody else.’’
The interesting choice harkens back to the late Richard Pryor’s decision in 1979 to stop using the N-word in his sets.
Tucker, who lists Pryor as one of his major influences, discovered comedy by going to the movies with his father as a kid. While he loved comedic performers, he never thought he’d become one.
“I hosted the talent show in high school and got my first big laugh on stage, and that’s when I had an epiphany,’’ Tucker said. “I found something that I had a passion for, and that’s when I realized I wanted to be something in the entertainment business or in stand-up comedy or acting, or something like that.’’
As for what’s next for the actor and comedian, Tucker says that he’d love to work with a big-name director like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, or Cameron Crowe.
He’s even open to making another “Rush Hour’’ or “Friday,’’ but only if he can bring his famed characters back to the screen in a new and fresh way.
“I’m glad that people want to see another ‘Friday’ or see another ‘Rush Hour,’ but it’s hard to make it as fresh as it was,’’ Tucker said. “It’s hard, and that’s why I don’t know if I will do another one. It’s about timing.’’