Rumble in the Bronx in 1994 made Jackie Chan "the world's most beloved movie
star" according to Time, and a major player in American film. It also generated a
barrage of projects at various studios pairing Chan with actors ranging from Sylvester
Stallone (long an avowed Chan-fan) to Wesley Snipes.
"What was new in Rush Hour was the two main
characters." Producer Arthur Sarkissian
Accordingly, when producer Arthur Sarkissian brought the script for Rush Hour to then
Caravan Pictures head Roger Birnbaum, and Hollywood Pictures, with whom he had made the
hit comedy While You Were Sleeping, Sarkissian and Birnbaum saw it as a perfect vehicle
for Jackie Chan. "Action is action, and it's not new to audiences," says
Birnbaum. "What was new in Rush Hour was the two main characters."
"What's good about this story is that it's about two underdogs," says
Caravan's president Jonathan Glickman. "Generally in this type of picture one guy is
an established pro and the other guy is an outsider. Here you had two guys who were
unwelcome in the rest of the story, and that gave us a lot of opportunities for character
development and comedy."
Glickman, who knew Jackie Chan's Hong Kong films by heart, was enthusiastic about
shaping the story to the personality of the in-demand Asian superstar. A three-hour
meeting with Chan and his manager Willie Chan in San Francisco produced a number of new
story ideas -- like the repeated gag of Jackie divesting his reluctant partner of his gun
-- which were incorporated into a new draft of the screenplay.
"New Line said: Look, we want to do this with Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker and Brett
Ratner," recalls Sarkissian. "After that it went very fast."
"It's not a slapstick comedy and it's not just an
"I had done Money Talks and I had heard that there were a lot of scripts around
town that Jackie Chan might be involved in," recalls Brett Ratner, who had already
decided on his own that he wanted to do a picture with Chan. "I read them all, and
this was the most interesting one: it's not a slapstick comedy and it's not just an action
picture. There's some drama and passion in it."
When the producers asked him if he might be interested in doing a Jackie Chan picture,
his reply was swift and resolute. "I said 'You don't understand -- I'm his biggest
fan!'" laughs Ratner. A trip to South Africa with Roger Birnbaum to meet Chan turned
up another happy coincidence. "I said, 'Jackie I've got to make a movie with
you,'" recounts Ratner. "'Of all his choices, Rush Hour was the one he wanted to
To seal the deal, Ratner showed him a copy of Money Talks. Chan liked what he saw.
"Money Talks had not come out at that point, so Jackie signed on and approved me
before it was a hit," says Ratner. "It was a big risk for him, because if Money
Talks bombed, he would have looked awkward agreeing to a director with no track
The decision had not been made lightly. After the disappointing experience in the
Eighties of finding himself cast in American pictures with formulas and filmmakers that
didn't suit his talents, Jackie Chan had waited a long time before committing to a new
"I was very careful to make the right choices"
Jackie Chan on taking the role
"Fifteen years ago when I came back from America, I had totally lost my
confidence," he recalls candidly. "So the first American movie I did after that
was very important to me. For Rush Hour, I was very careful to make the right choices. I
had Roger Birnbaum, a big producer; Brett Ratner, who's full of energy; and Chris Tucker,
who is one of the funniest actors working today. So I said, 'Okay, I'll try it and see
For Chris Tucker, who had also been inundated with offers after the success of Money
Talks, chemistry was the key to making Rush Hour his next film. "I liked the
chemistry -- me being American and him (Chan's character Inspector Lee) coming from a
different world," he says. "I knew that there was a lot to play with."
"I like the little stuff that makes people laugh."
Tucker says that he and Chan were in complete agreement about the kind of movie they
wanted to make. "We both agreed that we didn't want a bunch of big explosions. I like
the little stuff that makes people laugh. Like the scene when I'm trying to show Jackie
how to sing 'War,' and he thinks he knows how, but he doesn't. So I teach him how to sing
it and we start dancing in the street in the middle of the night. That's my favorite
As different as their styles and backgrounds are, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker share a
love of improvisation, drawing from Tucker's experience in standup comedy and Chan's
well-known habit of working out action scenes on the set. "I always improv,"
says Tucker. "I look at the script, digest it and get the important stuff out of it;
then I put it in my words and I put it out. That's something Jackie's good at, too:
improv-ing. So the whole movie is improv-ing. It's just us -- real life."
"He taught me a lot." Jackie
Chan on Chris Tucker
"Chris really concentrated on the script, even the simplest things," says
Chan. "He'd say, 'Jackie, you shouldn't say this line,' and he'd change it a little.
Then he'd watch the playback to see how we did. He taught me a lot."
Chan returned the favor in the action scenes, which placed big demands on his co-star.
"I did a lot of action in this movie," says Tucker, "but I worked out to
get ready for it, because I wanted to be able to stand up with Jackie. He'd tell me that
if I follow his lead he'll make me look like a big action star. Can't lose with