It’s been years since anyone has seen Chris Tucker on the silver screen. Twenty years have passed since his hilarious performance as Smokey in the first Friday movie and it’s been well over a decade since we saw him play Detective James Carter in Rush Hour 3. An appearance from the comedian is long overdue, and with his success from the Friday and the Rush Hour franchises alone, he was poised to be one of the biggest comedian actors in history. At the time, he was even negotiating big $40 million contracts for some of those movies. So what happened? What has Tucker been up to all these years? And how has his time away from the spotlight impacted his income?
According to Easy Cowork, Tucker was born August 31st, 1971, and headed to Los Angeles to pursue acting at the age of 19. He got his first break in 1992 after he started appearing on the HBO stand-up comedy series Def Comedy Jam, but it wasn’t until three years later that he appeared in Friday as the iconic Smokey. By the time the film finished its run in 1995, Tucker had become an instant celebrity.
He went on to appear in films like Money Talks and The 5th Element alongside big Hollywood actors like Bruce Willis and Charlie Sheen, but his biggest breakthrough came when action sensation Jackie Chan needed a co-star for his upcoming Rush Hour film. Tucker’s rising-star status helped him nab the role of James Carter, and his portrayal of the character propelled him to international fame. He went on to star in the film’s subsequent sequels⏤Rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3⏤and found himself in high demand in Hollywood. According to AfroTech, that demand led him to negotiate $20 million contracts that allowed him to take home 20 percent of the gross of bigger films like Rush Hour 3.
Altogether, Tucker has appeared in over a dozen films including Meteor Man, House Party 3, Dead Presidents, Jackie Brown, and 2016’s award-winning Silver Linings Playbook. Despite not being as active on-camera as most of his comedy colleagues, Tucker has built up an impressive resume of movie credits that have collectively landed him a sizable income. In the ’90s, he was even one of the highest-paid actors in the world. The Rush Hour series by itself was enough to earn him a net worth of $60 million. Based on that figure, you’d think that Tucker would be worth upwards of $100 million by now.
Unfortunately, that assumption is far from the truth. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Tucker is only worth $5 million, a low figure considering that he was once negotiating $20 million contracts.
Numerous factors played into Tucker’s financial decline. The first was a sad debacle with the IRS. After a series of financial mistakes in 2011, Tucker ended up owing the IRS $11 million a year in taxes from 2001 to 2005⏤over $44 million in total that he had to fork over to the government. Luckily, Tucker was able to settle his debts by 2014, but the damage to what would have been his $65 million fortune had already been done.
The other factor was Tucker’s religion. According to Showbiz Cheat Sheet, it was between the Friday and Rush Hour franchises that he became a born-again Christian, and his newfound devotion caused him to become pickier about film roles that he felt went against his beliefs.
In a YouTube documentary on Comedy Hype, comedian analyst Rex Garvin broke down how Tucker’s abrupt change in direction attributed to the comedian’s fall from grace.
“He had what you call a Christian comedy crash without letting it flow automatically. Once you step in that next level, no one can train you for that, no one can prepare you for that, you’re on your own and what happens when you cross that line into show business, you go into a whole other world that you cannot predict.”
However, it seems that Tucker is unbothered by the decline of his net worth and remains steadfast in his religious beliefs. Though he’s still approached by studios about taking on new roles, he has only appeared in four films since 2000. He still does stand-up comedy and actually appeared on a Netflix comedy special back in 2015, later planning a comedy tour set for 2020. But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Tucker’s plans faded into the background, and after so much time out of the spotlight, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing him on stage or screen anytime soon.
Then again, with reboots and former Hollywood icons now in their 40s, 50, and 60s experiencing a resurgence in modern entertainment, Tucker may surprise us all with a major return to the big screen.