In “Rush Hour,” Chris Tucker confronts Jackie Chan for the first time on-screen and yells, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” This sequence was fairly accurate to how they actually met in real life. The first time the performers met, it went exactly as it would in the scene they were going to film.
The comedy-action team collaborated for a hugely successful trilogy despite their unlucky start, and rumours of a potential fourth movie are always floating around the internet. According to Box Office Mojo, the buddy cop franchise has made just under $1 billion globally. Additionally, “Rush Hour” elevated Chris Tucker from a rising star to a megastar while solidifying Chan, a successful Hong Kong action star, as a Hollywood leading man.
Not bad for a series whose actors had a difficult beginning that made Tucker wonder if they would ever collaborate on a film.
Jackie Chan thought Rush Hour was terrible
The fast-talking American L.A.P.D. investigator James Carter (Tucker) teams up with Hong Kong Inspector Lee (Chan) in the original 1998 “Rush Hour” to track down a Chinese diplomat’s kidnapped daughter. Chan, for whom English is a second language, is paired up against the frenetic-paced Tucker since much of the comedy is communication-based.
However, the movie almost never happened. After 20 years, Chan reportedly gave up trying to break into the American film business, but his management persuaded him to give it another shot. Chan stated:
“Nobody knew who this little Chinese guy was that spoke no English. I was disappointed and thought, ‘No more American market.'”
Then “Rush Hour” appeared, a buddy cop comedy where Chan’s speaking manner would be incorporated as part of the “East meets West” humour. Chan agreed to direct the movie but didn’t find the humour to be endearing, even labelling it a bad picture. After initially witnessing “Rush Hour,” Chan commented, “I’m not very good at English. I’m not able to grasp Chris Tucker’s English. dreadful movie”
Even though a lot of the misunderstandings were staged, the two found it difficult to communicate effectively right away after meeting.
‘Who is this Black man talking to me?’
Although their on-screen connection is immediately apparent, it wasn’t always felt like a given. When Tucker first met Chan, he reportedly had his concerns, according to the New York Post. Tucker remarked:
“I knew who Jackie was, I’ve always been a big fan, so I was telling him what we could do to make the movie good and stuff, and he was looking at me like, ‘Who is this Black man talking to me?’ I thought he didn’t know English ’cause he didn’t say one word. I said, ‘This man’s not talking, how we gonna do this movie?'”
Chan countered by saying that he is not the only one to blame for the miscommunication between the two performers, in a statement that resembles a line of dialogue from one of the “Rush Hour” movies. Chan stated:
“My English is not that good, but he speaks very terrible English, too. He talk to me and I say to my manager, ‘What happened? Is my English getting worse?’ But my manager [said] he don’t understand him, either.”
Chan acknowledged that Tucker’s tendency to improvise on the set did not initially make him like him. However, after working on three films together, the two have forged an on-screen friendship. Chan even attributes a large portion of their natural comedy to their cultural differences. In hindsight, the tale of how the two first met adds even more hilarity to the already funny sequence where they first interact on television.
It appears that people all over the world understood what “Rush Hour” was talking about, even though it didn’t start out that way for its performers, given those box office results and the continued rumours of a fourth film that are still circulating well over a decade after “Rush Hour 3.”